I believe fielding is the most important part of the game of cricket. The old saying “catches win matches” has been drilled into me from a very young age and it’s so true. My dad, who was my first coach, instilled this in me and got me excited about fielding by telling me stories of the great run outs and catches he had seen as a young kid. I remember him telling a story of the great Colin Bland. He and a few others were asked to go and be ball boys at a South African training session one day. At one stage during the session, Colin Bland got a few of the boys (including dad) to back up the stumps while he practiced fielding from the boundary. One of the coaches hit the ball out and Bland ran in and threw from over 50 metres away. He knocked the one stump straight out of the ground with his first throw. His first four throws, from the same distance all hit the stump. “He missed the fifth”, my dad said, “but it wasn’t by much”. Baseball clubs in America approached Bland when he was playing to go over and learn to pitch but he turned them down and continued playing the game he loved. It was stories like these that inspired me to want to be a better fielder.
As a young kid, I remember going out into the garden to practice catching and throwing quite a lot. My brothers and I used to form a staggered field and dad would smash these hard rubber balls at us to see if he could pierce the field both in the air and on the ground. We used rubber balls so it wasn’t as hard on our hands. A few years later, I actually went and watched Jonty Rhodes at a fielding session in South Africa and some guy was whacking him catches with a similar type of ball off a tennis racket. I was in awe of Jonty. It was after a net session and he wanted to do a few extra fielding drills. There were a bunch of spectators around, including his teammates, and I don’t think anyone could believe how fast his reactions were. The balls were being hit so hard that it was extremely hard to see them. His balance, speed and agility were outstanding. He was an inspiration to me growing up. In more recent times, I have really enjoyed watching the likes of Herschelle Gibbs, Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Paul Collingwood and probably the best fielder in the world at the moment, AB Devilliers. The modern era really has bred some amazing talents when it comes to fielding. The athleticism and skills of these guys are unreal.
One thing all these players all have in common, is that they all work extremely hardon their fielding skills. They may be gifted athletes, but I believe it has more to do with their work ethic and dedication to becoming a better fielder that made them great! I think anything is possible if you work hard enough for it. If you want to improve your fielding then I suggest you have a look at my fielding tips and drills post which I regularly update with new stuff.
There is no better feeling than taking a great catch or hitting the stumps to run someone out, especially when your team really needs it.