Cricket has such a long history that it's tough to talk about all of it, and I am sure it's not going to attract you as well. So lets just start our history from seventies and early eighties when a bowler used to dismiss a batsman, jump with joy for a second or two and then... went back to his bowling mark. All his team mates (the fielders) used to clap from their fielding positions...
What I am trying to figure here is, in those days, there were no team gatherings around the pitch whenever a wicket fell. Everyone played the game as if it was their job and went quietly about it.
It was changing slowly but surely, as Television and other publicity mediums started to move towards an International cricket match.... and then came a time - 1992 to be precise, when South African team joined back International cricket. Everyone knew they were a talented cricketing nation and they proved it instantly by reaching the semi-finals of the first ever Cricket World Cup they played... but what difference they really made was by their fielding..!!
In fact, they had a player called Jonty Rhodes, who according to his captain Hansie Cronje - was picked into playing eleven only for his fielding.. whatever runs he made was ONLY a bonus!!
Other International teams tried to find such fielders in their teams as well and now - in 2006, nearly every team has got two or three fielders who are nearly as good as that man used to be. In fact, players like Ashish Nehra and VVS Laxman are not given a berth in Indian team only because their fielding is not where it needs to be... And then we have the example of Mohammad Kaif, who was given chance after chance to end his bad form because he is a brilliant fielder..!!
This is an article where we look at some of the best fielders in International cricket today, and eventually find who are the top 5 in them..
Some good one's..
(I). Dwayne Bravo : This young man of 23 years is probably the brightest star in West Indies cricket right now. He can bat, he can bowl and he can field brilliantly, but where he lacks is his temperament. There has been so many examples where he gets over exited and misses a chance but having said that, Bravo can easily prove to be a man of future for West Indies..
(II). Kevin Pietersen : This South Africa born, England batsman tries very hard on the field and by one look at him, you will know that he wants to see himself among the best fielders in International cricket, but I am not even including him among the "very good fielders" because he lacks instinct. All brilliant fielders can anticipate what is happening on the cricket pitch and act accordingly but Pietersen has a bulky structure - something of a Hollywood actor but not quick enough to make a difference in fielding..
Having said all this, Kevin Pietersen seems to have the WANT to become one of the best and by the time I make the second such a list, I am sure he will be much improved fielder. All he needs is to lose some weight and concentrate more on fielding than advertising and his girl friends..!!
(III). Devon Smith : I am sure not many cricket lovers around the World know about this West Indian middle order batsman, but in caribbean, he is yet another Vivian Richards in making. Smith wants to smack every ball into the stands and this makes him sit out of West Indies eleven most of the times. And thus - he fails to make a mark by his brilliant fielding abilities.
(IV). Suresh Raina : This youngster from India should have been in the next list but I have decided to include him here because he is yet to be a regular into Indian team. And thus, his fielding abilities don't show. But what I would like to mention here is that in the very first 3 ODI's that Raina played for India, he made three run outs... Raina is from MP, same as Mohammad Kaif and seems to copy everything about him...
(V). Nathan Astle : Well, he is 35 years old now and his fielding is suffering.. probably when we make such a list next time, this New Zealand batsman will not be there, or may be out of New Zealand team as well, but as of now, he still is a name which should be mentioned.
(VI). Upul Chandana : When was the last time he played for Sri Lanka... Well, on 12th November 2005 and that is why this very good Sri Lankan fielder at this spot - not above. He has been playing for Sri Lanka for 12 years now but never was able to cement his place and thus, misses a chance to make it better in this list of brilliant fielders.
I feel like including names like Shoaib Mallik and Imran Nazir as not a single Pakistani fielder has been mentioned. But frankly, they aren't that good as yet. Pakistan seem to find very good batsmen and great bowlers, but fielding still remains to be improved.
Very good ones but not among top 5.
A. AB de Villiers : The most favourable point with South African youngsters is that no matter how good cricketer they are, they all play a game called RUGBY which is meant for diving and sliding on grass. This makes them learn the art of being flexible and that is how nearly all South African cricketers are very good fielders. AB de Villiers admits that he was as good a cricket player as he was in Rugby but he loved cricket more and that's why it took it professionally.
An equally good wicket keeper, who is still waiting for Mark Boucher to make way, AB de Villiers plays as a batsman in south African team and saves at least 5 runs per innings. You must watch him next time when you get a chance..!!
B. Lou Vincent : The RUGBY advantage is with New Zealand as well, who probably has the best team in that sport. And Lou Vincent - the New Zealand middle order/ Opening batsman has such reflexes which will amaze you. New Zealand is a country which plays least amount of International cricket and that's why not many people know about this brilliant fielder.
C. Paul Collingwood : I was stuck with 7 names out of whom I had to select five for top 5 positions. The first one to miss out is Paul Collingwood, who is England's best fielder. He is playing International cricket for some time now but never was as stable in England team as he is now. And thus, his fielding abilities are showing. The only problem I see with this "very good" fielder is his team - England, who are a very bad ODI team. One day Internationals are the cricket games where your real fielding abilities are tested and since England concentrate on TEST MATCHES only, Cricket World fails to see this man's abilities..!!
D. Yuvraj Singh : Now you may not agree with me here as I don't give a place to India's "backward point" fielder but as I said, I was stuck with 7 names and two had to miss out. Yuvraj has amazing reflexes and probably is the 6th best fielder in the World right now, but to me, where he lack is fitness. To be a man who will run around the field for 50 overs and then bat for 25-30 overs is not an easy job and this is where Yuvraj misses.... just by a whisker though.
Having said this, I think this man has taken some best catches and will soon take lot more breath-taking ones..
Now The TOP 5 FIELDERS IN CRICKET WORLD.
No.5 - Tillakaratne Dilshan.
No body noticed but this man is now nearly 30 years old and has been playing International cricket for 7 years. Sri Lanka is a team which may not bat as well, may not bowl as well when they are on tour, but they are a brilliant fielding side and Tillakaratne Dilshan leads the way. He fields at backward point to seamers and then at mid wicket to spinners (which Sri Lanka has in plenty).
Every match that I see of Sri Lanka, this man nearly always effects a run-out and this prompted me to name him as our No. 5 best fielder.
No. 4 - Herschelle Gibbs.
Remember 1999 South Africa vs Australia league match at Headingley?? Australia were 48 for 3 while chasing a target of 272, and that's when Herschelle Gibbs dropped the (easy) catch of Australian captain - Steve Waugh. In fact, Gibbs was trying to toss the ball in air with job of getting 4th wicket for South African when the ball slipped from his hands and Steve Waugh survived. He said - "You just dropped you World Cup mate".... and went on to make 120 not out off 110 balls with 10 fours and 2 sixes.
If you notice now, after 7 years hence, Gibbs never tosses the ball after taking a catch. But this doesn't make this brilliant fielder from grabbing the No.4 spot in this list of best International fielders.
No. 3 - Mohammad Kaif.
There is not much difference between Kaif and Yuvraj for Indian cricket lovers but I have given him this No. 3 spot because this man is a must for Indian team when it comes to fielding. He may not take breath taking catches as Yuvraj does, and may not make big scores as Sachin does, but every team has to field for 50 overs and that is when Kaif becomes indispensable. Watch him playing a match and you will know his worth and his will for fielding virtually every ball.
No. 2 - Andrew Symonds.
This is where Kevin Pietersen should take inspiration from. Both Pietersen and Symonds have huge structure but Symonds is at least 4 times more flexible and anticipates the ball lot better. Watching him field in any match against my TEAM INDIA, I wonder how are we gonna pass this monster..!!
No. 1 - Ricky Ponting.
It's Australian attitude to attack the opposition captain in any cricket series. They believe that if they can demoralize the captain, whole opposition team feels down and victory becomes easy. And they pay huge attention that same thing doesn't happen with them. And thus, Ricky Ponting is their captain, who not only makes big big runs, but takes one of the best and toughest catches in cricket today.
In an interview, Ponting said - "I knew I was not a good enough bowler. But I always wanted to be involved in the whole game. and that is why I have been working on my fielding right from the days I picked up my bat".
Well, Ricky.... you are the No. 1.
Did I miss any name??