How often we hear from the commentators on television and from different analysts that cricket is not just about batting and bowling, rather you have to be top class in all three departments in order to compete at top level. And what they mean by the third department is fielding. An element of the game which was never emphasized upon in the era of 70s and 80s until the entire cricketing fraternity witnessed the sensation called Jonty Rhodes and that simply changed the paradigm of the game and raised the bar for the other cricketers to follow. After that we have witnessed great fielders one after the other and we have an endless list to describe. It would be nice to share a few of them.
1. Jonty Rhodes
South African team returned to the center stage of world cricket in 1992 world cup after the apartheid and what amazed the rest of the world was that how professional and talented they were. South Africa was causing upset after upset after beating top cricketing giants like Pakistan, India and England. But amongst all this, what mesmerized everyone was an agile and nimble guy standing at point and diving to his left and right to save runs and take catches. He took everyone by surprise in the game against Pakistan when he ran from point into the circle, stooped to pick the ball and then rather than throwing the ball at the stumps, dived with the ball in hand and demolished the stumps to run Inzamam out. This was the beginning of the new era as far as the fielding was concerned and it showed the upcoming generation that how they would have to carry themselves.
2. Ricky Ponting
One of the drawbacks about Ponting being an iconic batsman was that this aura of his genius batting over shadowed his artistic fielding attributes. He was a great slip catcher and was a master of holding onto low catches in the slips. He was equally acute in the inner circle because of his swift diving and acrobatic catching. Another weapon in his armory was his ability to hit the stumps directly which made him a potent force in the 30 yard circle. He has taken 160 catches in the odis which makes him 2nd highest in the list. He also has 196 catches in Test cricket which sums up his caliber as a fielder.
3. Paul Collingwood
Paul Collingwood is another man who is just as good as the rest of the people in this elite list. Like many others, he was impossible to penetrate in the circle and he was deadly at backward point, He would take those one handed jumping catches along with sharp presence of mind to prevent the batsman from taking easy single. He was also saved prolific runs in the outfield at position such as long on and mid wicket which justifies his status as a complete fielder in every regard.
4. Herschel Gibbs
If there was anything closest to Jonty Rhodes then it was this man. By the time Jonty left the South African team, Gibbs was already a permanent member of the team and was electric in the field. When Jonty left in 2003, he took over his position as specialist at backward point and maintained the same standards to keep the effectiveness of the South African fielding going. Over his entire career, he has hung on to some breath taking and sensational catches which would even make the great Jonty Rhodes proud. Regardless of how much you praise this man for his fielding heroics but the dropped catch of Steve Waugh in 1999 world cup will haunt him for ages.
5. Muhammad Kaif
Muhammad Kaif made his debut in an Indian team which was very lethargic in the field. The culture of the team at that point in time was not very conducive for good fielding practices. But Kaif overcame all these stereotypes and announced himself on the centre stage of the world fielding and became a dynamic force along with Yuvraj Singh. He was extremely agile and swift that his captain always made sure that he was standing at the critical positions.
6. Andrew Symonds
This man may not be remembered as the most disciplined cricketer but no one can deny his brilliance and dexterity in the field. He was blessed with this super natural ability of dismantling the stumps directly from long distances and his ability to take catches both in the infield and on the fence made him a complete craftsman.
7. Brendon McCullum
Black caps are the nicest cricketers known so far. And they are an equally good fielding unit as well. But Brendon McCullum is the man who stands out as far as kiwi fielding is concerned. He started off as a wicket keeper and was natural diver and swift runner. Later when he transformed himself into an outfielder, he was almost a revelation. Along with his explosive batting, his fielding always catches the eyes of the fans.
8. Suresh Raina
The rhetorical days of India being a bad fielding side are over. This new generation of Indian lads has lifted the bar to the point which was almost unimaginable a decade ago. And all this has been made possible due to the breed of youngsters who are willing to throw themselves in the field at every position. And amongst those lads is this guy called Suresh Raina who is extremely athletic and acrobatic in covers and mid wicket as well. His sharp accuracy in hitting the stumps directly coupled with dynamic aerial fielding makes him an essential member of this list. He is a captain’s delight when it comes to saving singles in the inner circle.
9. Tillakaratne Dilshan
If there was a sub continent team that had kept pace with the advancing fielding standards of the entire world, then it is Sri Lanka. It was arguably the best Asian fielding side until India raised the standards for everyone else. And the Dilshan has been the integral member of the Sri Lankan side in 2000’s till now. He has this to take flying one handed catches and he is never shy of diving to save the runs for his side.
10. Andre Russell
Known for his explosive lower order hitting and useful bowling at the death but at the top of that he is a fielder who can bamboozle not just the batsman but also his own team mates with his high flying catching ability. He is exceptional when it comes to fielding in the deep and taking catches at the boundary line. What makes him effective is his presence of mind and capability to judge how far the boundary line is while he is attempting to take a catch. His attractive fielding skills have made him a high demand player in franchises all across the world in different leagues.