Sri Lanka news June 3, 2015

Rhodes sees Test role for Mubarak the fielder

Jonty Rhodes: "I've always had great respect for the way Sri Lanka teams have fielded." © AFP

Jehan Mubarak's fielding has caught the eye of former South Africa batsman Jonty Rhodes, who is in Sri Lanka to conduct a 10-day training camp. Rhodes has been training national A team and Under-19 players, and said Mubarak could be an asset to Sri Lanka in the field in the upcoming Test series against Pakistan.

Mubarak, 34, hasn't played a Test since 2007, but is in firm contention for a place in the squad after an outstanding run in first-class cricket. He surpassed 1000 domestic runs in each of the two past seasons, and averages 81.78 in the Premier League Tournament since the beginning of 2014.

SLC's invitation to Rhodes had in part been prompted by Sri Lanka's poor catching during the Test tour of New Zealand, and their World Cup campaign. Rhodes said Mubarak could be among the men who help reclaim Sri Lanka's reputation for being a safe fielding unit.

"Mubarak for me is a guy who will be very, very useful in the gully or backward point area in Test cricket," Rhodes said. "He's only 6 foot 2 I think, but his arms make him about 6 foot 7. Too often taller players stand there and move their arms, but Mubarak can move as well and that's key.

"If I give players five catches and they catch four out of four, they know the fifth one is a rocket. I don't want a player to catch all five. I'm very competitive. So I tell them: 'I'm going to go past you'. Whichever country I'm working with, I set up five metre goal posts, and this guy was catching balls a metre past the goal post. Nothing got past that I've seen - and I tried."

Rhodes found Sri Lanka fielders more naturally athletic than other South Asian cricketers, but said the surfeit of spin bowlers presented fielding challenges that were common throughout the region.

"From a throwing point of view, you want to be able to get your body weight behind the throw. If you're a fast bowler, you're naturally able to get your body weight going towards the direction of the throw, but spinners are bowling thousands of balls when they are pivoting as they release the ball. In the ten days that I'm here, I'm not going to change that completely, but a player might be in the middle of the throw and he remembers what I've said, and puts his weight behind it. That's half a throw, and at least I know he's thinking about it.

"But I've always had great respect for the way Sri Lanka teams have fielded. It's not very far as the crow flies, from India, but there most of the boys only play cricket. Here, there's talk of rugby and football, and the players really are foremost athletes. If they can get to the ball, I can teach them to catch it."

Rhodes has two more days' training scheduled with the Sri Lanka players. He is also working with the local coaching staff to teach more effective fielding techniques and coaching methods.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

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