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Fielders of dreams - forget batters or bowlers, it’s catches that win matches…

December 8th, 2018Cricket
In the run up to next year’s ICC World Cup hosted in England and Wales, Expat Sport will be analysing the runners and riders in all disciplines of the game of cricket and this week we turn our attention to, what is often referred to as the third aspect of the game, fielding. While the glamour names in the games tend to be batters or bowlers we investigate the truth behind the old adage that “catches win matches”, to highlight some of the finest fielders in world cricket and how they might elevate their team to the lofty echelons of ICC World Cup 2019 winners.
While seam bowlers can apply increasing pressure on a batter during their innings, plying their trade through that “corridor of uncertainty” inviting the nibble and the depressing sound - if you happen be on strike - of an uppish outside edge rocketing into the field behind, but it’s all for naught if the chance is put down by the keeper or slips. The same can be said of a bat-pad chance swallowed-up, or not, by short leg off a crafty spin bowler, or an incredible pickup-turn-and-fire shy at the stumps that runs out a batsman lunging for the safety of the crease.
These are the pivotal turning points in a match that so often either precipitate a rash of subsequent cheap wickets assuming the chances are taken, or serve to bolster a batter, who having ridden their luck, then goes on to make the big, match defining score. Even more so than a straightforward lbw or clean bowled, a moment of fielding brilliance can swing the whole psychology of a team into one of determined winners or alternatively a dropped chance can start to suggest the notion that maybe, today is just not our day.
So in the spirit of celebrating fielding excellence Expat Sport brings you our top five fielding magicians (in no particular order) sure to make a big impact on the ICC World Cup 2019.
1.Kieron Pollard.
West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard is the absolute master of pulling back catches from the stands without conceding a boundary. It’s a skill that he has almost trademarked such is his proficiency at it.

In the big hitting post T20 world of one day cricket, it is usual to see fours and sixes crashing into the stands, but in his case there are astounding exceptions. Oftentimes players hit seemingly successful sixes only to see Pollard swooping in round the rope, hurling himself unfeasibly high into the air and plucking a remarkable catch to take their wicket out of thin air. The bewildered look on batters’ faces as they trudge back to the pavilion says it all.
Pollard's 6 feet 4 inches frame and large hands make it possible for him to perfect this technique, with no other fielder apparently able to master it in quite the same way. The timing of the leap is also paramount and Pollard has turned it into an art form.
However, other than this particular facet of his fielding, Kieron also covers a lot of ground quickly with his massive strides even though he is not the fastest mover and sends in rocket throws from the deep with the minimum of fuss. He is a deceptively brilliant fielder and is, without a doubt, among the best fielders in the world at moment.
2. Ravindra Jadeja.
What is curious and exciting about Ravindra Jadeja’s development as a player is that when he first started playing cricket in Jamnagar, his coach concentrated on his fielding ability and skills before he worked on any other part of his game. And this becomes quite evident when one sees how he has elevated this ability to an art form.
Jadeja is one of the safest pair of hands in the world at the moment and over the years; he has pulled off plenty of outstanding catches at a variety of positions. As well as his catching prowess, it is his dead eye ability to hit the stumps side on that has established his very high run out success rate compared to other players.
Lastly, Jadeja's throws from the deep are almost always accurate and batsmen always think twice before taking liberties when he fields at that position. Across the three formats of the game, Jadeja has emerged as one of the best fielders in the world.
3. Ben Stokes.
England’s talisman all-rounder and the ‘enforcer’ as he likes to see himself has risen to prominence as an aggressive batsman and bowler, often able to play devastating cameos with either bat or ball in hand that change the match very rapidly in England’s favour. So the fact that he is also one of the world’s finest fielders can sometimes almost be overshadowed by his other strengths.
One thing that needs to be remembered about Stokes is that he is an incredibly gifted athlete and he brings those raw reflexes to the table when he fields. Like the very best fielders, he exhibits no obvious deficiency and can field at most positions.
An attribute that truly marks him out as a top fielder is his willingness to try the outrageous and he pulls it off quite often. Think of that ‘claw-catch’ in the slips taken from the bat of Australia’s Adam Voges off Stuart Broad’s bowling, that Broad describes as “the best I’ve ever seen”.
Stokes' strong arm, the speed at which he covers ground across the field and flawless catching technique makes him one of the most exciting fielders in the world at the moment.
4. David Warner.
While there are many notable Australian cricket fielders, not least of whom is Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, despite his recent fall from grace, has that rare ability to create chances out of nothing and is sure to be playing a part in next year’s ICC World Cup when his ban comes to an end. The Australian star's fielding is very much like his batting. Speed, strength and the eye for opportunity define him as a fielder. Warner is well and truly a fielding all-rounder, who can be equally effective at almost any position.
Fielding in deeper positions, his sweeping is excellent. The ability to cover enough ground to stop those fours puts the pressure firmly back onto the batters meaning that the accuracy of their stroke play needs to be pinpoint to get the ball over the boundary rope.
In addition to that, he is a very safe catcher and although he is very athletic, he is not known for taking acrobatic catches. “Bread basket” is a good analogy for his hands.
Warner's prowess as a fielder in the circle is equally effective but it is in the deeper areas where he truly comes alive.
Warner has a very strong arm and sends in fast accurate throws from the deep that rules out the possibility of batsmen stealing runs due to poor throws.
5. David Miller.
Miller has continued the South African tradition of exemplary fielding, with the likes of Jonty Rhodes and AB de Villiers to name just two of the pantheon of Proteus greats. As a swashbuckling middle-order batsman Miller has, no doubt, proven to be a match winner for South Africa on multiple occasions with his immense power-hitting abilities. However, at the same time, his natural abilities as a fielder are often not celebrated as much as they should be.
Miller is the quintessential modern fielder who is at home anywhere within the 30-yard circle and in addition to that, he can field anywhere in the deep. His catching ability, athleticism, reflexes, running ability and a strong arm makes him someone whom the batting side simply cannot take lightly.
Miller represents the next generation of South African fielders but he is already among the country's all-time best.
A top five in world one-day cricket fielding is a very difficult group to definitively decide and we have omitted huge talents such as some of the Kiwis including Kane Williamson and Trent Boult, Pakistan’s Shadab Khan, or other underrated but no less brilliant talents such as Afghanistan’s Najibullah Zadran. Each and every team in the World Cup bring with them on field game changers who can catch, throw or boundary-block their teams to success or failure depending on how they perform on the day.
The overall improvement in fielding skills over the last ten years means that at no other time in cricket’s illustrious history has the old truism, ‘catches win matches’ been more accurate or more tantalising.
Batsmen beware; they’re coming to get you...