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Indian fielding, no longer a disgrace: Jonty

MiD DAY speaks to Jonty Rhodes on an aspect of the game which made him a legend

Fielding has become a very important discipline in cricket and who better than Jonty Rhodes, the undisputed king of fielding, to endorse that. At the sidelines of a three-day cricket clinic for kids at The Sports Gurukul-I-Land Sports Academy in Wadala, Mumbai, the South African spoke to MiD DAY on various aspects of his expertise.


Jonty Rhodes gives fielding tips to young players at the Sports Gurukul-
I-Land in Wadala yesterday. Pic/Sunil Tiwari


Excerpts from an interview:

The hesitancy to become an outstanding fielder is still a problem in India, say coaches. Agree or disagree?
I have been watching Indian cricketers and in the past, only one or two like Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh were good at fielding. But if you see the World Cup final where India defeated Sri Lanka, Yuvraj, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina were amazing during the first five overs. That set the tone for India and the Sri Lankans couldn't hit a boundary.

People reckon that the Indian Premier League is the cause of a lot of ills -- techniques have gone for a toss, bowlers getting more defensive in their approach, the problem of players handling so much money etc. But IPL or the T20 game in general have led to some brilliant run outs and catches. Do you think the format has got enough credit for this plus side?
Yes. I think the IPL has actually helped cricket in all ways. If you look at Jacques Kallis and Sachin Tendulkar, they are all scoring many runs. Even AB De Villers did his bit for the Bangalore team. There are many good players and some like Yusuf Pathan who could hit a six at every ball, while other players played some really good cricket. But as a bowler, one needs to learn to bowl different balls. Like Lasith Malinga bowls a perfect yorker. Every bowler needs to learn to bowl with variation. IPL is the perfect platform for a youngster and if you can make an impact as a bowler in the IPL, it shows that you have good temperament.

India lacks a hero when it comes to fielding. Do you see this as a problem?
No. Indian fielding is no longer a disgrace, as now there is whole new bunch of players who are good in fielding.

How do you put India's Australian tour performance in perspective? Again, fielding was not an area where India could score over Australia during the series...
Losing to Australia 0-4 is a bit of concern, but then, until a year ago they were not just good at home, but India had some wins away as well and that's why they were the No 1 Test team in the world. At Mumbai Indians, I have seen Sachin work really hard but sometimes you cannot do much. In Test cricket ' unlike the 20-over and 50-over formats, sometimes fielding is the most important part of the game as one dropped catch can turn the game. I feel that in the pursuit of trying to score runs, the Indians lost focus on fielding.

It is believed that India's fielding coach Trevor Penney works very hard with the team. But the results have not been outstanding. Agree?
Yes, the results have not come through. But Trevor is a great coach and I have immense respect for him. I know how hard he works with the Indian guys and he tries to make it fun. But you can't afford to give Ricky Ponting or Michael Clarke a chance as they can do the damage. The team comes under pressure once you do drop a catch.

What's the best and most disappointing thing you see while coaching India's young cricketers?
Munaf Patel diving on the field during an IPL match was one of the best moments for me and I have seen nothing disappointing while coaching the youngsters

If there is one pearl of wisdom concerning fielding which every young cricketer must keep in mind, what would it be?
I think there is no short cut to success with anything. But if you are enjoying what you do, it never feels like work. I got paid for what I loved doing. For me, the key is that you need to enjoy.

You played hockey too. Do you feel cricketers should indulge in other sports in order to improve their reflexes. If so, which sports would they be?
Yes, I think that they should play other sports. Hockey helped a lot in my fielding. I think tennis is a great game as it helps hand-eye co-ordination and football and hockey makes you move side ways. Cricket is not the forward running game, so these games help improve one's reflexes. Playing other games helps a cricketer remove the pressure of being a cricket player. If you just keep playing cricket, it becomes a little too much.

Your top five fielders of all time?
Ricky Ponting, Paul Collingwood, AB de Villiers, Andrew Symonds and Yuvraj Singh as he is taken some great catches when I was playing.

Your all-time sporting hero?
I grew up playing football and Pele was my hero as I thought that I would be a soccer player someday.

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