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If you are thinking about improving your fielding then look no further than arguably one of the best fielders of all time Jonty Rhodes.
A simple google search brought up a number of articles based on or in interview with Jonty so I decided to summarise what I personally have learnt from these articles and the key learnings from them.
The main article mentioned in this blog post is from 2005 where ESPN cricinfo did an interview with Jonty (link to full article below).
It is always interesting to hear insights from people who have been up there with the best in the world and this is no exception. My main taking from these articles and Jonty regarding fielding were three things; enjoyment, practice and decision making in match situations.
No matter what level of cricket you play during every game (or most) you field for half the match without fail in comparison to batting and bowling where you do not always get a chance to showcase your skills.
Enjoyment is therefore a massive part of fielding. If you enjoy something you tend to work harder at it and also it never feels like hard work. The benefit of that is the ability for you as a fielder to stay sharp and focussed at all times during a game.
Commentators often complimented me on my anticipation, but I was expecting every single ball to come to me. In fact I wanted every ball to come to me. Fielding can become hard work, but if you're enjoying it then it doesn't feel like work.
In games this makes complete sense, those players that you can always see while batting that are not enjoying fielding often tend to also be the exact same ones who give away runs or miss those chances to get wickets. Enjoying fielding is a great foundation to start becoming better at it.
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After enjoyment practice can have the biggest impact on your fielding. It is not about practicing just one skill, every position has a differing skill set to be successful at it so if you want to be successful you have to practice them all. Practice will help to build up you body's subconscious decision making process so when under pressure in the moment it can make the best decision.
The position you are fielding dramatically changes the approach you take to fielding. An example of this is at first slip you have the ability to watch the ball straight out of the bowler's hand and past the batsman however trying to also do this when fielding at point will not work. At point you have to watch the batsman closely and pick up clues from their body language as to where the ball is likely to go. The best fielders (Jonty included) understand the demands of each position and quickly adapt their technique to suit.
People ask, "How did you pull off that catch in the game?" I feel like saying, "Well I caught 20 of those at practice yesterday." I may have dropped 20 as well. But at least my body knows what to do when the ball is in a certain area
The quote above highlights the sheer amount of practice you have to put in to see the results on the field. It is also not just simply practising but understanding the role within the position you are practicing for.
At backward point Jonty believed his primary role was to stop runs so therefore even if he did not pick the ball up cleanly but he could parry it to gully or cover then the batsman more often than not would not take a run. The trick is to then practice with this same mentality / intensity as you would be under in a game.
The decisions get made in the days and weeks before. You can't come to a game and ask, "What am I going to do today?" Those things should be instinct. People ask, "How did you pull off that catch in the game?" I feel like saying, "Well I caught 20 of those at practice yesterday." I may have dropped 20 as well. But at least my body knows what to do when the ball is in a certain area, and it takes over
I love this quote above from Jonty. It exactly highlights that once the appropriate training and practice has been put in you can stay more relaxed on match days with little to fear. Your body is ready to react instinctively to all scenarios. That is something to definitely take across all aspects of your game, practice and you put yourself in the best position to succeed whatever the skill.
I got more bruises, grass-burns and cuts in practice than in match play. Kepler Wessels had the same sort of philosophy with his batting. He treated the first 15 minutes in the nets like the real thing. He didn't play any loose cover-drives, big cuts or pulls.
This shows the discipline from these ex international players around training and trying to make everything as game like as possible. This is one simple thing that we can all take away and try to implement at our next training session.
Hopefully you have all found something interesting within this article and feel free to comment below what you will be taking into your next training session.
SOURCE: Cover photo - Duif du Toit / © Getty Images