India’s biggest concern post the retirement of Dravid and Laxman are the fielders inability to field in slips. It has let down India and proved to be costly after shelling catches in slips. After trying out many options, India has found a formidable slip catcher Ajinkya Rahane who is now a record holder for taking 8 catches in a Test.
Indian team’s fielding coach- spoke to TOI on how the team management treats fielding as a primary skill and on the players who stood out on the field in the just-concluded India-Sri Lanka Test series.
What were the high points for you with regard to fielding at the Lanka series?
The close-in catching was superb apart from a few which went down and that happens with any team. We converted over 95% of the chances which I think was commendable. We have also been consistent with our pick up and throws and maintained the pressure on their batsmen.
Are we looking at a side that takes fielding as a primary skill set much like batting or bowling?
Absolutely. This is something that both skipper Virat Kohli and team director Ravi Shastri thoroughly believe in. Virat walks the talk when it comes to fielding. He brings in a lot of awareness and intensity on to the field which has definitely rubbed off on other players in the team. As a team, we wanted to ensure that the opposition knows we are there not just to stop the ball, but to create chances.
Have you developed triggers for players in the team?
The most important thing we spoke about before this series was to ‘be in the now’. Test matches are such that there will be periods when you won’t get a ball to field or catch. That is the time when it is human for the mind to wander and it happens to every single individual who plays this game. So, we focused on staying ‘in the now’ and not let the mind off. We developed triggers which would cater to each player individually, where he would want the ball to come rather than expect it.
Must you have been delighted to see Ajinkya Rahane come up with that kind of show on the field?
What more can a coaching unit ask for than a player etching his name in the record books? Rahane is one of the complete fielders in world cricket today. He is excellent on the outfield and is fantastic at close-in catching. He has got a demeanour that suits close-in catching.
best. Another player who worked very hard on his fielding on this tour was Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He pushed himself to get his fielding technique better.
Could you elaborate on what are the requirements of a close-in catching fielder?
Rahane has dollops of concentration, is quick to react and stays calm which are the qualities needed to be a close-in fielder. Even God could come, stand at the slips and drop a catch, but not Rahane.
How do you address a particular player when he drops a catch?
The most important thing for a batsman, bowler or a fielder is to recover from a mistake. If you see, there were some excellent recoveries on the field, especially by Rahane. He dropped a difficult chance of Kumar Sangakkara at slips during the second Test but came back six overs later to take a one-handed catch which was fantastic to watch. It shows mental toughness of the player. We do recovery from error using positive talk, positive feedback and some pep talk so that the recovery is good.
Who is the best fielder among the current lot of the Indian players?
It’s like asking a mother who her favorite son is! Each player brings something to the table. Some bring in aggression, others bring calmness and so on.
Has there been any player who surprised you with his fielding abilities during the series?
Amit Mishra. He gave his 100% on the field. He was willing to put his body on the line to save every run and gave his