Cricket has various contenders to be entitled as the best batsmen or the best bowler, but a field that requires no discussion is who is the best fielder? The answer is obvious, Jonty Rhodes.
Rhodes is one of the rare players in the world to make an entry into the national side on the merit of fielding. With all due respect, he was a decent batsman but his stints at fielding contributed so much to the side, that Jonty Rhodes's name became a cult in every household.
Even today when a player in their streets, parks, gardens, homes, or even at a professional level makes a super impressive effort at the field they are referred to as Jonty, such is the stature of this man. Let's look at Rhodes's profile, career, and stats.
Jonty Rhodes was born in a family of athletes. His father was a rugby player and his mother played tennis. Hence Rhodes was pushed into sports from an early age. Rhodes picked 2 sports for himself; cricket and hockey.
Rhodes's athleticism in both sports forced the national sides to have a look at him. It was 1992 just a year after South Africa’s ban was lifted when Jonty was considered by Cricket South Africa for the World Cup.
Also Read | Greatest New Zealand Cricketers of all time
Jonty’s selection was based on his fielding skills, he made his debut against Australia in the World Cup, performed a runout, and helped the Proteas to seal the victory. Rhodes, owing to his hockey skills, could fling himself in the air, dive out of no way and create pure magic in the backward point position.
The moment that made Jonty Rhodes ‘Jonty Rhodes’ was in the same World Cup, when Pakistan’s Inzamam-Ul-Haq was batting and the ball rolled towards Jonty and in an attempt to run the player out who were looking to steal a quick single, Jonty picked the ball, ran towards the stumps and threw himself onto the stumps.
This was the unique style of fielding that Rhodes brought to the field. This campaign made him more popular than some of his teammates and he became a global name.
Despite his success in the field in limited format, his dream always remained to play the Tests. It was also fulfilled in the same year when he made his red-ball debut against India in 1992. One of the things that Rhodes knew was that along with his fielding abilities he needed to showcase his abilities as a batsman.
Also Read | Greatest Australian Cricketers of all time
Over the years he didn’t turn out to be the greatest of the batsmen but had a decent run with the bat. Rhodes scored over 8,000 international runs with 5 centuries and 50 half-centuries to his name.
Rhodes always credited his hockey skills for his impressive fielding skills in cricket. However, many might not be aware that when he received a call from South African cricket, alongside he was also selected for the 1992 Olympics in the hockey team.
As a matter of the fact, the team couldn’t qualify for the main tournament. He again was called up for the 1996 Olympics trials, a time when he was well settled with the cricket team, but owing to a hamstring injury he was ruled out.
Coming back to cricket Rhodes was growing as a batsman, ruling as a fielder, popularity had touched the sky, and even started making some records. He became the first player in the ODI’s to take 100 catches.
After 11 years of hard work, fame, and excellence Rhodes decided to hang his boots after the 2003 World Cup. However, destiny had something else to offer, while attempting a catch in a match against Kenya, Rhodes broke his hand and his tournament was cut short and was replaced by Graeme Smith in the squad and the rest is history.
Post Retiring, Rhodes is often seen in India and associated with Indian leagues and cricket. Rhodes worked as fielding coach of King X1 Punjab. He even named his daughter after India. And was recently felicitated by the Indian Prime Minister on Republic Day for his affection towards India.
Also Read | Greatest South African Cricketers of all time