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Glenn Phillips: 'Sometimes my speed gets me in trouble'

Glenn Phillips knows he's got incredible natural ability and works hard to keep his skills razor sharp

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Glenn Phillips took a spectacular catch against Australia and he knew it  •  ICC/Getty Images

Glenn Phillips took a spectacular catch against Australia and he knew it  •  ICC/Getty Images

There are many elements in the coming week that could decide who lifts the T20 World Cup. It may come down to plain luck too. But it could also be a sprinted single. Or an exceptional piece of fielding.
There have been plenty of spectacular catches during the tournament (there have also been a few spectacular misses) but high on the list of instant classics was Glenn Phillips' gravity-defying running dive to dismiss Marcus Stoinis at the SCG in the opening match of the Super 12s.
That game set the tone for both teams involved: it put New Zealand on their way to the semi-finals, allowing them the breathing space to soak up a loss to England, and left Australia so far behind that they could not make up the ground.
New Zealand are back in Sydney for their semi-final against Pakistan, an unlikely match-up until the extraordinary drama of Sunday. It is also the ground where Phillips left his mark with a masterful century against Sri Lanka. But while he is only an occasional bowler, it's his value as a fielder which makes him worth being classed as an allrounder. He pushes himself to the limits, and sometimes beyond.
"There's certain things where I know if I haven't got there, it's okay, because there's probably not many other people who would have," Phillips told ESPNcricinfo. "I try to look at it that way for myself to not get too down. The chances are that, if you are getting to balls you aren't meant to, then you are going to mess up quite a bit. But the odd screamer will come off. If you get it, you pull off something amazing. If you don't, well you never had the right to be there anyway. So you may as well at least try.
"Sometimes my speed gets me in trouble as well. Sometimes I over-run it. I went through a stage when I was younger where guys tried to get me to slow down, but it got to the point where I'd actually fumble just as much or stuff up probably more often than I would, if I was going 100%. I realised if I have the chance to be that little faster, or jump a little higher, it then becomes your responsibility to use it. Because if you don't, then what's the point having it?"
Phillips has always had his natural athleticism, but the enjoyment of fielding goes back to childhood when he and his younger brother Dale would practice with their dad in the nets, rather than just focusing on batting and bowling. He is also quick to acknowledge that others in the team also set high standards. There were some rare blunders against England, with Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell missing catches, but overall, New Zealand are one of the world leaders in the field.
"I've always loved fielding," he said. "It wasn't just because you had to do fielding. It's because we wanted to do it. Fielding these days can become a third string. If you have the ability to make a difference somehow in the field, it doesn't necessarily matter if you've had a good day with bat or ball because fielding is an attitudinal thing and that's what we [New Zealand] all try and bring.
"From the genetic side of things, it has always been there but without working and keeping it growing, you lose it. So definitely, it's something that I've worked on. I've tried to get stronger, tried to get faster, tried to get more agile, to be in positions where I have the right to at least have a go at making a catch that maybe no one else is going to get."
It is equally possible, though, that Phillips plays a decisive hand with the bat against Pakistan as New Zealand seek their first major piece of global limited-overs silverware. His 104 off 64 balls against Sri Lanka lifted them from 15 for 3 and featured superb acceleration, having been 22 off 22 deliveries. Against England at the Gabba Phillips was giving his team a chance of chasing a tough target, having been given a life by Moeen Ali, before falling just short of clearing long-on. It is those sorts of narrow margins involved in the format that Phillips tries to keep in perspective.
"[It's about] trying to find something in a game of such high failure that you can succeed at more often," he said. "Sometimes it just takes one mis-hit. Say I didn't mis-hit that [against England], you never know. I've done things similar on other occasions and it's having that experience and banking on myself on being able to do it. It's a game of small margins so sometimes it's not going to come off, but if you have the belief that you are the one that can do it at least you have a chance."
Phillips has enjoyed the different challenges created by the various grounds during this tournament. This will be New Zealand's third match at the SCG and the previous two have provided opposite short and long boundaries.
"It's actually quite cool to try come up with unique ways of getting balls into areas that create high-scoring opportunity for lower risk," he said. "[Bowlers] will always try to take it away from the small boundary and we will always try to hit it there, so how can my mind games play against their mind games.
"It's about looking at the field and deciding what my high risk, high-value shots are, then I understand I've got all my other shots as well which happen naturally as you've been trained to do for years on end. You've got a split second to react and will get it wrong sometimes, but if the idea in your mind is to be as positive as possible, then I have the chance of going both sides of the field."
Away from matches, Phillips thinks extensively about his batting and the various scenarios being at No. 4 or 5 can provide, but once he gets to the crease - whether it's setting a target or chasing one - he wants to have as few thoughts as possible in his mind.
"I've always been a deep-thinker, but in the middle I try to leave all the deep thinking back in the sheds," he said. "At training I'm thinking about how I can get balls in different areas, and if I've trained [that way] then going into the middle, the less thinking that's possible the clearer I'm going to be to make the right choice to the right ball. For me, when you've got a split-second to react, if my mind is filled with anything other than watching the ball then I'll be in trouble."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo