Nottingham: India have had two all-round victories in both their completed games, with the batting and bowling looking in dominant form. An underrated aspect of their victories in both games was their fielding, which too has played key roles in India being in the top half of the points table.
Against South Africa, India’s fielders set the tone when Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli picked two crucial catches in slips to dismiss Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock respectively off Jasprit Bumrah. Against Australia in the next game, a brilliant piece of work from Kedar Jadhav to run out Aaron Finch changed the course of the chase after Australia had a solid start.
R Sridhar, the fielding coach, said India have plenty of good fielders, or ‘usual suspects’, but also pointed to the attitude of bowlers like Yuzvendra Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah for the fielding revolution.
“I’m very happy with the kind of resources I have. We have a terrific slip catcher in Rohit, and we have two guys, Virat and (Ravindra) Jadeja, who are very intimidating to the opposition," said Sridhar after the washout against New Zealand in Nottingham. “They can intimidate any batsman, and they are prowling in the 30-yard range. To complement that, we have a player in Hardik Pandya, who can really help when needed. We have safe catchers in our fast bowlers.
“These are all the usual suspects, but we saw Chahal and Bumrah crack it up in the last game, diving after bowling long spells. We were in the penultimate ball of the inning, diving and stopping runs. The biggest thing that came out to me was the attitude of the fielders, where they put the team ahead of themselves. They’re willing to risk injuries to save that one run, which is a great quality to have. These are the qualities which you need when you want to go out and win championships. This really came out in the last game, and that was good to see. So I think the biggest challenge is to stay consistent. To reduce the time between the good days and bad days. That is integral.
“We’ve got a leadup to this tournament to work with Chahal, Bumrah, Kedar, guys like these, who are willing to work really hard and to work on their skills. Bumrah is probably one of the hardest workers as far as fielding goes. From when he joined the team in 2016 to what he is now, he’s a massive improvement, although still a work in progress, but a massive improvement."
Sridhar, though, pointed to one area of improvement - direct hits. While India did get a couple of run outs in the game against Australia, they also missed a couple of direct hit opportunities.
“It is something which I have my eye on as well, and we practice a lot for that," he said. “I would say converting, whether it’s a run-out or not, converting one in three or four throws is a good conversion rate, in my opinion. Don’t judge me on that opinion, but in my opinion, picking up one out of four, you’re doing a good job as a fielding unit, but we failed to do that in the last game. We had over ten strikes, and we hit only once. On some days we hit three out of five. It’s a practice thing and a system best thing, but that is one area we work hard on in every session."
Sridhar said India are willing to have a shy at the stumps and ‘be aggressive’ with their throws, even if there might not always be a chance for a run-out or lead to overthrows. It was evident in India’s game against Australia, when the umpires repeatedly asked India’s fielders not to throw on the bounce. India were perhaps doing it for reverse swing, but Sridhar said the throws are a part of ‘the kind of cricket’ they play.
“If there is an opportunity, we encourage the respective fielder to go for the stumps because we believe that his teammate will have his back, by backing up the throw," explained Sridhar. “Sometimes it happens, and very rarely it doesn’t happen. So we encourage fielders to create an opportunity where none exists. We encourage fielders to try and convert an opportunity which they have created. So that is a rule we would like to take as a fielding unit, to be more on the aggressive side, and we all know where it comes from. It comes from the captain himself.
“So that is the kind of cricket we want to play. There is a brand of cricket we want to play as a fielding unit, so we encourage that. And in the bargain, we lose one here or there, it doesn’t matter because on a good day we pull off two or three brilliant run-outs. Also, if you keep throwing at the stumps, it keeps your shoulder warm in conditions like this. If you don’t throw and suddenly you get a chance for a run-out, your throw may not hit. So these various factors are involved."
Sridhar also explained that Shikhar Dhawan, who is out for 10-12 days at least with a finger injury, will be assessed for fielding before a final call is made on his availabilty.
“Once we assess him, probably on 10th or 12th day… it’s his bottom hand while batting. It’s not his dominant hand because he is a right-hander (while fielding)," said Sridhar.
“Throwing wouldn’t be a problem but definitely the impact while fielding and catching - he fields in the slips initially - could be an issue. We have to test him out with some lighter balls first and then gradually move on to the cricket ball. That will be a challenge."