For a generation of cricket lovers the name ‘Jonty Rhodes’ is synonymous with the art of fielding. After all, not many cricketers can claim to have won an ODI Man of the Match award just for their performance on the field. (Also Read: CSK vs MI - Final Report & Stats: IPL 2013)
Now, the legendary South African fielder teaches the tricks of his trade to the mélange of players from all over the world in the Mumbai Indians camp. (Also See: IPL 2013 Winner Mumbai Indians Celebrations - Pics)
In a chat with IPLT20.com after MI’s first IPL title victory, Rhodes credited the league for lifting the standard of fielding several notches.
Finally an IPL title under your belt!
Yes! We were in the final in 2010 and lost to CSK. So it is nice to turn it around this time. We’ve had some ups and downs and disappointments but we’ve finally got our first IPL title. We won the CLT20 two years ago and it is nice to add an IPL Trophy to that.
Would you say that this is the best MI has played in an entire season as compared to the previous ones?
Yes, 11 wins out of 16 league matches is not bad. Two or three games that we lost were such that we should have won. I think overall this has been a consolidated team effort. At the start of the season Dinesh Karthik played very well, Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu chipped in, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith too had their contributions. We had Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga; Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh bowled really well. Our fielding performance has been amazing and so has the batting. So, an all round, great team effort.
The bowling in particular stepped up when it mattered most, didn’t it?
Yes, I think batting second in the final is difficult. We experienced that in 2010 against CSK when we couldn’t get past a chaseable total. A final does funny things to guys. No matter how many times you’ve been there, it’s a matter of trying to get the job done on that day. CSK have a very good batting lineup and the key for us was to keep taking wickets. I don’t think CSK panicked at all. They just got some very good bowling – Malinga’s and Mitch’s first overs were brilliant.
How happy are you as the team’s fielding coach?
It was the beauty of this tournament. Pollard kept taking those brilliant catches for us. He caught MS Dhoni on the boundary in our first game. Against Kings XI Punjab he caught Shaun Marsh one-handed. But it hasn’t just been the international players – Ambati Rayudu did well, Rishi Dhawan, on his debut, took two great catches. Even Ojha, who is not the fastest guy on the field and he’d be the first one to admit it. Everybody has backed it up. As the fielding coach that’s all I want. I am not expecting 11 Ricky Pontings. If Malinga to Bhajji to Rayudu are doing their best, that’s all I can ask for.
Overall, do you think the standard of fielding went really high this year?
Oh, it a real asset what the IPL has done. If you look at the most stunning catches this season, it’s not only the international players but young Indian players who are coming through. Look at the CSK team –I watch them in marvel. I told Suresh Raina that I love watching him play. He’s so busy in the field. Jadeja with his arm, Virat Kohli, who affected two direct hits against us in Mumbai – these Indian guys have a great future ahead of them and the standard of fielding through out has improved and the IPL has done that.
In a long tournament like this, is it possible to pick one match or moment that changed things around for the team?
I think for us it came here in Kolkata, against the Kolkata Knight Riders. We had lost two on the road, against DD and RR, and coming here, we chased down 160 on a typical Eden Gardens wicket. I think that really turned things around for us because it was a win away from home against the odds when we needed one desperately to get back our campaign back on track. Guys speak about different moments but for me that game stood out.