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Fielding coach, anyone?

Cricket commentary


May 25, 2006: News trickles in that South Africa will use the services of its former fielding wizard, Jonty Rhodes, as the fielding coach. And, why not? Jonty was the best fielder of his times and perhaps of all time. Not long ago, Pakistan toyed with the idea of using him as fielding coach and after some opposition by certain experts, settled for a few weeks of its cricketers by Jonty.

The idea is obviously to get as much advantage as possible before the World Cup. South Africa should know what a dropped catch can mean sometimes. Remember how Hershelle Gibbs dropped a crucial catch and Steve Waugh the beneficiary taunted him with the quip, ‘You just dropped the World Cup mate.” 

All that is part of cricketing lore but does a team really need a fielding coach? Isn’t it a bit of luxury to have a coach just for fielding? Well, if a side is particularly weak in fielding and lets matches slip just because of lopsidedness in blocking balls, catching them and effecting run outs, then it makes sense to have a coach just for fielding, otherwise it just gives a former cricketer another post-retirement option.

Fielding is something that should be taught when you’re a kid and not after you have made it to the national team. In fact, coaching at the highest level is more about motivating players and bringing the best out of them rather than imparting correct technique. Of course, the coach can correct mistakes that may creep in unconsciously while playing day in and day out but hardly teach a player batting, bowling or fielding. If a player needs such basic coaching, he would do well to go back to the academy.

Abdul Qadir, the former leggie of Pakistan, who runs an academy in Pakistan says that there is very little scope of coaching at the highest level. Only young boys can be coached. At the Test or ODI level, it is all about motivating and bringing out the best. India has been traditionally weak in fielding and we have heard of even legendary cricketers like Bishen Bedi and Dilip Doshi being not that good in fielding.

Two things that go into the making of a good fielder is fitness and commitment. Mohammed Azharuddin had great skills as a fielder and in the modern day, Mohammed Kaif is as good as the best in the business. Navjot Sidhu was a poor fielder when he started out but by sheer determination and commitment earned the sobriquet, 'Jonty Sidhu' towards the end of his career. India is unlikely to go for a fielding coach even though it lacks in fielding skills but there has often been talk of appointing a bowling coach. Before the last world cup, there was talk of roping in De Villiers but it never worked out. 

The best idea seems to be to invite former cricketers regularly to give tips to the players, whether it be bowling, batting, wicket keeping or fielding. And give them free passes for international matches in terms of remuneration.

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