They may be underrated but fielders can sometimes be the most important members of the team. Taking catches, saving runs and effecting run outs could make the difference between winning and losing. Here are some of the best fielders of all time.
Top 15 Best Fielders of All Time
When we talk about brilliant run outs there is one iconic image that sums it all up. We’ve surely all seen that dramatic photograph of Jonty Rhodes diving full length to complete the run out of Inzamam-ul-Haq at the 1992 World Cup.
South Africa were playing in their first ever global tournament and Rhodes’ intervention helped to establish their credentials on the world stage. Many still think of him as the greatest fielder of all time and that run out was just one of many crucial contributions to the team.
AB de Villiers
South Africa’s AB De Villiers will be remembered by some as a brilliant wicket keeper. Towards the end of his career, AB gave up the gloves and became a superb outfielder.
De Villiers could be positioned anywhere on the pitch and he wouldn’t let his team down. He became known for some spectacular catches in the deep and some deadly accurate throws from within the 30 yard circle. In short, he was everything that a captain needed from his best fielder.
Ricky Ponting was one of the most knowledgeable cricketers of all time. That’s why he was such a successful captain of Australia and he carried that success across to his coaching career. As a fielder, he was very adept at reading a situation and assessing just what a batter was most likely to do.
That meant that he could anticipate a shot and, more often than not, he would find himself in exactly the right position. Ponting would often field in the slips at test level but he could be most effective inside the 30 yard fielding circle.
Brendon McCullum was New Zealand’s wicket keeper for many years but, when he gave up the gloves, he became one of the best ground fielders around. He may not have been quite as fast as some of the players on this list but his accuracy was key to his success.
McCullum was rarely off target with any run out attempt and was influential in sending batters back to the pavilion in this way. He also had that safe pair of hands and few can remember him dropping a catch.
Fans outside of India might just be surprised at this one, but anyone who watched Suresh Raina regularly would agree with his inclusion. Raina is strong at backward point and he proved this over many years with Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.
He could also keep the runs down when fielding in the 30-yard circle. There was rarely a single on offer when Suresh Raina was lurking, and the fact that he kept going into his mid-30s is a testament to his fitness and ability.
Like Ricky Ponting, Virat Kohli is a great batter who is also exceptional at reading the game. That’s why he’s often in the perfect position to save runs or even to execute a run out.
When he was captain, Kohli would often be seen in the 30 yard circle where it’s easier to talk to the bowlers. In the later stages of his career, you might expect to see him in the outfield where he can prove just what a brilliant all round fielder he is.
Australia’s Glenn Maxwell is one of the first players to be signed by any T20 franchise. He’s an explosive batter and he also bowls some useful off spin. It’s therefore easy to forget what he offers in the field.
Maxwell will often patrol the boundary where he has a fast throw and he can be a fine exponent of those thrilling relay catches. When called upon, the man nicknamed ‘The Big Show’ can also do a job in the ring.
Faf Du Plessis
South Africa’s Faf Du Plessis has developed a reputation for being a ‘safe pair of hands’. This means that he rarely drops a catch and that’s been a real asset for his country and for his domestic and franchise teams.
Du Plessis is also very versatile and can be effective anywhere on the field. We were used to seeing him at slip for the South African test team, but he’s also strong in the 30-yard circle and on the boundary.
Australia’s Steve Smith is one of the best slip fielders in the world and he deserves inclusion on that basis alone. It’s important to have a safe pair of hands in the cordon and Smith is one of the most reliable of all time.
Like all players on this list, he’s also very versatile. You can’t have slip fielders in the late stages of a limited overs game so he needs to also be effective in the outfield. Steve Smith has a great throwing arm and batters will rarely take him on when he’s patrolling the boundary.
There are many who think that Ravindra Jadeja is the best fielder in world cricket today. If ever there is a reel of spectacular catches in any tournament, it’s no surprise to see him involved.
Jadeja is capable of spectacular catches on the boundary edge and he has a bullet throw from long distance. He’s also very athletic and capable of keeping the runs down from his own bowling – as all bowlers should be.
When Herschelle Gibbs and Jonty Rhodes were playing in the same South African side, batting teams had to proceed with extra caution. He was another fielder with exceptional speed who would do a job in that key position of backward point.
Gibbs could be effective in any part of the 30 yard circle and was known for some spectacular dives that would often save certain boundaries. He was also accurate with throws to secure run outs and was largely known for being a safe pair of hands.
It is therefore ironic that Herschelle Gibbs will always be remembered for one dropped catch. He famously spilled Steve Waugh at the 1999 World Cup with the drop that ‘lost the trophy’.
I may be biased here: Derek Randall is my favourite cricketer of all time, but I can assure you that he deserves a place on this list. A cover fielder for England and Nottinghamshire, many said that he was worth selection based on his fielding alone.
Run outs were his speciality. He pulled off an amazing one in the 1979 World Cup final and it’s also worth checking out his run out of Rick McCosker in the 1977 Ashes series. If you’re not sure about this one, just take a look at Randall on YouTube and I hope you’ll be converted.
It was no coincidence that Paul Collingwood was frequently used as a substitute fielder before he fully broke into the England side. He could be effective anywhere on the outfield, but Collingwood was particularly strong at backward point where he pulled off some amazing catches.
The best of these, in my and in many people’s opinion, came against Australia at Bristol in 2005. Matthew Hayden cuts the ball with some force, only for Collingwood to pluck the ball out of the air with one hand.
West Indies’ Dwayne Bravo is another player who is especially adept off his own bowling. He’s fast and rarely misses a ball when it’s hit back to him.
When he’s not called upon to bowl, you can usually see Bravo on the boundary edge. He possesses a fast and accurate throw and batters would be foolish to chance a risky run on his arm.
The late Andrew Symonds was one of the best all-round cricketers in his day. He had huge ‘bucket’ hands and it’s hard to remember him dropping a catch. He was reliable in any fielding position, but was often seen at backward point or in any place inside the 30-yard circle.
Symonds was a big man and perhaps batters underestimated him at times. You wouldn’t have necessarily expected this Aussie to be quick across the turf, but he was like lightning and could affect run outs that were beyond most others.
With a strong arm added to his armoury, Andrew Symonds was one of the most dangerous all round fielders of his era.
All of the fielders on this list could turn a game with a stunning catch or an incredible run out. Each of them also underlines the importance of practising your fielding because you never know when such a pivotal moment will come along.
All players here are capable of doing just that. Those of us that have watched cricket for any length of time will surely have seen an incident where a catch or a direct hit has changed the course of the match. They are vital elements of any side, so be sure to watch those that are still playing and wait for the next moment of brilliance.