New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Jonty Rhodes, one of the greatest fielders the game has seen, rates India as one of the better fielding sides in the 2011 cricket World Cup, contrary to the view of many experts who see it as their weakest link.
Rhodes picked Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and his own trained Kenya, besides India, as stronger fielding sides, adding that the general standard of fielding of all the teams has improved.
Fielding could make the difference in close matches, says the former South African veteran of four World Cups.
“I think a team like Australia, regardless of who comes into their side are a good fielding unit. Indian team are a lot better all around the park. A couple of years ago, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Mohammad Kaif were top fielders. Now they have got a couple of young players who are putting their hands up and look sharp in the field,” Rhodes told IANS in an interview from Colombo.
“I have watched the standard of their fielding improve over the last couple of years. I think IPL has played a huge role in that,” Rhodes, who is Kenya’s fielding consultant, added.
“As for South Africa, I really like them as a fielding unit. They are pretty good altogether. The Kenyan side are strong and New Zealand have always been pretty good in the field,” Rhodes said.
“All the teams have improved so much over the last couple of years that it is difficult to pick one team as the best.”
Rhodes, who provided some electrifying moments on the field during his career, says runs saved could be the difference between victory and defeat.
“I don’t think the matches are going be high scoring. For instance, Australia were bowled out for less than 200, chasing India’s 215 in the warm-up game. There is no indication that every wicket is going to be a belter. Sometimes you can win or lose a game by two runs. It is easier to save runs in the field than for a bowler to try and pull it back, specially in the powerplays, where they go in for runs.”
Rhodes said the Indian team has a strong chance of winning the Cup.
“The Indian team is very strong. They have got a pretty good pace attack. The warm up game they played against Australia was dominated by spinners, but I have watched them play in the Test and ODI series in South Africa, where their fast bowlers certainly chipped in and made huge contributions. They bat way down. (Coach) Gary Kirsten obviously has worked pretty hard. But being the home team certainly has its own pressures,” said Rhodes, who holds the record of most number of catches (five) in an ODI against the West Indies in 1993.
South Africa, he said, will have less pressure and that could add to their advantage.
“The South African team is certainly one of the four or five teams that can win it on their day. They should get through hopefully to the
knockout stage, but from then on if you could win one game you could win two more.
“Hopefully, they will be the team to do it. They have a well-balanced side. They have a good pace attack and reasonable spinners, in fact more than a reasonable spinner in Johan Botha. They have a lot of depth in batting, guys who performed well in the IPL. Jacques Kallis, AB de villiers, Greame Smith have all done well.”
Rhodes spoke highly of his Kenyan team.
“My Kenyan trip has been really enjoyable because I have come across a bunch of players who, even though they are professionals, probably earn just as much as I was earning when I first started playing for South Africa, so its not a great deal. They are very passionate about the game and they have a high level of work ethics. They are certainly guys who are not big superstars but people on their day perform really well.”
Rhodes gave a peak into the preparation of Kenya, which reached the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup.
“The preparation has been amazing. There really has been no stone left unturned. We had our first day off almost after three weeks into the camp. We had a week in Nairobi in Kenya and then a week in Dubai where the facility at the global cricket academy is amazing. The enthusiasm in the team is high and I am happy to be part if it.”
Asked how the Kenyan team was shaping up as a fielding unit, Rhodes said: “I had quite an easy rope as most of them are real good athletes which is the key to good fielding. You can teach to catch a ball but it is hard to run around and dive around. They are blessed with a good fielding unit.”