Cheteshwar Pujara talks about India’s failure in the slips and what future plans the team has for bettering their slip catching
India has played some amazing cricket in the last one year. They have beaten all the nations in some of the other formats and their Test performance particularly, has been their best ever. Under Kohli, India now has won consecutive 9 series in the span of 2 years, which is a world record, a first time for the Indians.
Pujara has always been a brilliant batsman and has shown it by becoming the highest run scorer in Test Cricket in 2017. While the bowling has also been outstanding with Ashwin becoming the highest wicket taker in 2017.India has also not dropped any outfield catches and the only problem left is the slip catching.
In the 3rd Test against Sri Lanka, India dropped 3 catches in the slip cordon. Dilruwan Perera opened the innings as Sadeera Samarawickrama was injured and He was dropped on 16 by Shikhar Dhawan. He went on to add another 26 runs, while in the first innings, Mathews was let off a couple of times by Virat Kohli [when on 6] and Rohit Sharma [when on 98].
Angelo Mathews somehow reached a fighting century after 2 years. His innings restricted the Sri Lankans from panicking and gave Chandimal the time to settle. Their partnership helped them to avoid the follow-on. After the match ended, Pujara said, “[It is a] difficult question to answer as I don’t know technically what is going wrong.
I do agree that we haven’t taken enough catches, we are working hard. To be honest, we put in a lot of hard work in our fielding, especially we know catching is very important. All players standing in the slips are taking 50 to 100 catches. So we are trying to improve ourselves and eventually, results will come.”
Indian Cricket Team pose for a group picture after winning the series by 1-0!
— Virat Kohli Fan Club (@TeamVirat) December 6, 2017
Many fielders have been tried in the slips
Another thing to notice is that all the catches were dropped by different fielders but at the same fielding position. This also shows that India doesn’t have a fixed fielder in the slips. On different players in the slips, he said, “To be honest, we haven’t fielded well [in the slips] and I would accept that. At the same time, there have been injuries where openers have missed out.
Someone like Murali Vijay, who used to be at first slip didn’t play due to injury, he didn’t play cricket for 6 months. So we had to replace Vijay with someone. So there have been occasions, where batsmen have got injured and we had to replace [the slip fielder] with some other player.
We haven’t taken many catches but we will definitely get better at it. Overall, the Indian team has improved as a fielding unit but slip fielding is something we are still looking to improve.”
Ajinkya Rahane not standing in the slips
If so many players were tried in the slip cordon, there was a big question that why does not Ajinkya Rahane, who is in the slips for the spinners, tried for the fast bowlers.
“When we’re talking about defining a fielding position, Ajinkya has been fielding at gully for quite a long time. We don’t want to disturb him from there. And the way he’s fielding when the spinners are bowling, he is anyway at slips. He is set, we can’t keep on changing fielders. When he’s at gully, he knows the angles, he has the idea of where to stay when he starts fielding at gully,” Pujara said.
“We are having a chat about it [slip fielding woes] and we will assign a few players, throughout the away series. We will prepare a few players who will be standing at the slips. We will discuss when we reach SA but we are already talking about that,” he added.
Author’s take :
India cannot afford to drop catches in the slips in South Africa. Both the teams are evenly matched in batting and bowling potential. The series may well be decided by the fielding, especially catching.
Also, the catches come about waist high in South Africa, as compared to ankle high in the subcontinent. This is another adjustment they will have to make. Pujara, Rahane and Vijay should be standing in 1st, 2nd and 3rd slip and Rohit Sharma can take Rahane’s current gully position as he is another terrific fielder.