Colin Bland at extreme right corner © Getty Images
Colin Bland at extreme right corner © Getty Images

Colin Bland, regarded highly for his fielding, passed away on April 14 after prolong illness at 80. Born in Bulawayo on April 5, 1938, Bland started off his cricketing career with Rhodesia while studying in Milton High School. He played for them from 1956 to 1968. He later went on to play for Eastern Province and Orange Free State. That paved his way to the South Africa Test squad in 1961. Bland’s Test career was restricted to just 21 matches. He scored 1,669 runs at 49.08 and got 3 hundreds. His highest Test score, 144*, came against England at Johannesburg in 1964-65.

But batting did not make Bland a legend. While he was an excellent batsman in his own right, he was arguably the greatest fielder till the ODI revolution. His fielding was the turning point in several matches. Former teammate Ali Bacher believes Bland elevated the level of fielding: “Fielding for us used to just consist of 15 minutes of catching and throwing, but Colin would spend hours and hours practising by himself, chasing a ball, picking it up, turning and throwing at the stumps. We’d watch him and would think, ‘he was from a different planet’”, as quoted on iol.co.za.

Bland was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1966 and was depicted on the edition with his fielding action. He retired from Test cricket due to injury in 1967, but continued to play First-Class cricket till 1973-74. From 131 First-Class matches, Bland scored 7,249 runs at 37.95 and scalped 43 wickets at 35.27.