Fans will forever remember Ricky Ponting as a brilliant batsman but also an outstanding fielder and it is the latter which brings up some of my fondest ‘Punter’ memories.
Be it his poise in the slips, pace in the outfield, or deadly accuracy in the infield, Ponting was perhaps the greatest fielder of his generation.
When thinking about Ponting’s fielding ability, it’s hard for the mind not to turn to the likes of Jonty Rhodes, Herschelle Gibbs and Roger Harper, and Australians such as Andrew Symonds and the Waugh brothers.
This brought me to think of Australia’s greatest fielding team of the last 25 years.
To pick this team I have gone for an attacking 7-2 field, and looked at fieldsmen in their specialist positions, however those in front of the wicket have been picked based on their all-round fielding ability.
Wicketkeeper – Ian Healy
If picking purely based on ability with the gloves, Healy gets the nod over Gilchrist due to his overall consistency and knack of taking match-changing dismissals. His keeping to Warne while he was getting started no doubt had a big impact on Warne’s growth as an international bowler; something Australian fans are indebted to.
Special mention – Adam Gilchrist
First slip – Mark Taylor
Tubby was nothing short of outstanding at first slip, both to the quicks and spinners. He held 157 catches in his 104 Test matches, with one of his more famous his effort to kick the ball up with his feet after spilling a chance off Michael Bevan.
Second slip – Mark Waugh
Mark Waugh’s fielding highlight reel could go for hours. Like his batting, he made catching seem the most natural thing in the world. He often set the tempo in the field, including the 1999 World Cup final where got Australia off to a flyer with a screamer at second slip. He held the world record of 181 Test match catches until being overtaken by Rahul Dravid.
Third slip – Allan Border
‘AB’ was an inspirational Australian captain who led by example, be it with his batting, occasional spinners or ability in the field. His career highlights include some blinding catches and he left international Test cricket having played the most games, scored the most runs, and taken the most catches.
Special mention – Shane Warne, Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting
Gully – Matthew Hayden
You could say Hayden’s mere presence and intimidation behind the wicket in Australia’s teams of the 2000s would get him a start in this team, but he was a brilliant fieldsman who rarely grasped a chance.
Special mention – Mike Hussey, Steve Waugh, Dean Jones
Point – Ricky Ponting
Although finishing up as a slipper alongside Michael Clarke, Ponting was initially renowned for his freakish ability at point, where during the late 90s he tussled with Jonty Rhodes for the title of World’s Greatest Fielder. It was perhaps Ponting who got the nod due to his pressure to enforce run outs and throw the stumps down, as the South African’s discovered during the 1998-1999 Australian tri-series finals.
Special mention – David Warner
Cover – Andrew Symonds
Put simply, Andrew Symonds was electrifying in the field. In both the long and short forms of the game he shone above his peers, making the freakish look easy.
Mid off – Michael Clarke
Like Ponting, Clarke started his career in the field with some of his more experienced teammates such as Punter and Warne in the cordon, forcing him to bide his time in the point–cover region, where the man known as ‘Pup’ excelled. Since moving to the slips Clarke has shown to have the safest pair of hands in the current Australian set up.
Special mention – Michael Bevan, Steve Smith
Bat-pad – David Boon
The iconic David Boon was perhaps as well known for his fielding as his batting (and his drinking). He showed catlike reflexes in the bat-pad position, his best no doubt a ripper diving to his right, giving Shane Warne his Ashes hat-trick.
Special mention – Justin Langer
Fine leg – Glenn McGrath
This may seem like a puzzling selection, but if ever there was a ‘specialist fine leg’, then Glenn McGrath was it. He could land the ball directly over the bails from the boundary line (his run out in the 1996 World Cup final comes to mind), while he also had a very safe pair of outfield hands, as his brilliant catch to dismiss Michael Vaughan in the 2002-03 Ashes will testify.
Special mention – Brett Lee