Lot to learn from Jonty Rhodes’s fielding know-how, says Chris Jordan
- A three-dimensional cricketer, Jordan is a rare all-round fielder who breaks into playing elevens for his fielding even when he is off the radar with the ball, or not striking the ball as well with the bat.
There’s a Chris Jordan catch for everything spectacular on a cricket field—be it lapping up reflex catches at slips in Test whites, converting half chances off powerful drives at mid-wicket or juggling catches at the fence that have become a specialisation in T20 cricket. A three-dimensional cricketer, Jordan is a rare all-round fielder who breaks into playing elevens for his fielding even when he is off the radar with the ball, or not striking the ball as well with the bat.
“I have quickly assessed six or seven different scenarios when I take a fielding position,” he says. In this interview, Jordan also talks about learning from South African great Jonty Rhodes, who is fielding coach at Punjab Kings.
You have been an excellent fielder. Have you learnt new things working with Jonty Rhodes at Punjab Kings?
Jonty's records speak for themselves. He is very good at assessing conditions and fielding styles that may be required for different situations. Those type of tactical things is what I take from Jonty. The boundary size for example and anticipation of the kind of challenges that you may expect on a particular day.
Has boundary fielding become game changing in T20 cricket?
Look, backward point is still a specialist position. But with a lot more sixes and boundaries being hit, the boundary fielder has become the real focal point. It's become the point of difference…where you as a fielder can make a real difference. The boundary riders and those sorts of hotspots depending on what the batsman's strengths might be. If you can get the best fielders in those positions, you can go a long way in getting dangerous batsmen out or restricting them and frustrating them because they find it hard to get boundaries in their strong areas.
The relay catch you took off Suryakumar Yadav in the India-England series went in Jason Roy’s name, but you did all the hard work. Can you talk about it?
Firstly, whenever I go into a fielding position whether it is point, covers, mid-off, long-off, long-on, I try to quickly assess the space around me or the type of fielding or catches I may need to take. It may sound weird, but I have already quickly assessed six or seven different scenarios I may have to take the ball. It comes from visualisation and anticipation.
When Surya hit the ball, I quickly judged how it will come off the bat. From there I tried to cut down the angle as much as possible. I was at full pace, then it was about trusting my hands if I did arrive at the ball at the right time. So, when I first took off, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the ball, that's why I went full pace and did not give up on it too early, and then when I came closer, I realised ok, I will have a chance to take it. Then it was just about trusting my hands, having the awareness of where the rope was. We have team chemistry in international cricket where we do a lot of that type of training. I knew Jason would have positioned himself just in case I needed a helping hand. And he was there to complete the catch.
How do you train for such catches? Isn’t there an injury risk?
Like with batting and bowling, repetition is important. I do a lot of slip catching. When you are fielding in the slips, you sort of learn to tell yourself over a period of time to trust your hands because the ball can come to you at rapid pace at any height or width. You are never in the perfect position. So, you train yourself to trust your hands and work on your basics. Unless you practice it, you won't be in a position in a match to replicate it. It's very important to practice in the right way.
There is so much data that’s used by the English team. How does it become useful in fielding strategy?
Data does play a part. For instance, I field in the slips a lot. When I first started fielding in T20 cricket, I would field there. Then as we started to play more, we realised…ok, how long is the slip in place and how many nicks actually go there? Where do most of the catches go, and which are the hotspots? We realised that mid-off is quite a hotspot in powerplay because you may have to run in or go back to take a catch or take a flat hard-skimmed catch. I moved myself from slips to mid-off in T20 cricket as we figured a lot many balls come there, there is more happening there. I still field in the slips in four-day and ODI cricket. That's how data affected the shift in field position.
Who are the other fielders you admire the most?
I admire people like AB de Villiers, my (Punjab Kings) teammate Fabien Allen. He takes some unbelievable catches as well. Those type of players because they really do freakish things but at the same time make a lot of difficult things look easy.
Which is the freakiest catch you have taken?
It is difficult (laughs). I did enjoy the catch the other day (relay catch of Suryakumar Yadav). I also took one against India at Bristol, I think it was KL (Rahul) I caught, funny enough. One caught and bowled I took off David Warner in Australia. It was my first ever overseas series, he really hit the ball back hard, and I took it with one hand.
I really enjoy fielding and enjoy my catches. They all have a different meaning and have been in different situations in the game. Some have been more crucial; it’s these sorts of things that make a good catch than which one I enjoy more. I am grateful I have been able to have so many decent catches. Hopefully I will continue to work hard on my game and produce a lot more of those moments.