Syed Abid Ali: India's first fielder
Syed Abid Ali (Source: Twitter)
Fielding is an integral part of cricket. Teams like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand understood the importance of the trade during the late last century, but India lagged in it for a long time.
For India, cricket was all about batting and bowling, it was not until MS Dhoni became the leader of team India that fielding was stressed enough. And now you can look at the fitness level of players like Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja and understand how good a fielding side India has developed into.
But, what if I ask you who was the first out-and-out fielder of India?
Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif (Source: Twitter)
The best answer one can expect is that of Yuvraj Singh or Mohammed Kaif, or the earliest we can trace back is to someone like Mohammad Azharuddin or Robin Singh.
But I am talking about an era when fielding was probably the least important aspect to be considered a professional cricketer. Yes, let us go back to the era of the 1950s and talk about a young boy from Hyderabad, who was selected for the team because the selectors were impressed with his fitness and fielding skills.
The name of that boy is Syed Abid Ali. He was considered to be a 'Man from the Future' by his contemporaries primarily because of his being fitness freak and the fielding skills he displayed.
Career Summary of Abid Ali
Born on 9th September 1941 Abid Ali made his debut for India in 1967. This happened after he scored his maiden hundred for Hyderabad in the same year. In his debut Test innings with the ball, Abid Ali picked up 6 wickets for 55 runs and became the first bowler from India to take six wickets in his debut Test innings.
His career stats are pretty average as he played 29 Tests for India and scored 1,018 runs in them at an average of 20.36 with 6 half-centuries. With the ball, Abid Ali picked up 47 wickets in 29 matches at an average of 42.12. If we speak about his ODI career, he played 5 matches and has scored 93 runs in them at an average of 31.00 and picked up 7 wickets with the bowling average of 26.71.
India's first ever out and out fielder
But his claim to fame was his outstanding fielding efforts and supreme fitness level. Cricinfo described Abi Ali in one of their articles as -
"He had the feet of a sprinter, the energy of a marathon runner and the will power of a decathlete. But his misfortune was that he was born 20 years too early. His game was made to order for one-day cricket."
Besides, his brilliant fielding efforts and outstanding fitness level, Abid Ali was also respected by his contemporaries for always giving more than 100 per cent in whatever he did.
The efforts of Abid Ali might be regarded as the foundation stone of a revolution in Indian cricket that has culminated in the current crop of players, where having high fitness level is mandatory and not optional.