By Abhijit Banare
The emphasis on fielding has gone up several notches in the modern era – especially after the advent of T20 and the highly-competitive, cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL).
Below is a list of the best catches in the recently concluded fifth edition of IPL:
1. Relay catch by Johan Botha and Ajinkya Rahane
One of the finest catches of IPL 5 was displayed towards the fag end of the tournament during the game between Rajasthan Royals and Pune Warriors India. Rahul Sharma lofted a full length delivery to long off. Johan Botha ran back and took a flier but relayed it back to prevent the momentum taking him over the boundary with the ball. An alert Ajinkya Rahane caught the ball to cap of a sensational co-ordinated effort.
2. David Hussey’s energetic effort to send back Chris Gayle
The burly Jamaican had already snatched the match from Punjab with a breezy 87 runs before stand-in skipper David Hussey took a well-anticipated catch offered from Gayle of a Parvinder Awana delivery. This catch to an extent can also represent the commitment and energy that Hussey brought into his captaincy that boosted the morale of the team in the absence of their regular skipper Adam Gilchrist.
3. Faf du Plessis’ catch changes the game for Chennai Super Kings
Faf du Plessis plucked a stunning catch of a Ravichandran Ashwin delivery to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar. The Mumbai Indians batsman tried to loft a delivery to the right of the cover fielder. However, du Plessis showed why he is regarded as one of the best fielders in international cricket taking a one-handed catch with good judgment. That magnificent display of fielding helped Chennai to claw back into the game which they eventually lost on the last ball of the match.
4. Dale Steyn pulls off a return catch to dismiss T Suman
Bowling at a fiery pace of more than 140 kmph, Steyn took a brilliant reflex catch to dismiss Mumbai Indians batsman Tirumalasetti Suman. Such was the speed of the delivery that even after the ball stuck in his hands, the umpire found himself in awkward position anticipating the ball to pass through his legs.
5. Paras Dogra accepts a brilliant chance from Jacques Kallis
Kallis gave himself room and tried to loft it through the cover and point region. Dogra dived in the air towards his left to take a perfect one-handed catch. A gritty player like Kallis has the capability to steer the innings till the end. His departure was a big blow for Kolkata as they lost the match by a slender margin of just two runs.
6. Muttiah Muralitharan takes a superb reflex catch
Muralitharan proved a point that despite his retirement he’s still fit as a fiddle. Murali Vijay casually flicked it to the right of the bowler. On any other day it would have resulted in an easy single but the off spinner had other ideas. In fact, in Suresh Raina too had taken a similar catch against Deccan Chagers, but what Murali had delivered the ball over the wicket and leaped to his right making it a delightful moment to watch.
7. Dwayne Bravo’s acrobatic display
It was a slower short ball from Albie Morkel to Piyush Chawla who ended up chipping it over mid-on. Dwayne Bravo could have completed the simplest of all catches, however, the all-rounder almost over ran it and eventually displayed his acrobatic skills to pull it off with a backward leap. Even the commentators had a great time describing it.
8. Irfan Pathan’s athleticism against Kings XI Punjab
Among the various catches taken by a fielder running backwards, this has to be the best among them. Pathan covered a lot of ground from mid-wicket towards square-leg to hold on to a difficult catch. Pathan had a great day with his fielding in this particular match taking three catches in innings. Similar catches were taken by Doug Bracewell against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Cameroon White against Delhi Daredevils.
9. Dale Steyn at his best at long-off
A sweetly-timed stroke by Virat Kohli off Amit Mishra looked set to land beyond the ropes before Dale Steyn pulled off a brilliant catch with a well-timed jump at the long-off boundary. However Steyn will be remembered for the thrashing he received from AB de Villiers in this match more than this impressive effort at the boundary.
10. Ajit Agarkar’s commendable effort against Rajasthan Royals
Agarkar may not be the best fielder in the game of cricket, but the Delhi Daredevils player might be remembered in IPL 5 only because of this commendable catch at the long-on boundary. It was almost a mirror reflection of Dale Steyn’s effort mentioned above. While Rajasthan Royals were cruising along to victory Agarkar managed to hold on to a well-timed shot from Rahul Dravid bowled by Irfan Pathan.
Special mention: Superman Steve Smith
It’s ironic that his name doesn’t feature in the best catches of IPL 5, but undoubtedly he was the best fielder in the season saving at least five to ten runs in every match. His Herculean efforts at Eden Gardens to throw back the ball into the field after a diving attempt to catch it, the juggling act at the boundary line, a sharp catch at point region to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane were a sight to behold.
Apart from Smith there were many other players like David Warner, Kieron Pollard, Suresh Raina, Albie Morkel, Manoj Tiwary, Tillakaratne Dilshan who raised the standard of fielding making the situation intense and competitive.
(Like most Indians, Abhijit Banare has been obsessed with cricket since childhood. He is an avid follower, smitten by statistics and analysis. A journalism student in Mumbai, he considers himself lucky to have grown up watching batting legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. He also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)