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'Kohli and Raina are two of the best fielders in the world'

October 09, 2013 08:04 IST

'Kohli and Raina are two of the best fielders in the world'

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Shahnawaz Akhtar

Known as ‘bird’ on cricket grounds, Jonty Rhodes hits Indian roads quite often these days. Recently, he was spotted biking around the Pink City on his Royal Enfield.

In an e-mail interview with Shahnawaz Akhtar, the former South African cricketer, now Mumbai Indians’ fielding coach, got candid on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy, Sachin Tendulkar, Indian stadia, his divorce and lots more.

However, ‘mum’ was the word when asked to comment on the recent IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal.

It’s been a decade since you retired from international cricket. How is life these days?

Just as busy away from home, but not as much time spent on the field. Making sure I get to places and see things that were out of reach when time was restricted as a player.

You have played hockey too. Did you pursue hockey after retiring from cricket?

No, I last played State hockey in 1995, and since retirement I have only watched my children play hockey at school matches, and had one father versus daughter match!

You seem to be a passionate biker, having hit the Jaipur roads recently. How do you find Indian roads? What was your experience like?

I only ride while I am in India, as South African drivers are pretty speedy, and a menace to anybody on two wheels. I loved riding in Jaipur, and although some of the roads were non-existent, this was the route I had requested, as my Royal Enfield is built to handle most conditions.


Image: Jonty Rhodes
Photographs: Rahul Dutta

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'Kohli and Raina are two of the best fielders in the world'

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Did you ride a bike in any other place in India?

I stayed on in Goa after the IPL in 2011 and had some wonderful rides there, as well as down South, in Kerala’s backwaters. I also had an enjoyable ride from Mumbai to Lonavala during IPL 2013

How’s you tenure with Mumbai Indians going on? Who is the best Mumbai Indians fielder?

I have loved working with some of the best cricket players from around the globe. We have some very special fielders, and over my five-year stint I would have to say the likes of Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting and Herschelle Gibbs have certainly worked their magic in the field, whether it be taking spectacular catches or preventing the ball getting to the boundary.

Local players, like Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma, have also done some excellent work for the team in the field, but my highlight was the 2012 IPL, with Munaf Patel taking most catches for the team.

How would you rate the Indian fielding side? Who is your all-time favourite Indian fielder?

The Indian fielding has improved in massive leaps these past few years, thanks mainly to the young players getting much exposure to great fielding in the IPL. Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are two of the best fielders in the world, not just in India. It also helps that the team is a lot younger now. And MS Dhoni is a captain who expects nothing less than a hundred per cent from all his players in every department -- batting; bowling and fielding!


Photographs: Rahul Dutta

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'Kohli and Raina are two of the best fielders in the world'

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Any tips to the Indian cricket team on improving its fielding?

Just keep doing what they are doing. My advice to any player, at whatever level they might be, is: (a) Expect every ball to come to you, as this will help you anticipate well; (b) enjoy your fielding. It takes a lot of effort to reach the top in any endeavour, but if you are having fun while putting in the practice, it never seems like hard work.

Grounds play an important role in fielding, which Indian ground is best-suited for fielders?

There are some awesome facilities in India, especially since the 2010 ICC World Cup, where many stadia were upgraded and modernized. Some of the outfields are very fast, so the players on the boundary have little chance to cut off the ball from reaching the ropes. But, in Chennai and Mumbai the fielders can put in their best performances without being overly concerned that the ball is going bounce unpredictably towards them.


Photographs: Rahul Dutta

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'Kohli and Raina are two of the best fielders in the world'

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Now you are watching ‘Master Blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar very closely. How do you find him as a player?

Still as passionate and dedicated towards cricket as he was 20 years ago.

You had a troubled personal life the last few years and divorced from Kate. Are you seeing someone else?

No trouble, just a divorce. And, yes, I am engaged, to be married to a photographer, Caroline.

Mumbai Indians played its first CLT20 match against Rajasthan Royal, a team whose players were accused of spot-fixing. How is match and spot-fixing affecting cricket?

No idea.


Photographs: Rahul Dutta

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