Australia in India 2016-17 March 1, 2017

India look to solve catching jinx

India's slip cordon has seen a number of combinations in the last couple of years but they have not settled on one yet even as more catches are being dropped by close-in fielders in Tests
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We'll put the pressure back on Australians - Vijay

When you have a home season of 13 Tests, you have a good chance of stacking up memorable numbers. Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and R Ashwin have done so in their fields, and despite the Pune defeat India have an even chance of ending up on the right side of the ledger as a team. There is one number, though, that India will not like to remember. They have dropped at least 23 catches in 10 Tests. Until Pune, they didn't cost India dearly - although they might well have won Rajkot had they taken their catches - but in Pune the five missed opportunities snatched away any chance they had of coming back into the Test after conceding a 155-run first-innings lead.

These drops have been of all varieties: by slips and gullies standing back, by wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, by a break in concentration in the outfield, but most disturbingly in Pune by fielders standing close in for spinners. It's the last category that is hurting India the most. Support for spinners is what all Indian fielders pride themselves in. At India's training three days before the Bangalore Test, there was clear evidence they were taking the misses in the last Test seriously.

Plenty of time was spent taking close-in catches. Pujara used a miniature bat to keep edging the ball for slips to catch it. He then moved into the fielding position himself with fielding coach R Sridhar taking up edging duties. Ajinkya Rahane joined the drills after his stint in the nets. M Vijay, repeat offender both when standing back for quicks and close for spinners, also took catches.

Vijay was later asked if this was routine or if there was extra emphasis on close-in catching in the lead-up to the Bangalore Test. "Definitely," Vijay said. "We have got to, we have got to… We had a chat about it, and we're working on a few areas where we could have done much better in the last Test match. We're looking forward to this game, and hopefully we can pull off those catches."

With growing awareness of fitness and modern cricket, India are up there with any side when it comes to ground fielding, but catching has been an issue since the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. India's slide in England after taking 1-0 lead in 2014 began with a dropped catch. Their bowlers bailed the fielders out by creating more chances in England's return series in India, but India's catching has been ordinary for too long now.

During the Chennai Test in the England series, fielding coach Sridhar had blamed frequent injuries and thus an unstable cordon for the lapses. "It is a work in progress," he said back then. "There have been a few injuries for players in the series. We have changed personnel in the close cordon. We are working on it. It is not an excuse but we are working on it. We are trying to manage the workload, injury part as far as fingers are concerned. We are sure to get better from here."

Except that it got worse, especially against spinners. The season is now getting to a point where it is becoming physically challenging and India can't afford to manage workloads now that they are behind in the series. Sridhar had then said that if the squad was all fit, his ideal slip cordon for fast bowlers would be Vijay at first slip, Karun Nair at second, Virat Kohli at third, and Rahane at gully. For spinners, Rahane has been the undisputed first slip.

Nair is not likely to play every Test and Vijay has made a few mistakes that can affect his confidence. Ashwin has shown great hands and reactions when standing back at slip, but it is understandable India don't want to risk a finger injury for their top bowler. Same might be the case with Jayant Yadav. KL Rahul, who does slips for Karnataka but dropped a catch in his second Test in Sydney, is now out of favour there. He also dropped a relatively easy catch at midwicket in Chennai.

As with dropping catches, taking one can be infectious. India will be hoping they start off well with their catching and can then get on a roll. That is what they are preparing in the nets for. Starting has not been an issue in the field alone. While Virat Kohli has generally walked to a relatively old ball at No. 4, the opening partnership for India hasn't been great, especially between Vijay and Rahul. In the 13 times they have opened together, Vijay and Rahul have put together a fifty stand only once. On an average India are 20 for 1 when these two open.

Vijay promised improvement on that front too. "I don't think of it that way," he said when asked why was it that he had big partnerships with Pujara this season but not with Rahul. "Maybe a big partnership is around the corner between me and Rahul. Hopefully, it can happen this match."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hamza Salman on March 3, 2017, 7:30 GMT

    I'm not in favor of foreign coaches flown in to train national teams. These coaches are simply mercenaries who do not have any other affinity or fire for the nation they are representing. Example in case is of Jonty Rhodes who was dished out USD 20,000 in Bob Woolmer's times to come and coach the Pak team for fielding drills for just two days. He was not able to make any improvement, flew back after two days and in the next month, was seen celebrating wildly in the South African dug-out as SA were thrashing in an ODI the same Pakistan team Rhodes had "coached".

  • Hamza Salman on March 3, 2017, 7:27 GMT

    India needs Solkar as catching coach.

  • Jose on March 2, 2017, 13:38 GMT

    @cricfan01253320 on March 2, 2017, 10:49 GMT

    "They (Indians) look really tired after a long season ..."

    Yes.That is something, many of us can't deny.

    Unfortunately, that seems to be part & parcel of the modern cricket world.

    In a 20-20 format, many players may be able to hide that fact and get along by bowling just 4 overs or batting for a few. But it is pretty tough not to show the fatigue for days and days under the sun in the longest of the formats.

    It really showed on both the Indian spinners; none can deny that either.

    Anyway, when we scheduled 13 home-tests in a row, we should have realised that fact, well in advance. So, it can't be touted as a reason for the very poor show. One has to just accept it. And, move on.

  • sohamb2411756 on March 2, 2017, 10:49 GMT

    India are in trouble in this series I reckon, and no, I'm not just getting on the bandwagon off the back of one loss. They look really tired after a long season and the Aussies looked a lot hungrier in Pune. One batting collapse can be put down to an aberration but it was the way they folded in the second innings that was much more worrying if you're an Indian fan. If the pitch in Bangalore is flat like in the England series , the Aussies are capable of putting 500 on the board and would fancy their chances with Starc and Hazelwood bowling quick and SOK on a high too.

  • Jose on March 2, 2017, 10:27 GMT

    @Chris_P on March 2, 2017, 8:53 GMT

    In a post, a few weeks ago you helped me out with the Geoff/Rod confusion. Soon enough, I found @Bradmanforever doing the same mistake. That is when (I think) I quoted you, and also cut-copy-pasted from Goeff's profile showing Shaun & Mitch, as his kids.. Also looked at the three lads of Rod at that time. Thanks to you, have no doubt on it anymore.

    RE: Jim Faulkner, I agree with you. I had hopes, about 3 years ago, but no more, especially for your TEST team. In fact on any pitch which may assist seamers, if I have to replace MM, I prefer using Bird, in your current team. Especially after seeing the way Starcy contributes with the bat.

    -

    P.S. After JF had that driving fracas with the traffic police, he had never looked the same. That event may be just coincidence. but couldn't help noticing, though.

  • Peter on March 2, 2017, 8:53 GMT

    @THREEPILLARTALES. Yes Faulkner can bat and bowl, the problem is he neither good enough to be in the top 12 batsmen, let alone in the top 6 & his bowling isn't even close enough to be in our top 10 currently so help me understand why we would need to put someone so far down the pecking order? He may have been the answer in 2013 & 2014 but not now. His state team-mate, Milenko is going better than he is at FC & he isn't even being mentioned. Mitch Marsh being there is a disgrace, & S.Marsh is showing his real failings against spin. I shared with Jose....P about the confusion with Rod/Geoff being the father & mentioned that Rod's son, Daniel had a FC ave of 38 & took over 170 FC wickets and never once was ever mentioned as a contender for national honours (rightly so) , yet he had better figures than the Marsh brothers! Go figure!

  • Jose on March 2, 2017, 7:39 GMT

    @SAMROY on March 2, 2017, 5:59 GMT

    Yes.

    Looking at the trend line from 2015 till date, on our close-in catching, and smoothen it into a slope (of course, it certainly looks a downward slope), I feel crying out loud a la Mark Antony, the great orator:

    "Oh! Great Caesar Fell. Oh, What A Fall Was There, My Countrymen!"

    Just replace the word "Caesar" with "Close-in Catching"!

    And shed a tear or two for Solkar, Surti, Abid Ali. Kunderan et al

    Not to slip the slips, may include Ashar and the like!

    _

    Our dear fielding coach R Sridhar, when you are taking up edging duties. we Indian cricket fans are still on the edge... Hope you succeed, before it is too late,

  • sam on March 2, 2017, 5:59 GMT

    India will not win even in NZ (forget in SA) if they maintain their lackadaisical catching in slips to pacers and close-in to spinners. They might lose in SL this year as well. In 2015 I remember how brilliant their close catching was in SL. They have been beyond horrible this home season. Murali Vijay should not stand anywhere close. He has too many concentration losses.

  • Jose on March 2, 2017, 5:42 GMT

    @Custom_Kid on March 2, 2017, 4:57 GMT

    "...Kohli was out plumb lbw pad before bat that wasn't reviewed when on 7. He cashed in and went on to make a massive 13..."

    -

    Wow! I love that line!

    (... of course, I know, you said it fun.... Yet, let me respond)

    -

    That is really a MASSIVE, HUMONGOUS, ELEPHANTINE gain of 6 runs!

    As good a gain, as a gain of an ever-loved hero of many kids' comic world, over decades, "Sir Popeye", turning his "spinach fed" body by 90 degrees (... huh, let me catch my breath...) and flexing his bugling forearm, with just ONE pull of the ball (further rest for a sec, for poor old me...) for a SIX over the ropes! (huh...!)

    Wow!

    All the Olive Oyl's of the world! You can all line up, wearing glitzy garbs of Cheer-leaders, with fuzzy 'pom-poms', in hand, and dance to your hearts' content, as if there are no more days in your lives to live for! Cheering this modern hero, in flesh and blood...

    {}:-)

  • Peter on March 2, 2017, 5:04 GMT

    Cmon fans of India.... 19 on the trot and you are slamming the team ???? As an aussie, I just have issues with the continued preference with Marsh bros. They cannot cut it consistently at baggy green level for some reason. Faulkner himself can bat n bowl and it allows Usman to take his rightful place.

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