Bangalore, May 19: We all talk about great batting and great bowling performances, but do we ever realize how much influence does the fielders have on the game? These are the people who can make an ordinary bowler look notable. These are people who can often turn the match around with a spectacular catch, run out or awful attempt on the field.
Yes, these are the people linked to most of the turning points in the game of cricket.
What happens if you are a batsman who gets out cheaply in first innings? How do you make your presence feel to the team then? One classic example here is of Sir Vivian Richards who had come into the 1975 World cup as a precocious youngster, but in the final of the tournament, he hadn"t done much to justify that tag. However, it was in the field he fought back with a vengeance – running three Aussies out and winning the tournament for West Indies.
It"s always said in cricket; till the last ball is bowled the match cannot be assumed to be over. Here is an example again related to sir Vivian Richards but this time against him, where in the 1983 world cup final he was batting aggressively, smashing the Indian bowlers all around the park and looked like he will take his team home, with the cup once again in an hour or so. But suddenly off one of the deliveries from Madan Lal, he top-edged his stroke and Kapil Dev ran back from square-leg to deep square-leg and completed an excellent catch. That was the catch which changed the fortunes of Indian cricket, and here was a team on which bet to win the world cup was placed 66 to 1 before the start of tournament, defeated the great West Indies, and captured the trophy.
Incomparable fielding abilities help in gaining advantage over others and have helped many ordinary international cricketers to prolong their careers. Mohammed Kaif is one of the best examples. When he came into international cricket he soon made his mark there as the best fielder India ever produced mostly because of his agility and throwing accuracy. He often produced important run outs in the game and made difficult catches look very easy. Kaif's exceptional fielding at cover often overshadowed his poor scores with the bat and was able to play 125 ODI"s. He also has the world record of five catches in a World Cup match.
There were times when because of some better batsman or experienced player recovering from injury he was dropped from the side. Although unable to establish a regular place in the 11–man team, his all–fielding strengths made him a regular on tours as 12th Man.
Even Kapil Dev. in his Autobiography 'Straight from the heart" picked Kaif as his 12th man in the Kapil Dev"s 11 for ODIs comprising of Indian Cricketers. Same was with Paul Collingwood of England, where in he was given priority in the team and as a 12th man because of his exceptional fielding at backward point and slips.
Jonty Rhodes another great example here.He had this amazing ability to slide, gather the ball, and release it quickly saving lots of runs on the field and produced unimagined run outs and catches. We all remember how in the 1992 World Cup he showed everyone what good fielding actually meant. In a game between Pakistan and South Africa, Inzamam nudged one down to the point region and took off for a single. Rhodes picked up the ball and instead of throwing the ball, ran towards it, with Haq trying to return back and dived into the stumps – demolishing them in the process and running the batsman out.
Hansie Cronje once went to such an extent to say that Jonty is in the eleven as a fielder whatever runs he makes its bonus. One more quote about Jonty is when, Harsha was hosting the ICC Awards before the T20 World Cup, and he called on Jonty Rhodes to present an award. So as Jonty began climbing down the stairs, Harsha exclaimed, ''it's pretty unusual to see Jonty walk down the stairs; I thought he might slide down them!"
When you have players like these in your team the bowlers are more confident than ever, there fielding efforts keeps the game alive and everyone on the field is motivated and cheered up. But if you have some lazy ones on the field it can have its own effects. A dropped catch and that batsman plays an innings which steals away the whole match.
In a recent match in IPL 2011, Brendon McCullum was dropped on the first ball by Rohit Sharma and that costed Mumbai Indians the match, who went on to score fast 81 for the Kochi Tuskers.
Or like in the semifinal match between India and Pakistan of world cup 2011, Pakistan fielders dropped 4 catches of Sachin Tendulkar who then went on to score 85 crucial runs, helping India to post 260, which in the end proved more than enough for the Pakistani"s to chase.
On a day when the two teams match each other in batting and bowling department it becomes a fielder dominant game, the team who fields well ends up on the winning side.
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