Contrary to the popular saying, catches only aid in winning matches, and in tight contests, may tilt the scales one way or the other. Across formats, here are the top 10 fielders, listed by catches taken in their career. New Zealand’s Ross Taylor is the only one in the list who hasn’t retired.
1. Mahela Jayawardene
Jayawardene wasn’t just prolific with the bat, he was prolific with his catches as well. Mainly a slip fielder, he has taken 440 catches in international cricket, in 560 matches. Four times, he has taken four catches in an innings.
Among his memorable catches is a diving effort in Galle to hand Muttiah Muralitharan his 800th Test wicket – it was the first Test of a three-Test series against India in July, 2010.
2. Ricky Ponting:
Ponting was a good close-in fielder, athletic and acrobatic, with an accurate throw in his armoury to knock down the stumps. He has taken 364 catches, averaging a little more than half a catch per match.
Among his memorable catches is the one to dismiss Saqlain Mushtaq in the final of the 1999 World Cup. He dived to his right to take the catch and put an end to Pakistan’s innings. He’s taken plenty of other acrobatic catches in his career, and in various fielding positions, too.
3. Jacques Kallis:
Kallis was a reliable fielder in the slips, and has taken acrobatic catches, too. In 519 matches, he has taken 338 catches, and like Jayawardene, has claimed four catches in an innings four times. His average: 0.509 catches per innings.
4. Rahul Dravid:
Dravid holds the record for the most number of catches in Test cricket, but across formats, he occupies the fourth position, with 334 catches in 509 matches. Among the top four, he has the best average: 0.584 catches per innings.
Like the others, there are many memorable catches featuring Dravid. One would be the stunning catch at forward short leg off Javagal Srinath to get rid of Saqlain Mushtaq in an ODI against Pakistan in 1999-00. India lost that match by one wicket.
5. Ross Taylor:
Taylor’s average is even better, at 0.640 catches per innings. He has taken 332 catches in 433 matches, with four catches in an innings taken four times. He is a secure fielder in the slip cordon, recently taking a diving catch to get rid of Ben Stokes in a Test in November, 2019.
He is sure to add to the tally, too, since hasn’t hung up his boots.
6. Stephen Fleming:
Fleming has taken 26 catches less than his compatriot, having played 37 matches fewer. Taylor and Fleming average nearly the same. Fleming has taken four catches five times.
7. Graeme Smith:
Smith, the erstwhile South Africa captain, took 292 catches in 347 matches, averaging 0.643. Again, a safe pair of hands in the slips.
8. Mark Waugh:
Mark Waugh finished his career with 289 catches in 372 matches, at an average of 0.592. With 181 catches in Tests, he was for long at the top of the list, before Dravid overtook him in 2009. Among his most memorable efforts is the diving effort to dismiss Wajahatullah Wasti in the 1999 World Cup final; diving to his right, he was completely airborne when he pouched the catch. Ponting’s catch mentioned earlier was a near replica; the difference, it was one-handed and Ponting was airbone for less time.
9. Brian Lara:
Lara, the West Indian batting great, took 284 catches in 430 matches. He averaged 0.528 catches per match. Like the rest in the list, he featured in the slip cordon many times. On the internet, however, there’s a great catch of him available to watch where he’s not fielding in the slips – he takes a diving, low catch to dismiss Lance Klusener off Corey Collymore in an ODI.
10. Allan Border:
Allan Border, the Australia captain, finished with 283 catches from 429 matches – stats very similar to Lara. A memorable catch: a diving catch at second slip to dismiss John Reid off Dave Gilbert in 1985-86.