India, a country not known for athleticism and acrobat, have been able to produce only a few fielding prodigies over the years. A country, famous for flicks and turns, was often below par when it came to catch the ball. Here we take an insight into those rare Indian talents who retired long from cricket and grasped the art of fielding to make a name for themselves-
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1. Tiger Pataudi
Tiger Pataudi, the nawab of Indian Cricket, brought Renaissance into Indian Cricket with his inspiring captaincy. But a lot less is talked about the energy he brought into the field with dives and jumps. He was perhaps the first Indian Cricketer to enjoy fielding. A man, born to lead, never hesitated to take the dirt to save a run or two for his team. The cover region was never more secure as it was under his watchful presence. Some critics view him having a sharper anticipation than Jonty Rhodes. Undoubtedly, he can be regarded as the father of Indian fielding and though outstanding on field, the likes of Rohit and Virat should learn ways to improve themselves from Pataudi’s memorable athleticism.
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2. Eknath Solkar
Eknath Solkar, the first Indian test cricketer to be born post Independence, became renowned for something else. The guy, who volunteered to field at short leg without any protective gear in his debut, scripted a success story in the domain of close fielding. His ability to catch the ball, where no-one else would have felt a chance, often earned him a place in the first eleven with his left arm batting and bowling becoming ineffective at times. 53 catches in 27 tests make it almost two per match, and is the best ratio for a fielder taking more than 50 catches. As we all know ‘catches win matches’, it happened in reality when India registered their first test win in England, courtesy to Ekky’s brilliance to dismiss in-form Alan Knott. The soft pair of hands on the field never went unnoticed as Tony Greig described him as the best forward short leg he had ever seen.
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3. Abid Ali
India’s famed spin quartet of the seventies, comprising of Bedi, Prasanna, Chandra and Venky, was fortunate to have the services of Syed Abid Ali at backward short leg. Abid, along with the likes of Solkar,Wadekar defined a new era of close-in catching and partnered with the spinners to hunt in numbers. He always believed fielding to be an art one had to enjoy for excellence. To understand him better, we bring in a little scene of Abid Ali practising. In his early days, while watering the roller, he used to bounce the ball off it and practice catching for hours as the cherry sprang back in different trajectories. Mohammed Azharuddin later succeeded to carry on the legacy of close catching from Ali and Solkar.
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4. Mohammed Azharuddin
Mohammed Azharuddin was another Indian Captain who knew how to grasp the ball. He is regarded as the greatest all-round fielder India ever had. He was lightning fast in the covers and had a reliable pair of hands in close-in catching. Over his illustrious international career, he managed to take 261 catches – an enviable figure for any aspiring fielder on the planet. Where dropping catches had become a regular in Indian slip cordon, Indian fans are surely missing Azhar’s supremacy there.
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5. Robin Singh
If we shift our focus from catching the ball to ground –fielding, the name that bubbles up onto our mind is Robin Singh. A brilliant sprinter, Robin, had the stamina and energy to cover up a huge amount of area inside the boundaries. He had the duty to guard the arduous point region. His daring attitude and portrayal of hard work earned him a place in the list of top ground fielders over the history of the gentleman’s game.