The players subjected to hard work were tiring, but not their fielding coach. Jonty Rhodes made the Mumbai Indians go through an arduous session in batches at the Kingsmead on Monday and reinvigorated himself by taking a short break to grab a banana and gulp some water before racing back to the ground. A man of unending energy and verve, ‘Mr Fielding’ spoke to HT after the day’s work.
How does it feel to have started something, which has become a trend the world over?
It has taken me by surprise that many players are paying a lot more attention to fielding these days, because I didn’t think this would happen. But I don’t think I started a trend. It’s just that players are enjoying fielding these days like I did. That gives me greater pleasure than the thought that I started a trend.
Can a player be part of a T20 side on the back of his fielding only?
No. Fielding can only complement your primary skill. Opening batsmen, specialist batsmen or specialist bowlers don’t have to be great fielders because their chosen disciplines will get them into the team. For others in the middle-order fielding becomes important. In case of two equally skilled players, the better fielder stands a better chance of getting selected.
What prompted you to take fielding so seriously?
It was never a conscious effort. I just enjoyed fielding and took it seriously. Right from my school days I used to work on this aspect of my game. The thought of becoming a better fielder never crossed my mind. I simply loved fielding and spent hours behind it without paying attention to what that would fetch.
Do you regret that T20 happened after your days as a player?
I don’t regret it but I think that T20 would have given me a chance to be in different parts of the field. Backward-point for sure wouldn’t have been my position in T20. I would have loved to be in long-off or long-on, running around the fence and throwing myself around.
Is being adjudged Man of the Match in a Hero Cup game in India in 1993 for taking five catches your most memorable experience on a cricket field?
No. My best moment came when I played for South Africa for the first time, against Australia in a World Cup game in 1992. Not because we won (by nine wickets) but because it was South Africa’s first World Cup match. Before that we used to play before a crowd of 5000 at best at home. In Sydney that day, playing in front of 40,000 people was huge. I didn’t get a chance to bat, but effected a run out. That was my biggest day in cricket.
You missed a chance to play the 2003 World Cup at home because of a finger injury that eventually ended your career. Does that rankle?
Before that I had played in three World Cups. With youngsters coming up, I had to make room for them sometime, so I don’t really regret missing that World Cup. I was obviously a bit disappointed because the time to go wasn’t perfect. That I had played in the World Cup thrice before that made up for it.
How does it feel to be involved with the IPL?
Great. If you are involved with cricket, you have to be connected with the IPL. How quickly things change in this form of the game is amazing. I am grateful to be part of the Mumbai Indians.
Who are the top fielders in the world today?
A.B. de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs and J. P. Duminy for South Africa. From other countries, Andrew Symonds because for such a big fellow he moves very quickly and has a strong arm. Also, Paul Collingwood.