Coming to think of it, fielding is something that is massively important in cricket. It is often the part of the game which makes the difference between a winning unit and a decent unit. Fielding is not that complicated to learn, but at the same time is very difficult to cover the basics well.
I have been thinking about this topic for a few days now. And these are the various thoughts that came to my mind. Some of them are not connected at all, but are still there.
Cricket before the '90s was not too worried about this fielding though. During this period, it considered proper to let the ball roll down to the boundary if it could not be saved without a dive. You could say it was considered gentlemanly. That makes me wonder, wasn't this game favoring the batsmen even then?
Well this of course has the obvious answer. It is true, as there used to be the gentlemen and the workers who used to play cricket. The gentlemen were rich upper class people while the workers were the opposite. And the gentlemen did most of the batting (Quite obviously as it is easier to bat on a hot day than bowl) while the workers did most of the bowling. So batting was considered more important.
So just by the example of fielding we are able to see how cricket has worked. We can see how time has changed cricket and how we don't have this upper and lower class any more (at least on the field). We also see that it is not a modern day idea that the bat dominates the ball.
Another reason why fielding was not given as much attention was possibly because it was the least stylish of all the cricketing arts. Purist ideology has got some serious problems with the not-so-good looking aspects. For some reason they lack "purity" and panache.
I agree, maybe it is not stylish but it is more substance. So fielding is directly proportional to substance and inversely proportional to style. The proportionality constant is the player who keeps on looking to balance between the two. And let me tell you, this constant is hardly constant.
Cricket was also not a well paying profession for quite some time. All the cricketers worked somewhere or the other to take care of their needs. So in such a situation was it worth risking an injury and field the ball which might win you the match but not your meal?
So it can be said that fielding is one of the reasons why cricket has evolved. If boards would not have paid for better fielders, we would have never reached these heights in cricket. Even test cricket would have died. So as competitiveness increased due to better fielding, resulting in better payments as cricket got better. So fielding is directly proportional to cricketing money.
Coming to today's game, fielding is the key to being a great side. All numero uno sides have fielded well. West Indies were very good by the standards of the time when they dominated. They were not stuck with notions of gentlemanism and looked to field the ball. Australia and South Africa have also been some very good fielding sides. India were also brilliant when they won the 1983 world cup.
But though we see a direct link with best team and great fielding, there is no such link as good team and average fielding or bad team and bad fielding. Good teams also have very good fielding, but for other reasons are not good enough. There are some good teams with very mediocre fielding. It is just that their other departments are exceptional or very good.
When it comes to the bad or rather the poor performing teams, it becomes very confusing. Some of them have excellent fielders, but for some reason they do not always field well and on other occasions they are like champions. It is surprising why it is like this, as fielding is not that much dominated by the technique as much as by athleticism. So where does it disappear on some occasions?
I think this shows that fielding is also very much influenced by form. Unlike the general belief. It gets hugely affected by the situation and your mental peace.
So these were my thoughts. Highly unstructured, but a lot of what I think about cricket.