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Fielding is the key in T20s: Behardien

Titans’ ace fielder talks about the importance of this skill

Fielding is a crucial aspect of cricket, especially in the shortest format of the game. Every single run saved is a run scored for your side. A few days back, former Australian cricketer Tom Moody highlighted the importance of fielding to a side’s fortunes in CLT20 2012. He said, “The teams that field well are going to be the teams that are going to be standing at the end.”

So in a country that has been consistently producing good fielders, and with one of the local teams preparing for an all-important encounter, we caught up with one such brilliant South African fielder, Farhaan Behardien of the Titans, and discussed fielding. And no conversation about fielding, especially in South Africa, can be without the mention of Jonty Rhodes who set the benchmark for world-class fielding. Plucking catches out of thin air came naturally to him. His ability and enthusiasm for fielding inspired those to follow. 

While speaking to clt20.com, Behardien said, "Jonty Rhodes is obviously a highlight and a role model. But I haven’t had a chance to meet him. Our paths have never crossed."

When asked what he would say to his role model if he gets the opportunity, he said, "I would say, thank you Jonty for being a role model. Every little kid in South Africa dreams to be like Jonty Rhodes. To be able to take those sort of catches and to effect those type of run-outs in front of thousands of people and pressure, is always a phenomenal thing."

Speaking passionately about fielding he shared with us the basic techniques involved in it and gave insight into the fielding culture in his team.
Excerpts from this elaborate discussion:

The Titans are a very good fielding side. How do you prepare?

Our coach and our captain put a lot of emphasis on fielding. The T20 game is not just about batting and bowling. Teams can change games with brilliant catches and run-outs so we place a lot of emphasis on fielding as do most other sides. They employ fielding coaches these days like the Mumbai Indians who have Jonty Rhodes.

How have you been working on your fielding and how did it all start for you?

I think it is a combination of all the coaches. It is about the desire. I have learnt a lot from Faf du Plessis who plays for the Chennai Super Kings. He is one of the best fielders in the world. We have a played a lot of cricket together for the Titans and he inspires me to be a better fielder, to get your elbows and your knees dirty. Our coach and players like Faf du Plessis, [Roelof] van der Merwe and myself, we are very tenacious players. We don’t want to give an inch to the other team so we drop our bodies on the ground. But first and foremost, the desire to work and deliver on the field has to be there.

Where has the desire and inspiration been coming from for you?

It is the desire to be the best. When we were all younger and starting our domestic careers we all wanted to play for South Africa. And that’s where it starts from. On the international stage you can’t hide anyway as you are always in the spotlight. Fielding is one of the aspects of the game that you shouldn’t neglect.

South Africa has been producing a lot of good fielders

As a kid, the one name that comes to mind is Jonty Rhodes. Every kid has watched him play at some point for South Africa. The 1992 run-out [in the World Cup against Pakistan] is what has sparked everything and what he has done over the years for South Africa has inspired people.
We also have the likes of Herschelle Gibbs who are similar to Jonty Rhodes. And there is AB de Villiers, when he wasn’t ‘keeping he kept that trend of role model. That is the key, guys like me and little boys wanting to be like their role models. And I think those three are perfect examples, Herschelle Gibbs, Jonty Rhodes, AB de Villiers and players like Faf du Plessis. We just try to emulate them and when you are playing international cricket or tournaments like the CLT20, there is no hiding from the cameras and no hiding from 20,000-odd people in the stadium; so the guys put effort to ensure that the fielding is really good.

Is there something about the techniques that you can share?

Specifically for ground fielding when you are approaching the ball one needs to be low. The centre of gravity needs to be low, which means that your eyes are close to the ball. When you are standing upright on the ball, your eyes are further away so you can’t judge where your hands need to be. So the one thing about ground fielding is you just need to be a little bit lower. Your centre of gravity needs to be lower so that your eyes can be closer than your hands and once you get close to the ball you will be able to judge where the ball would be and where your hands need to be for the ball.

While catching, you need to be stable. So when you are on the run, just take a step or two in between, just before catching the ball to kind of steady yourself to take a running catch and generally you would like to have a good base. You want power in your legs. Also, when you are diving for balls with that low centre of gravity you can push off either leg to your left or right gaining the extra power, the momentum to take a diving catch or just a normal catch.

How do train for this and work on your fitness?

Our fitness trainer puts us through a strict regime. Like I said earlier it is about the desire. Some people don’t like fielding. Big lanky fast bowlers might not like it. But the ones in our side they do like it.

Nowadays bowlers like Brett Lee, Morne Morkel, all the fast bowlers are training hard and they realise that fielding is a part of T20, and fielding in general changes Test matches and one-day games. Kids can learn from role models like Brett Lee, Morne Morkel, great fast bowlers who are training just as hard.

What has been the key to your success in T20?

One thing that helps is my team. I play professionally for the Titans who have players like Martin van Jaarsveld, du Plessis and Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel who started their careers with us. I have learnt a lot from Albie Morkel, the other finisher for South Africa. I have been fortunate enough to play with very good players and learn my trade and to play under pressure situations.

The Titans have been very successful and in my period with them we have won seven major trophies over the last six years. So I think that experience, and couple of knock-out games and finals have aided me in my last 12-18 months with my debut for South Africa and playing in the World Cup. The players around me have helped me too.

Does the absence of AB de Villiers put added pressure on you?

I like to think that the other teams underestimate us a little bit because we are an unknown side. We have a good team culture and what the other players bring to the table some of the other teams don’t know so there is not too much pressure on my side. If I don’t do well on a day I back my teammates to do really well and pick up some of my slack; and vice versa if they don’t do well on a particular day then I pick up the slack for them. And that is the team culture that has pulled us through over the last six years.  

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