In the world of cricket, a lot of the attention and acclaim is showered on batsman and bowlers. They are the focal point who draw praise with their extravagant run scoring or wicket taking prowess. This can be a little unfair as it overlooks a major aspect of the game – fielding.
Without top class fielding to take catches or restrict the opponents scoring, batsman and bowlers can do nothing. The importance of fielding cannot be overstated and the presence of someone who is fantastic at this in your team is immense. Whether it’s being fast over the ground or having the reactions to take a catch, if you are good at fielding you’re worth your weight in gold.
We take a look at the top ten fielders to have played the game at Test level and see who comes out at number one slot:
10. Suresh Raina
An aggressive middle-order batsman for India, Suresh Raina is also considered one of the finest fielders in international cricket. His lightning fast hands and agility make him a brilliant player for his team. Along with a great knack for taking stunning catches, he has great accuracy when throwing at the stumps for run outs.
Born during 1986 in Muradnagar, Uttar Pradesh he has three older brothers and one sister. His cricket career really began when he moved to Lucknow in 2000 to attend the specialist Sports College there. He soon experienced success at the college and rose to captain the Under 16’s side before being selected to play in the Under 19 tour to England aged just 15! Domestically he has played for Uttar Pradesh his entire career to date and is the captain of Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League. His stats at this level read 96 matches played and 104 catches taken.
His international debut soon followed and he made his bow against Sri Lanka in 2010. Making his debut in the second Test, he scored a maiden century as well being lively in the field to announce himself to all who saw. He followed this up with tours of the West Indies and England in 2011 to cement his Test place further. Although his form wasn’t great in these tours his leadership skills and fielding prowess shone through.
Raina has continued to play for his country regularly since, no doubt in part to his excellence out in the field. He currently has played 18 Tests and taken 23 catches and will no doubt increase this number over the years.
9. Herschelle Gibbs
Considered as the successor of the amazing Jonty Rhodes, Herschelle Gibbs was a sensational player with his main position being backward point. Interestingly, he preferred not to practice his fielding before matches and instead relied on instinct. This is unusual but certainly seems to have worked! His focus and sharpness when fielding make him one of the greats.
Gibbs was born in 1974 at Cape Town, South Africa and excelled as a boy in a variety of sports. He really shone at cricket though and soon chose this as his sport of choice. A very effective batsman as well as fielder, his talent was there for all to see. At First-Class level he made his debut for Western Province in 1990 with whom he stayed at for the majority of his career before spells at various Indian Premier League clubs. His record reads 193 and 176 catches which speaks for itself.
At Test level he made his debut in 1996 against India and played well in his first match. He continued this form and it led to his most notable achievement for his country. Gibbs has scored two double centuries in his Test career which is pretty amazing. One was against New Zealand in 1999 when he bagged 211 not out and this was followed by 228 against Pakistan later in his career.
It was also at international level where he has had his biggest lows as well. Against Australia in the World Cup of 1999 he took a catch to get Steve Waughs wicket but in throwing the ball up in celebration prematurely dropped it. This meant Waugh was not out and the Aussies went on to win the game.
This should not take away from what a fine player and fantastic fielder he was, though. His record of 94 Tests and 90 catches sees to that.
8. Rahul Dravid
It’s no surprise that Dravid was such a good catcher when you consider he was a wicket keeper growing up. This experience stood him in good stead when he moved to be a slip fielder as it had given him great reactions and reflexes. A superb close fielder, Dravid used these qualities when at positions such as silly point or in the slips. Most notably, he holds the record for most catches in Test history by a non-wicket keeping player.
Dravid was born in Indore during 1973 although they later moved to Bangalore where he grew up. Starting to play cricket at the age of 12, he quickly progressed and represented Karnataka at Under 15, under 17 and Under 19 levels.
He made his Ranji trophy debut for Karnataka in 1991 where he put an impressive 82 runs on the board. It was at this point he became a professional cricketer and showed glimpses of his talent in the field. In his first full season he scored two centuries and 380 runs.
His Test debut came in 1996 against England in the second Test at Lords. It was an impressive start in which he scored 95 runs and batted for six hours. He went on to excel at Test level for his country, playing 164 matches and claiming 210 catches.
Dravid was exceptional in the field for his country also, in particular in a match against the West Indies. In a game against them in Toronto he took a number of catches and claimed the Man of the Match award for his exploits. He was an invaluable member of the Indian side due to his concentration, speed and laser like precision.
7. Virat Kohli
The irrepressible Virat Kohli is number 7 on our list and what a player he is. As dynamic out on the field as he is with bat in hand, he really deserves his place. He is very quick over the ground when chasing balls down and boasts cat like reflexes. These qualities all add up to make him one of the best Test fielders ever.
Born and raised in Delhi, Kohli played for the city through all the age levels before making his First-Class debut in 2006. It’s reported that his interest in cricket started from as young as 3 when he would pick up a bat to swing around! His rise to be a professional cricketer was no surprise to anyone who saw him when a pupil at the West Delhi Cricket Academy.
A naturally aggressive batsman, Kohli had great skill and the power to impose himself on games. His run scoring was superb and to date he has played 85 games and made 6458 runs. As we have already noted his fielding is top class and he has taken 81 catches in those games.
His first game at Test level for his country was in 2011 against the West Indies. Since then he has gone on to have a long and successful career for them. His fielding in particular has been amazing with 51 catches taken in in just 54 matches.
Kohli is known as a lively, switched on fielder who is always ready for where the ball will go. This natural energy has sometimes led him into controversy over his brash, arrogant attitude but this is simply a result of his desire to win. Many winners bring a similar intensity to their game and this guy is no different.
6. A. B. de Villiers
Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is widely considered one of the legends of modern cricket for both his fielding and explosive way with the bat. Recognised as an innovator in terms of strokeplay, he is famous for playing shots behind the slip/wicket keeper area. In the field he is just as good and his cool presence is a real bonus for his team. Noted for his ability to leap high for catches as well as accuracy in hitting the stumps, his fielding is truly world class.
De Villiers was born in Pretoria in South Africa during 1984. His childhood was in his own words “very relaxed” and he enjoyed growing up in this close-knit community. Playing a range of sports as he grew up, he finally committed to cricket at the age of 18.
At First-Class level he made his debut for Northerns in 2003 who he still plays for to this day. He has also had spells with Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. In total he has played 241 matches to date with 193 catches taken.
South Africa soon saw de Villiers talent and called him up for his Test debut in 2004 against England. He acquitted himself well in this series and also the next one against the West Indies in the Caribbean later that year. The Caribbean tour included scoring 178 in one Test to help his team to victory.
He continues to show great form for his country with the bat, but it is in the field he has drawn special praise. Comparisons have been made to Jonty Rhodes, the other great South African player, and it is easy to see why. One example that sums up how good he is was when playing Australia in 2006. He effected a run out of Simon Katich by tossing the ball backwards over his shoulder while lying on his front. The ball hit the stumps direct and Katich was out. This shows how talented he is and the natural instinct he has out in the field.
His figures at Test level to date read 106 matches played and 197 catches taken. One thing is for sure, batsman are never safe with this guy around!
5. Mohammad Azharuddin
The former captain of India, Mohammed Azharuddin was one of those cricketers who could field in any position superbly. Used in the slips normally, his sharp reflexes and reliable hands were a great asset to his country. He had an excellent catching technique and was adept at diving either side to take the ball. Famous for never showing emotion when he took a catch, Azharuddin would remain poker faced.
Born during 1963 in Hyderabad, India the young Azharuddin had a happy childhood and soon developed a love for cricket. He soon grew into a strong middle order batsman and fantastic fielder with bags of talent. This was recognised by his home team if Hyderabad in 1981 when they handed him his First-Class debut. His domestic career also took in spells with South Zone and Derbyshire in England before his retirement in 2001. In total he took 220 catches in 229 games which is an impressive total.
India called him up in 1984 for his Test debut against England and he soon proved a valuable member of the team. His ability with the bat soon showed with three centuries in his first three Test matches! In all he made 22 centuries in Test cricket which is a special achievement by anyone’s standards. This form soon propelled him to the captaincy where he notched up 14 Test wins in his time in charge. He was noted for his fluid style and use of the wrist to turn balls away.
In the field he usually stood in the slips and was a key member of the team there, supporting the bowling attack. In 99 matches at international level he took 105 catches which shows how agile and focused he was. A key member of the Indian team when he played, his speed and agility helped his country to many victories.
4. Mark Waugh
One of the famous Waugh brothers with his sibling Steve, ‘Junior’ as he was affectionately known was one hell of a player. Although on this list for his fielding ability, he is widely regarded as one of the most talented batsman to play at international level also. His elegant stroke work and range of shots was a marvel to behold. For the purposes of this list though we will be looking at his excellence in the slips and his way of being light on his feet and able to hold onto any catches off a flying edge. He held the world record for most Test catches taken by a non wicket keeper until it was broken by Rahul Dravid in 2009.
Waugh was born in Campsie, New South Wales and has three brothers Steve, Dean (also well known cricketers) and Danny. He grew up playing a variety of sports including football, tennis and cricket before choosing cricket as his main focus. They came from a sporting family with their paternal grandfather Edward being a promising rugby player who would have made the grade but for having to give up the game for personal reasons.
Waugh progressed through various school cricket teams and eventually made his First-Class debut in 1985 for New South Wales. He would stay at this club domestically all his career but also had a long spell with Essex in the English County league. His final domestic figures read 368 matches with 452 catches which is impressive reading.
He soon stepped up to international level and made his Test debut in 1991 against England. And what a debut it was as he made a Test century on his debut, getting the hundred with an elegant square cut. He carried onto have a fantastic career with Australis with bat in hand and scored lots of runs during his time on the international scene.
It is his prowess in the slips that is most relevant to our article though. He had amazing anticipation and this meant he could take catches that others may have missed. He was very light on his feet and was known for his diving catches that he took many wickets with. Remarkably he never dropped any serious catches and always hung onto the ball when it mattered most. In total he played 128 Tests and took 181 catches which are fine figures to retire with.
3. Paul Collingwood
Some may see the inclusion of this player on the list slightly odd given the company he is in. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise as Collingwood is a superb fielder. Perhaps England’s greatest ever and certainly one of the best in recent history at international level. He had great accuracy when throwing at the stumps and was also very fast across the ground. His fitness and agility were top class too and saw him stop many runs and take lots of catches.
Born in 1976 at Shotley Bridge, County Durham he grew up playing the game at school for the various teams there. He progressed first to Shotley Bridge Cricket Club and then onto First-Class cricket with Durham in 1995. A natural athlete, he soon made his mark in the field as well as with the bat in hand. He made an immediate impression on his debut, scoring 91 runs and taking a wicket with his first ball! He has played 280 games to date and taken 317 catches to show his fielding ability.
Following his fine form for Durham, he made his England debut in 2003 against Sri Lanka at Test level. This is where he announced himself as a fielding expert with five catches taken and one run out in the match. His England career went from strength to strength afterwards including being a part of the successful 2005 Ashes winning team.
He has played 68 matches at Test level to date and taken 96 catches which is a testament to his talent. Regarded as one of the finest fielders of his generation, his contribution to the England team over the years cannot be overstated.
2. Ricky Ponting
You couldn’t really have a list of best Test fielders ever without this guy on it. To be honest, he is a cricketing legend full stop but certainly as a fielder. What is so great about him is that he can field at a number of positions brilliantly. This versatility is a massive bonus to his team but a nightmare for the opposition. Very fast over the ground if in the inner ring, he also has a great catching technique and is extremely accurate when trying to gain run outs. In some circles they call him ‘Punter (which is his nickname) the Hunter’ and you can see why.
Born in Tasmania during 1974, he developed a love for cricket from a young age. Introduced to the sport by his father and uncle who were fine players themselves, he soon showed promise. In January 1986 at the age of just eleven he made four centuries in a week when playing in the Northern Tasmania Junior Cricket competition! Making his First-Class debut for Tasmania he eventually played 289 games domestically and took 309 catches.
Fine form playing for Tasmania soon earned him selection for Australia against Sri Lanka in 1995. Making 96 in this debut, he would have bagged the century but for a dubious LBW decision to a delivery that hit him on the thigh pad. Ponting continued to have a brilliant career for his country and eventually went on to captain them. This is no surprise when you take into account his natural leadership skills and tough personality.
It was fielding at silly point, cover or in the slips that made his name as a fielder though. His keen eye and pinpoint accuracy made him one of the best to have played in the Test arena. One thing is for sure – he helped Australia to countless victories due to these attributes.
1. Jonty Rhodes
There was only ever one man who was going to top this list and that man is Jonty Rhodes. Almost universally regarded as the best fielder ever, he was something else when out there for his country. He literally had it all – an accurate powerful throw, great catching ability, speed over the ground and brilliant diving agility. Add to that his focus and reflexes and you can see why he’s so highly regarded. His run out of Inzamam Ul-Haq in the 1992 World Cup is probably the best run out in cricket ever.
Born in Natal Province, South Africa in 1969 Rhodes played cricket from a young age at school. He soon developed into a fabulous player mainly as a fielder but with bat in hand also. Progressing through the junior ranks quickly, he made his domestic debut in 1988 for Natal. He would play the majority of his career here, clocking up 164 matches and taking 127 catches.
Internationally, he made his South Africa debut in 1992 against India. He played well, scoring 41 in the first innings and 21 not out in the second. Good form followed this initial breakthrough and he got his first Test century against Sri Lanka in 1994. In total he played 52 matches at Test level and took 34 catches which is a fine record. His final match rather fittingly was against Sri Lanka, who he had made his debut against, in 2000.
This doesn’t quite tell the whole tale of how amazing he was in the field though. A lot of his work was done in chasing the ball down quickly or using his agility to grab it and stop runs. This as well as his ability to affect run outs combine with his catching ability to make him the best in most people’s opinion.
There is an old saying in the cricket world ‘Catches win matches’ and this is very true. If you have someone in your side as magnificent at fielding as any of the above then they could turn a game on their own. Their combination of focus, reactions and speed made them ideally suited for chasing down the ball and taking some superb run outs or catches.
Image Credit: Nic Redhead