Jonty Rhodes

Former South African cricketer Jonty Rhodes said that he was surprised when Sri Lanka Cricket approached him to assist them with their fielding.

“I was very surprised that there was a concern about the fielding in Sri Lanka because our boys have great respect for the way the Sri Lankan team is fielding,” said Rhodes at a press conference held at the R Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday.

Rhodes, an outstanding fielder of his time is on a ten-day coaching stint in Sri Lanka working with the junior, development, ‘A’ and senior squads to help uplift the standard of fielding overall.

“With two days left to go what I have seen has reinforced the impression of what our boys had about Sri Lankan fielding,” said Rhodes.

“The bunch of players certainly are athletes and with a little bit of tweaking and technique from an attacking point of view and a throwing point of view there’s no reason why they can’t become one of the best fielding teams in the world in all three formats,” he said.

“What sets them apart from India is that in India most of the time it is forwards and backwards. There is only one sport that India plays and that is cricket their bat is all straight backwards and forwards. Here in Sri Lanka they talk about rugby and football, the games the players play, they really are first and foremost athletes.

“My whole thing about working with the fielding team is if they can get to the ball it’s easier to catch it. If the guys can’t get there it’s not my job it’s the fitness coach or somebody who’s got that headache.

“I am more concerned about with techniques with regard to stopping, throwing and catching. Cricket certainly has three disciplines these days – no longer batting and bowling, fielding is the third discipline. It’s not just for T20 and fifty overs, Test cricket is as just important these days.”

Comparing the junior (under 19) squad to the seniors Rhodes said, “The difference is that the younger players will make the switch much quicker and take on what you’re showing them because they haven’t got 10 or12 years of habits. That is what cricket really is – the reinforcement of the same thing over and over again so you can do it without thinking.

“The under 19 guys you have, have played cricket only for 4-5 years. Cricket is a habit whether you are batting, bowling or fielding you actually haven’t got time to think.

“The under 19 level guys I worked with adapted very quickly because they haven’t got 10 years of the way you do things,” he said.