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The Ten: Reluctant fielders – From Inzi to Tuffers

Inzamam (Reluctant fielders)
Jo Harman by Jo Harman 5 minute read

Who have been the most reluctant fielders in world cricket? With a little help from David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, Jo Harman picks out a selection of players who could think of little worse than chasing leather.

First published in 2017

10. Don’t wake Inzi

An obvious choice, says Bumble. “I watched his team going through a rigorous fitness and fielding drill before a Test match and Inzamam watched it all from the side of the net, in a deckchair, with his pads on! He was captain at the time. I thought about taking him the local paper and a cup of coffee. Later, when Inzi had batted, he was fast asleep on the floor next to his locker and Bob Hobley, who was the kit man for Pakistan, was asked by the coach to go and tell him it was time for fielding. So Bob shook him and said, ‘Inzi, it’s fielding’. Inzi just opened one eye, said ‘No’ and went back to sleep.”

9. Hungry Jack

‘Flat Jack’ Simmons played for Lancashire well into his forties, racking up more than 900 appearances. Many of those were alongside Bumble, who recalls that his former teammate’s passion for lunch didn’t extend to his fielding. “We were playing at Southport and when we started the afternoon session we only had 10 on the field. We couldn’t think who we were missing. It were Jack. He was still in the lunch tent eating a gooseberry pie and flatly refusing to come out till he’d finished it! When we did a five-mile pre-season run Jack used to take the Manchester Evening News under his arm.”

8. When the going gets Tuff

“The one massive advantage when Phillip was bowling,” said Graham Gooch, “was that he couldn’t be fielding.” While Gooch can see the funny side now, the ex-England skipper wasn’t laughing at the time. Phil Tufnell’s showreel of fielding bloopers on YouTube really is the gift that keeps on giving – his failed run-out at Sydney during the 1990/91 B&H World Series is a particular highlight – with his ineptitude and general lackadaisicalness combining to glorious effect.

7. Where’s Shiv?

Shiv Chanderpaul loves batting. But fielding? Not so much. “He seems to wander around the field with that hang-dog look,” says Bumble, “as if to say: ‘When can I have a bat?’ He is one of many who bats forever and then when it’s time to field he’s in the dressing room. I would go absolutely apeshit if I was the opposing coach. You can’t have a substitute because he ain’t fit and feels a bit tired!”

6. Dexter gets in the swing

Lord Ted, “the enigma of even his own generation” according to the Mail’s cricket writer Ian Wooldridge, was far too glamorous and aristocratic to be bothered by such serf-pursuits as ‘fielding’. The dasher’s dasher would always be stood in the slips during Test matches – and naturally there were few better – and use this leisurely downtime to groove his immaculate golf swing. Ted had an eye on a post-cricket golf career – Nicklaus and Palmer wanted to set him up on the US tour – and never missed an opportunity to free those arms with a little shadow swinging. As ever with Ted, the cricket was a mere diversion from the really important stuff.

5. Key-bored

“Is there anything worse in the world than fielding?” Rob Key was overheard to say, with real feeling, at a past net session. Not built for the outfield, the former Kent and England opener would resignedly take his place in the cordon but readily admits he was “a shocking catcher”. “I remember standing in the slips at the Wanderers in 2005, Freddie [Flintoff] was bowling that fast I thought, ‘Surely no one is expecting me to catch this!’ In my head I’d come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to catch it and that everyone would understand, because it was too fast.”

4. Jumping Jacques flash

Jacques Kallis was as skilled a slipper as they come but he never gave the impression of a man who relished his time in the field. “I remember at the Wanderers the South African team ran through the tunnel and down the steps for fitness and warm-up,” says Bumble. “Kallis walked past us as we were doing an interview – he was the best player in the world at the time – and he just said: ‘I effing hate this’. He was a superb catcher but can anyone remember him doing any running in the field? He hated bowling as well!”

3. Snooty Sourav

Sourav Ganguly was an inspiration as captain of India but trivial matters such as fielding were beneath him. “He turned up as if he was royalty – it was like having Prince Charles on your side,” Flintoff wrote of Ganguly’s spell at Lancashire. “He just didn’t want to get involved.” Handing his sweater to Mike Atherton to run off the field for him in his opening match for the county did little to endear him to his teammates.

2. Sadiq can’t

“The king of them all!” says Bumble of the former Pakistan and Gloucestershire all-rounder, Sadiq Mohammad. “Sadiq got a hundred against us in a one-day game at Bristol, where there are some quite steep steps to get up to the dressing room. When he got out he couldn’t make it up the steps, the poor lad. He only made it halfway up and then sat down for the rest of the day. He didn’t even make it to the dressing room, he was just sat with his pads on. They brought on a fielder called Jim Foat in his place, who was just about as good as there was in the game. Which was convenient.”

1. England’s quicks go awol

“Last but by no means least,” says Bumble, “the England bowling attack, who seem to spend more time in the toilet than they do on the field. They must all have very weak bladders. Or perhaps that’s more tactical…”

First published in 2017

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