During the earlier days of cricket, fielding was regarded as the least important among all the three departments of the game. However, as the days passed and cricket evolved, players understood the importance of saving runs.
In modern-day cricket, where even Test matches are getting decided on the slightest of the margins, saving runs is considered as the most valuable aspect of the game. And there are some cricketers who don’t regularly put a great impact with bat and the ball, but their commitment towards fielding has earned them a cult status in recent times.
Here we look at 10 such cricketers and rate them on a scale from one to ten:
1. Ravindra Jadeja: 9.5/10
Choosing the best was a tough nut to crack, but given the longevity of his career and how he continues to be an important member of team India in across formats, Ravindra Jadeja undoubtedly deserves the highest marks when it comes to fielding.
From his sharp presence at point, and in other parts of the field as well, to his lightning-fast run-outs, the 31-year-old has proven that there are not many fielders like him in the world of cricket at the moment.
In the ICC World Cup in England last year, Jadeja played only 2 matches and fielded in few others as a substitute. And despite his limited presence, he emerged as the best fielder of the tournament saving at least seven runs more than any other cricketer. Second-best fielder Martin Guptill had played seven more matches than him.
2. Glenn Maxwell 9/10
If one has to choose the best fielder of this generation, Glenn Maxwell will be there at the top alongside Jadeja. He gets 0.5 points less than the Indian because of his absence from the Australian team in the last few series.
With 0.66 catch in every game, Maxell has the joint-best catch-per-match ratio with New Zealand‘s Ross Taylor in the history of the One Day International (ODI) cricket. But his numbers were achieved in less than half of the matches that Taylor has played so far.
What makes him a more special cricketer is his ability to bat and bowl with equal dominance and continue the same intensity while fielding as well. The Australian team have traditionally been a superior fielding side and the current team are no different. Thus to be a standout fielder amid other great fielders is no mean task.
3. Steve Smith: 8.5/10
Though not much fancied as a fielder, Steve Smith creates a huge impact with his fielding, especially in Test cricket. He doesn’t dive around, save a lot of runs or affect run-outs like a Jadeja or a Maxwell. But when it comes to catching ability, Smith is unmatchable.
He has the best catch-per-match ratio among all the active players in Test cricket at the moment. His ratio is 1.6 in red-ball cricket. He also has a ratio of 0.55 in ODI which is the fourth-highest among all the active cricketers. With 117 catches, the 30-year-old is only second to Ross Taylor in terms of most number of catches taken by an active cricketer.
That Smith is a brilliant fielder was proven in his initial days when his acrobatic stunts on the boundary rope took the cricket world by surprise. Also, some of his fielding efforts during the 2012 edition of IPL representing Pune Warriors India are still alive in many minds.
4. Virat Kohli: 8.5/10
Possibly the greatest batsman of this generation, Virat Kohli will also be remembered as one of the best fielders of his time. Though Kohli is not heavily backed by the numbers when it comes to fielding, he has shown versatility as a fielder over the years on numerous occasions.
Much like a Jadeja or a Maxwell, Kohli is someone who can comfortably and successfully guard any position on the field. While Kohli’s 0.51 catch-per-match ratio is highest by any Indian in ODI cricket till date, it stands much lower than Maxwell and Smith. However, the Indian skipper’s athleticism and dedication on the field and his run-saving ability are much to be envied upon.
Despite being a chubby youngster that Kohli was, he was a natural fielder. But his actual fielding prowess was put into to display to the maximum extent after he achieved his fittest version. Speedy legs and strong arms joined forces with his natural talent to make him one of the most feared fielders on the field.
5. Kieron Pollard: 8/10
The West Indian giant deserves a place higher on the list, but it is his roller-coaster international career that places him at fifth. He has been in and out of the West Indian team ever since his debut in 2007. But thanks to the T20 leagues, the cricket world has witnessed his gigantic presence on the cricket field to a great extent.
Utilising his height of 6 ft 4 inch to full use, Pollard should be remembered as the best out-field fielder of this generation. He holds a 0.53 catch-per-match ratio in ODI which is the second-highest by cricketers from the Carribean islands.
Pollard’s ability to throw himself in the air with ease, despite having such a huge physical appearance surprises many. That also is the reason for him being one of the best fielders of this generation. That tall and muscled cricketers can also be good fielders has been proven by the Trinidadian.
6. Ross Taylor: 8/10
The most experienced player on the list, Ross Taylor holds the record of taking the most number of catches, in both ODI and Test, among all the active cricketers. While he has 145 catches in 99 Test matches, his ODI number is 137 grabs from 228 matches.
Taylor’s 0.6 catch-per-match ratio is the joint-best in the history Of ODI cricket, whereas his 1.46 is the best by a Kiwi cricketer in the red-ball game.
Taylor’s evolution as a fielder is quite similar to Steve Smith. The Kiwi cricketer was also a great diver who threw himself all around but as he became older he understood the importance of close-in fielding in Test cricket and that is what has given him the numbers he proudly owns today.
7. Faf du Plessis: 7.5/10
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis is an athletic cricketer who loves to dive around in the field and save every run possible for his team, much like his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli. Du Plessis holds the second-best catch-per-match ratio in ODI with 0.57 grabs in every match.
Alongside AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller and Hashim Amla, du Plessis was an integral part of the South African team which was known for his fielding prowess during the last decade.
While most of his allies have either retired from the game or don’t get chance in the national team anymore, but 35-year-old du Plessis still remains one of the most active fielders for the Proteas.
8. Ben Stokes: 7.5/10
After off-field activities and scandals dominated his initial days in international cricket, Ben Stokes has emerged as the most complete cricketer of recent times. Be it his batting or bowling, he is winning matches for England with all his might.
As he grew as an all-rounder, he also sharpened his fielding skills which are put into display every time he takes to the field. The cricket world has immortalised his stunning effort at the mid-wicket to dismiss South Africa batsman Andile Phehlukwayo in the first match of the World Cup last year.
Given the way the 28-year-old is racing towards greatness at the moment, there’s hardly anything on the cricket field that he cannot do. There have been various great all-rounders throughout the generation but Stokes might go down in history as the best fielder among them.
9. Joe Root: 7.5/10
England Test team captain Joe Root is the shining example of a cricketer who doesn’t believe much in theatrics and goes on to do his job with utmost perfection. While not many will regard him as one of the greatest fielders of this generation, Root has the numbers on his side to make his case.
With 113 catches from 91 matches, the 28-yar-old is the third-highest catch taker in Test cricket at the moment. His 1.24 catch-per-match ratio is the highest among active English Test cricketers. With 0.52, he has the sixth-best catch-per-ratio in ODI cricket among active cricketers.
The 29-year-old seems nicely on track, alongside Steve Smith, to fancy the record of taking the most number of catches in Test cricket, currently under the name of Rahul Dravid with 210 catches.
10. Ajinkya Rahane: 7/10
A part of the new generation Indian team who are highly focused when it comes to fielding and saving runs, Ajinkya Rahane has emerged as one of best slip fielders in international cricket over the years. He possibly holds the safest hands in the Indian Test team.
Rahane’s 1.25 catch-per-match ratio is the third-best by any Indian in Test cricket and best among the active cricketers. He has taken a total of 79 catches in Test matches which is one less than Virat Kohli’s 80, the highest by any Indian cricketer who is still playing. However, the Indian test team vice-captain has played 17 matches less than his skipper.
His ability to field in any close-in regions gives India the option to position him at silly point and short leg as well. Much like England’s Joe Root, he is achieving some great numbers with his fielding without anyone taking much notice.
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