Some 27 years ago, Jonty Rhodes, conjured up the most talked about fielding moment in cricket when he sprinted from deep backward point and dived full length to send Inzamam-ul-Haq packing.
That was on March 8, 1992, and South Africa was playing Pakistan in a World Cup group league fixture, but the image of a ‘flying’ Rhodes breaking the stumps still evokes memories.
His effort eventually changed the definition of fielding in modern-day cricket.
As another World Cup beckons, the 49-year-old Rhodes spoke to Sportstar on the evolution of fielding and what teams must do in the the ICC showpiece tournament, which begins in England, later this month…
As the World Cup nears, everyone is busy talking about the batting and bowling departments. But how important a role will fielding play in this edition of the tournament?
Fielding is definitely the third element of all formats of the game, not just T20 cricket. If the English summer is warm, then the tournament will be played on good batting surfaces. Special efforts in the field will assist the teams to take wickets, or apply pressure by drying up the runs. This could certainly make the difference between winning or losing the match.
How much do you think fielding has evolved over the years?
Fielding has certainly changed - especially the boundary work! Due to PowerPlays, small fields, and the big bats, batsmen are prepared to take on the fielders who are stationed on the boundary. The focus has certainly shifted to ‘defending’ the boundary and your better fielders are now stationed in the long on, long off and mid wicket positions.
What are the major changes that you notice these days?
Now, the biggest change is there is no place to hide fielders, and so teams can no longer have three-four under par-fielders . This means the standard of most fielders have improved drastically.
In a tournament like the World Cup, where this time the format is wide and long, how important will fitness be? What are the areas that the players need to keep in mind to ensure they remain strong and fit during the long tournament?
Recovery is an important part of fitness, especially with this format of only the top-10 teams. So, every match is important and you want your best players to be available for selection. Teams will have to manage their key players really well, ensuring that they stay healthy throughout the entire tournament.
These days, most of the teams have stressed much on the Yo-Yo test. Do you think that has essentially improved the fitness standards for all the teams?
Fitness is such a general term; but the athletic ability of most teams, especially those from the sub-continent have certainly improved.
Most of the Indian players head to the World Cup after a grueling IPL season. What are the areas the players need to keep in mind to maintain the workload for the World Cup?
The Indian team is the busiest team in the international circuit and by now, all of them know how to ‘manage’ their workload. Smarter, not necessarily harder, will be their mantra!
In particular, do you have any suggestions for the teams on how to improve the fielding levels. What are the areas they should work on?
Firstly, always dive for the ball -- if you don’t go, you will never know if you could have reached it! The pitches might be really good for batting, and so those half chances in the field could change the game.
Secondly, when you are in the circle, save the single. Thirdly, when you are fielding in the deep, preventing the second run can win the game for your team.
Fourthly, expect every ball to come to you, no matter where you are fielding - good anticipation is crucial to taking those half chances.
Which are the teams, you think, are better placed when it comes to fielding in this edition of the World Cup?
New Zealand, Australia, India, England, South Africa and the West Indies, in no particular order.
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