Fielding is always an important aspect of the game and has many variables within it just as batting and bowling do. A player could be an incredible infielder but a poor boundary rider or slip fielder, while the same can work the other way around. The world of cricket has seen many extraordinary fielders over the years, including the late Andrew Symonds.
Andrew Symonds was one such fielder who used his smartness to find the easiest way to get to the ball and throw, all in quick time. He was fast, and swift, allowing him to restrict runs in the infield in a single motion.
There was Jonty Rhodes who would cover the entire off-side on his own. Jonty Rhodes was one of the fastest runners in World Cricket, and his ability to swoop in on the ball and run towards the stumps made him stand out. He wasn’t as accurate as some of the other best fielders with his throw, and that is why he chose to sprint and take the stumps off on his own. His fielding though allowed him to single-handedly plug off singles from the cover to the point region.
His countrymen, Herschelle Gibbs was another extraordinary fielder. Like Rhodes, Gibbs would man the off-side on his own, cutting of runs with ease. The difference between the two though was in the accuracy. Gibbs was a better thrower of the ball, and inflicted a lot of direct hits which is what defined his fielding. Around the same era, Ricky Ponting emerged as an incredible infielder, who could throw the ball accurately as well.
His fielding helped Australia build a side that could prevent runs and create pressure with a strong bowling attack. With Andrew Symonds emerging though, Ricky Ponting was able to change his role and took up the job as a slip fielder, a position he had lots of success in.
Before the emergence of Jonty Rhodes, world cricket had its share of athletic fielders, but they were fewer in numbers. As fielding became a growing aspect of the game though, specialists started to show up. For India for instance, Rahul Dravid was a specialist slip fielder, and was rarely seen anywhere else in a Test match. His calm mindset and strong base allowed him to find a lot of success their along with the likes of Ricky Ponting in the same era.
The pair of them went on to show that slip fielding is an art that cannot be acquired by everyone. Even today. Some of the best infielders tend to struggle in the slips. Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith are players known for their agile movements but the trio have a handful of drops in the cordon while the likes of Ashwin, who is normally slow has taken many when he used to field in that position.
Outfielding as well has grown into a crucial aspect in cricket. Back in the day, the focus was to pack the infield and prevent signals, but with run-scoring and the power game improving, defensive field setting have come into use, and there are some fielders again who tend to come in at certain points of the game.
Very often, the likes of David Warner can be seen out in the V during the death due to his catches, while the likes of Glenn Maxwell has emerged as one of the best boundary riders, especially with his ability in taking relay catches.
Back in the olden days as well, some of the best infielders were pushed out to the boundary in the end overs to help cover ground quickly and take catches, while the slower fielders moved in. Andrew Symonds and TM Dilshan are two fielders who tend to move out in the death, while the slower fielders tend to stay on the boundary in the early parts. In the present day, Ravindra Jadeja has emerged as a fielder performing similar roles. His rocket-arm and technique to pick the ball up and throw in one motion makes him a constant candidate for inflicting runouts, while he also tends to move into the deep whenever the batters are looking for quick boundaries.
Overall, fielding has been an aspect that has improved a lot over the years. Back in the day, safe fielders who could hold on to catches were in demand while now the fielders are expected to create their own chances with their speed and accuracy. There is a constant rise in the fielding demands, which can help keep a captain happy as a good fielding unit makes the job easy for them.