Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
…No! It’s Jonty!
And with one scoop of the ball and full-on dive into the stumps, Imzamam Ul Haq was run out and Jonty Rhodes changed cricket fielding. For. Ever.
Until that point i had kinda watched cricket a little bit and tried to pick a guy – Richard Snell – to be my guy. But to me it was this weird, alien confusing beast that kept getting me to peripheral glance towards it and acknowledge its presence with a slight nod, but not too much more.
In that moment i suddenly had a guy. And a reason to watch. And support. And embrace and wear all the highs and lows [and believe me there were lows – being a South African cricket supporter is somewhat like winning free tickets to an 8pm movie screening at Cavendish, before realising, as the lights go down, that it’s to watch Adam Sandler’s latest ‘thing’.] that come with it.
Being a Jonty supporter was the same. As much as he was the world’s best fielder EVER [and i will gladly punch anyone on the nose who suggests Ponting or Gibbs was better] his batting regularly left a lot to be desired and his career was marked with a series of almosts and could haves and not quites… with the occasional 50 or 100 every now and then just to timeously extend a lifeline to his career for one more series. But his fielding made up for it. “15 to 20 runs on the board before he even went in to bat”, they would say.
And they were right. But it would be a year later, in Mumbai, that would prove it to the world.
On paper the result would look like a normal, if not sub par result. South Africa beat West Indies by 41 runs chasing a meagre, by today’s T20 standards, 180 which they had scored for 5 in a whole 40 overs [Now they do it in 20 without blinking].
But it would prove to be a day that would set the cricketing world alight as on the 14th November 1993, Jonty Rhodes [who had already scored 40 off 42] ran and dived and threw himself around and at the end of the night held the world record for cricket catches in an ODI by a single fielder.
5 catches in all. And it happened at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai.
What was particularly incredible about the achievement is that Rhodes did not field at slip, where you could understand five catches being taken, especially with South Africa’s famed fast bowling attack. He fielded at point, and at least 3 of the 5 looked a little something like this:
Magical. Mesmerising. Miraculous.
The Brabourne stadium in Mumbai erupted, not unusual for an Indian stadium packed to the brim, even though the home team was not even playing. Fireworks and chanting and banners and celebrating all over the place being the norm. It was like no place on earth could have topped it at that very moment…
…excepting perhaps for the lounge of 18 Markham Road, Claremont.
where a series of five over-the-top-throat-numbing screams had prompted a knock on the front door…
on the front door of the house, separated from other houses in the street by the usual driveways and gardens and gates…
and an obviously irritated neighbourly father figure looking at me sternly with ire bleeding from his eyeballs…
“Can you please keep it down. My children are trying to sleep.”
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
This was my latest offering in a series of Tandem Blog posts where we are given the title and this week nine of us valiantly attempted to write our most inspired piece thereon. The other legends, who i encourage you to go and read are: