The Indian Premier League(IPL) has witnessed some breathtaking fielding efforts and striking catches ever since its inception in 2008. The quick nature of the format means that every single run saved and every catch taken could be match-turning ones.
Over the years, fielding has become an important area of focus in cricket much like batting and bowling. With specialised fielding coaches and well panned out fielding drills, players cannot stay be below par fielders and remain in the team.
The strong emphasis on fielding skills has also improved the standard of catching and field all over the World. In an attractive event like the IPL, where the best in the world of cricket participate, the standard of fielding is even higher.
From brilliant one-handed takes to tag catches, cricket has taken fielding to an altogether different level and IPL hasn't been immune to these changes. The Indian gala event has witnessed some startling catches and here we take a look at five of the best among them.
#5 Ricky Ponting (Mumbai Indians) vs Delhi Daredevils, April 2013
At 40, former Australian skipper, Ricky Ponting showed that he had lost none of his agility with a spectacular catch at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. He was the skipper for Mumbai in the game and pulled off one of the best efforts in the field in IPL when he had Unmukt Chand caught at cover off Harbhajan Singh.
Mumbai had batted first and posted 209 on the board courtesy Rohit Sharma's unbeaten 74. In reply, Delhi openers, David Warner and Unmukt Chand, were greeted by Harbhajan, who opened the bowling attack for Mumbai.
In the very first ball of the innings, Harbhajan forced Unmukt Chand to play a shot to leg side that took a leading edge on its way to cover. It seemed to be heading to land safely when Ponting leapt out of nowhere to pluck a special one-handed catch after nearly slipping during the initial effort.
#4 AB de Villiers (Delhi Daredevils) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, April 2010
Back in 2010, when a young AB de Villiers was part of the Delhi outfit, he pulled off one of the most magnificent catches at the boundary ropes you will ever see. The incident occurred during the final stages of a game Delhi were comfortably winning.
Chasing 184 for victory, Bangalore were at 137/7 in 18 overs. Umesh Yadav, the Delhi bowler was smashed to long-on by Praveen Kumar. The tail-ender seemed to find the sweet spot of the bat with the shot as the ball was sailing towards the crowd. But De Villiers stunned the crowd with a brilliant one-handed effort near the ropes.
He leapt full stretch, plucking the ball and fell vertically down to avoid touching the ropes to complete a screamer of a catch. The South African is known for his outrageous fielding skills but this was an out of the world catch and one of the best the IPL has seen.
#3 Faf du Plessis (Chennai Super Kings) vs Mumbai Indians, April 2015
South African Faf du Plessis is known for his brilliant antics on the cricket field and pulled off a miraculous catch in the 2015 IPL when playing for the Chennai Super Kings. It was the 12th match of the 2015 IPL season and Mumbai were 6/1 with Corey Anderson sent in.
Ashish Nehra bowled a back of a length delivery that the Black Caps all-rounder top edged straight down the ground. Du Plessis, stationed at mid-off ran sideways and then a bit backwards before making a desperate backwards leap to catch the ball.
It was a spectacle to watch the South African make a very difficult catch look pretty easy. The South African skipper went on to take another stunner in the same season to dismiss Manvinder Bisla of Royal Challengers Bangalore later.
#2 Tim Southee/Karun Nair (Rajasthan Royals) vs Kings XI Punjab, April 2015
The 2015 edition of the IPL saw some stunning catches but none as good as this relay catch by Tim Southee and Karun Nair. Kings XI needed 32 to win from a mere seven balls when the set batsman, George Bailey, was victim to one of the best combined fielding efforts on the cricket field.
Bailey had smacked the ball from James Faulkner high and handsome to long-on where Tim Southee ran in and dived over the ropes while flicking the ball back into the field. Karun Nair, who had been near Southee watched the whole effort and pounced on to the ball that Southee had flicked back to complete an outrageous catch.
The tag team effort was one among the best cricket fans had witnessed on the field. Though such catches have become commonplace in recent times, the sheer difficulty of the effort makes this one from Southee and Nair a special.
#1 Chris Lynn (Kolkata Knight Riders) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, April 2014
The game was intensely poised with Bangalore needing six to win from three balls. They had the versatile AB de Villiers at the crease which boosted their chances to cross the line.
Vinay Kumar bowled a length delivery that the South African flicked to deep mid-wicket by giving himself some room. The ball sailed high but not far enough as Chris Lynn, the Australia batsman who had replaced Morne Morkel in the Kolkata side, slipped then leapt high and caught the ball before falling straight down. He arched his back, held on to the ball airborne and ensured he missed the rope.
The manner in which Lynn recovered from the slip and held on to the ball while showing brilliant awareness of the position of the rope makes this the best catch IPL has witnessed. Had he hit the ropes, Bangalore would have won the game. Lynn, deservedly won the Man of the Match award, more for this catch than his valuable 45.