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Colin Bland is no more

Updated April 17, 2018

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LONDON: South Africa’s former Test cricketer Colin Bland, regarded highly for his fielding, has passed away after prolong illness. He was 80.

Born in Bulawayo on April 5, 1938, Bland — who suffered from colon cancer for several years — started off his cricketing career with Rhodesia while studying in Milton High School. He played for them from 1956 to 1968. He later went on to play for Eastern Province and Orange Free State.

That paved his way to the South Africa Test squad in 1961. Bland’s Test career was restricted to just 21 matches in which he scored 1,669 runs at 49.08 and smashed three hundreds. His highest Test score of 144 not out came against England at Johannesburg in 1964-65.

But batting did not make Bland a legend. While he was an excellent batsman in his own right, he was arguably the greatest fielder till the ODI revolution. His fielding was the turning point in several matches.

Former team-mate Ali Bacher believes Bland elevated the level of fielding.

“Fielding for us used to just consist of 15 minutes of catching and throwing, but Colin would spend hours and hours practising by himself, chasing a ball, picking it up, turning and throwing at the stumps. We’d watch him and would think, ‘he was from a different planet’”, iol.co.za quoted Bacher as saying.

Bland was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1966 and was depicted on the edition with his fielding action.

He retired from Test cricket due to injury in 1967, but continued to play first-class cricket till 1973-74. In 131 first-class matches, Bland scored 7,249 runs at the average of 37.95 and clai­med 43 wickets at 35.27.

Published in Dawn, Aprill 17th, 2018