Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif is widely regarded as one of the best fielders India has produced. The former U-19 World Cup-winning captain was a revelation during his playing days at covers, point or even at forward short-leg. In the early part of the 21st century, Kaif, along with star all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, ushered Indian cricket into an era where fielders were athletic, fast, showed feline reflexes and regularly hit the stumps with their throws.
Despite playing the last of his international games in 2006, Kaif’s versatility on the field is still hailed by commentators and former teammates alike.
The 39-year-old set the benchmark for successors Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja inside the 30-yard circle, where India now stand toe to toe, if not better that most teams in the world.
Kaif, who played 13 Tests and 125 One-day Internationals, said that players have to go through a hard grind, wearing it as an obsession during practice sessions, to become better fielders.
“To become a good fielder one has put in long hours of practice,” Kaif told The Times of India.
“The fielding drills should not be about quality but quantity, only then one can become a good fielder. One should be obsessed about becoming a good fielder. Because a match doesn’t have a 30-minute time span, so you should have the fitness of staying on the ground.”
Kaif picked out anticipation, technique and hand-eye coordination as some of the key traits of a world-class fielder.
He added: “A catch can come anytime even if you are tired, you may have to dive, you may have to slide to catch the ball. That ability comes through the practice of quantity, not quality. You should also have a good technique and good hand-eye coordination. But if you make up your mind that you have to spend long hours on the field, then you can become a good fielder.”
In the current Indian setup, all-rounder Jadeja has been the standout fielder in recent years. The left-armer has some breathtaking one-handed catches in his highlights reel while hitting the stumps regularly. Batsmen rarely challenge Jadeja’s arm while trying to steal a run.
Kaif likened fielding to batting, saying one needs to be a complete in all respects of the discipline to be successful.
“Just like a complete batsman is the one who can play the bouncer well, is able to drive, play the cut and the pull well and play spin also comfortably and has the patience to stay at the crease.
“All these things add up to make a good batsman. It is the same in fielding. You should know how to slide, you should be able to run fast, you should have endurance, you should have a good aim even after stopping the ball with a dive. All these things add up to make a good fielder,” he added.