Fielding is a vital skill for cricketers in this day and age
Following the steady rise of limited overs cricket, fielding is no longer a fringe skill for cricketers and it is highly unlikely that a cricketer who is a complete liability in the field will find many takers.
The reason for that is simple. Runs saved on the field often make a difference in tightly contested games and hence teams can’t afford to leave runs on the field. Hence, the emergence of top-class fielders across cricket teams has been a natural consequence and nowadays almost all teams have a few fielders who are quite brilliant.
So let’s take a look at the 5 fielders who set the benchmark as far as modern-day fielding is concerned.
AB de Villiers
From the days of Colin Bland in the 1960s to Jonty Rhodes in the 1990s and later on with Herschelle Gibbs, South Africa has always been blessed with great fielders. Their premier batsman AB de Villiers is the one who carries that legacy in the current team.
His raw reflexes, ability to anticipate a batsman’s stroke and natural athleticism have seen him pull off plenty of stunning catches in his career.
He can field at point, slips, around the bat in Tests or in the deep. No position is a weakness for him and over the years, he has been a decisive factor for South Africa in many of their victories with his fielding alone.
AB is doubtless not only one of the best fielders at this point but will also be remembered as one of the finest fielders to have ever graced the game.
The Australian star’s fielding is very much like his batting. Speed, strength and the eye for opportunity define him as a fielder. Warner is well and truly a fielding all-rounder, who can be equally effective at almost any position.
When he fields in the deeper positions, his ability to cover ground like a rugby player makes him one of the best boundary patrolling fielders in the world. Batsman has to place it really well if he has to get a four in his area.
In addition to that, he is a very safe catcher and although he is very athletic, he is not known for taking acrobatic catches.
Last but not the least, Warner has a very strong arm and sends in fast accurate throws from the deep that rules out the possibility of batsmen stealing runs due to poor throws. Warner’s prowess as a fielder in the circle is equally effective but it is in the deeper areas where he truly comes alive.
West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard has a unique signature move that no other fielder in the world has been able to master and probably they never will.
Batsmen often hit perfectly fine shots that seem to be going over the boundary but then if it is Pollard’s zone then he leaps up and plucks it out of thin air, one handed. The batsmen are often made to look foolish.
Pollard’s 6 feet 4 inches frame and large hands make it possible for him to be successful at this, which is why no other fielder has been able to master it. The timing of the leap is also paramount and Pollard has turned it into an art form.
However, other than this particular facet of his fielding, he covers a lot of ground quickly with his massive strides even though he is not the fastest mover and sends in rocket throws from the deep with the minimum of fuss. He is a deceptively brilliant fielder and is, without a doubt, among the best fielders in the world at moment.
When Ravindra Jadeja first started playing cricket in Jamnagar, his coach had first honed his skills as a fielder before anything else, and that clearly shows when one watches him field.
Jadeja is one of the safest catchers in the world at the moment and over the years, he has pulled off plenty of outstanding catches at a variety of positions. In addition to that, he is one of those rare fielders who can hit the stumps and that makes him doubly dangerous for batsmen, who might try to steal a single or two.
Lastly, Jadeja’s throws from the deep are almost always accurate and batsmen always think twice before taking liberties when he fields at that position. Across the three formats of the game, Jadeja has emerged as one of the best fielders in the world.
Over the past few years, England’s all-round powerhouse Ben Stokes has become one of the best cricketers in the world and due to his eye-catching all-round exploits, his status as one of the world’s best fielders probably goes unnoticed.
One thing that needs to be remembered about Stokes is that he is an incredibly gifted athlete and he brings those raw reflexes to the table when he fields. Like the very best fielders, he has no deficiency as a fielder and can field at most positions.
An attribute that truly marks him out as a top fielder is his willingness to try the outrageous and he pulls it off quite often. Stokes’ strong arm, the speed of covering ground across the field and flawless catching technique makes him one of the best fielders in the world at the moment.