Third dimension like batting and bowling, fielding too can win ODI matches; here's a look at World Cup efforts that still leave us spellbound. N Ananthanarayanan reports. The evolution of fielding
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Updated on Feb 10, 2011 01:42 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

Third dimension like batting and bowling, fielding too can win ODI matches; here's a look at World Cup efforts that still leave us spellbound. The evolution of fielding

'Richards was no less than Jonty'

One less stated fact about India's triumphant 1983 World Cup team was the set of consistently excellent fielders in their ranks. From skipper Kapil Dev's natural athleticism, Yashpal Sharma's brilliance at cover, Roger Binny's sharp work as well as the safe hands of Sunil Gavaskar at slip, it was a well-rounded team. Add to that K Srikkanth's pick-jump-twist-and-throw in one go, it left India's new television audience purring in delight.

As another World Cup beckons, fielding is one aspect that will be of a very high quality in many teams. If the feline-like qualities of Vivian Richards and Gus Logie introduced world cricket fans to a new dimension in the game, the gravity-defying deed of Jonty Rhodes in 1992 still remains the standard for those aspiring to earn praise for their springiness on the field.

Srikkanth, now the national chief selector, believes fielding will be as crucial this time but is confident that sub-continent teams, especially India, will not lag behind.

"Fielding has become very crucial and it will be no different at this World Cup," he told Hindustan Times.

Looking back to his peak days in the 1980s, he said it was an effort for Indians to throw themselves around on hard grounds with little grass cover.

"During our days there was no real concept of diving; especially in India. With no great grass on the grounds, it was always a struggle.

"But now grounds have improved and that is reflected in the way some of our youngsters like Raina and Kohli field; they are tigers on the field."

Fielding techniques have undergone a transformation in the last several years. Be it relay throwing or sliding stops, cricket has long stopped being the genteel game it once was. "Fielding has now touched extraordinary heights and there is a natural incentive for that, unlike my days when it was mainly Tests," he said. "England and Australia have always had lush green outfields, but things are improving fast in India. So we will only get better."

South Africa and Australia are expected to be two teams that will set the benchmark for fielding in this edition. While Srikkanth felt there were many really top notch fielders in today's game, he preferred to look back to his time when it was natural flair, rather than coaching manuals, that dictated run outs like those effected by Richards and sensational catches. Kapil Dev took one in the 1983 final to get rid of Richards and turn the game India's way.

"Kapil was a natural and so was Roger Binny, even Azharuddin was brilliant," he said. "But if you look back, Viv Richards was no less than Jonty Rhodes. He used to stand at forward shortleg, slip, cover, you name it. He was amazing."

The first step to Kingship Viv Richards (WI) vs Aus in 1975 final

His swagger could overawe the strongest opponents. On the longest day of the year, he added liveliness to it and singed Australia. Richards had scored just five but his fielding made up for the batting setback. He ran out three, including the Chappell brothers, Greg and Ian, to snuff out Aussies' chances. Ian's run out was important as it stopped the Australian captain on 62 and ended his threatening partnership with Doug Walters. He set off for a run but then hesitated seeing Richards lurking about. However, Richards mis-fielded only to recover in a jiffy and ran out the Aussie.Catch that got the match & More Kapil Dev (IND) vs WI in 1983 final

Kapil's most famous scalp that he didn't bowl to get, was unfortunately missed by people because of a link failure. The bare facts are these: Vivian Richards on 33 pulled Madan Lal high on the leg side. Kapil Dev ran back towards the mid-wicket boundary, judged it to perfection and made a difficult catch look easy. Richards was out, the Indians among the crowd went crazy, one of them jumping on Kapil's back to show his approval. The pendulum of balance had swung in favour of the underdogs, thanks to Kapil. If that catch had been dropped, India might not have won the World Cup, and had they not, many things wouldn't have happened. Would India have been so keen to host the Cup in 1987? Would TV viewership in India have soared? Would commercialisation have happened without the support of Indian market?This Crowe can chase its prey Martin Crowe (NZ) vs Zim 1987 league game

Martin Crowe saved Kiwis the blushes against Zimbabwe, who being rank outsiders, had little chance of upsetting New Zealand. The Kiwis set a 242-run target and the match was as good as over when Zimbabwe slumped to 104 for seven. But Dave Houghton didn't care for reputations. He started lifting the spinners with ease, hitting six sixes and 13 fours, in his 137-ball 142. The total galloped to 221 for seven and Zimbabwe were in touching distance of an upset when Crowe pulled off a stunner to dismiss Houghton. The ball sailed over mid-on from where Crowe started running. He ran almost up to the fence and realising that he wouldn't get under it, stretched both hands forward and the ball landed in the middle of the 'cup'. The impact threw Crowe to the ground who held the ball safely despite a tumble. Full Jonty defies gravity Jonty Rhodes (RSA) vs PAK in 1992 League match Jonty Rhodes

The Jonty Rhodes legend began with a leap that sent him flying, parallel to the ground, right arm outstretched, straight at the stumps at the striker's end on a Sunday afternoon in Brisbane. The batsman, Inzamam ul-Haq, was halfway down the pitch, desperately trying to regain ground after being sent back by his partner. In a flash, the three stumps came down and Rhodes was back on his feet celebrating. People were shocked and remain in awe even today. Silva lining and golden hands for Lanka Chamara Silva (SL) vs NZ in 2007 semifinals Chamara Silva

At 111 for 3 and 27 overs to get 179 runs, New Zealand must have given themselves a chance to win. Even with the fall of a wicket, they would have had their sights on the final with the dangerous Brendon McCullum walking in. But, Chamara Silva did the unthinkable and plucked an amazing catch to send the Kiwi keeper back. McCullum swept the doosra, the ball took an edge and ballooned up in the air. Silva, at forward short leg, quickly got into action, diving full length and grabbed the ball even as it was dying. The sensational catch sent the Sri Lankan fans into frenzied celebrations. When WIndies put Drakes on canada Vasbert Drakes, 2003 league stage Vasbert Drakes

Canada looked like they'd pull off an upset over the West Indies. John Davison, who triggered the charge, was playing like a man possessed, and he had pushed them to 157/2 in just 22 overs. Everything he hit was yielding runs at a brisk rate. The West Indies were looking worried and concerned. But, just then, their little-known paceman Vasbert Drakes pulled a catch out of thin air to bring them back. Davison hoisted one over midwicket, Drakes took a few steps back and stretched backwards. Amazingly, his outstretched right hand caught the ball.

Bank on these men, to have a field day


    N Ananthanarayanan has spent almost three decades with news agencies and newspapers, reporting domestic and international sport. He has a passion for writing on cricket and athletics.

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