Posts Tagged ‘Gambhir’

India’s Fielding; never learning from past mistakes

August 10, 2008

Robin Singh, India’s fielding coach, sent a report to the BCCI assessing the players’ fielding skills after a five one-day international series against Pakistan in November last year. It praised a couple players’ throwing arms, spoke of others’ poor agility, and lamented the concentration and commitment of a few, but there was almost one strand tying Robin’s observations together: the need to improve anticipation and technique.

After another poor day in the field, you have to wonder what has happened since November 2007. At the SSC, where India lost by an innings and 239 runs, Mahela Jayawardene was dropped by wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik on 55 and 93 and Thilan Samaraweera was dropped by Gautam Gambhir at short leg on 53. Matters weren’t much better in Galle, where Karthik and Gambhir were the culprits again.

Today India refused to learn from their mistakes. Close-in fielders repeatedly reacted too late or too early, flat-footed rookies and veterans tripped over balls and failed to reach down in time, Harbhajan Singh kicked a ball away in frustration only to allow a single, and Parthiv Patel missed a stumping.

Sri Lanka meanwhile struck the first blow with a sharp catch off Virender Sehwag by Thilan Samaraweera at gully; then they hammered in the final nail when Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps wary of three lurking close catchers, padded up to Ajantha Mendis late in the day. It was in stark contrast with India’s attempt to apply pressure.

Anil Kumble began the day with three short legs in, one behind the wicket and two in front. In the third over of the day Gambhir stood up too early instead of crouching in anticipation and saw the ball fly past. Then Karthik reacted too soon and couldn’t dive to reach a catch in time. India cannot expect to win consistently unless half chances are regularly converted.

Throughout the first session, Prasanna Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara worked singles past three short legs, especially between the first of the forward short legs and backward short leg fielder. And when Kumble called his fielders in to try and prevent the single off the last ball of the 98th over, they were slow to react. Four balls later Pragyan Ojha, one of three substitutes, made a mess of a stop at backward point and allowed three, much to Kumble’s fury.

India also missed two run-out chances: Sangakkara turned down a single to sell Prasanna down the river, but Rohit Sharma returned a wayward throw to Parthiv. Run-outs don’t come easier than that. In the 129th over Mendis pushed the ball towards Sourav Ganguly at mid-on, Parthiv screamed for the return to the non-striker’s end, but Ganguly missed the stumps with Dammika Prasad out of the frame. Rohit later mis-fielded and allowed two runs and received a nasty glare from Kumble. To cap it off, Parthiv missed a regulation stumping down the leg side off Kumble.

To makes things worse the fielders weren’t helped by their bowlers. With six men on the off side, Harbhajan bowled far too many deliveries on the pads. And kicking the ball, only to concede an overthrow, is unacceptable behaviour. Zaheer Khan did the same during a one-day match in England last summer after a catch had gone down off Matt Prior. At mid-off Kumble could only shake his head.

For the most part of this series Sri Lanka have been disciplined, sharp and athletic; Tillakaratne Dilshan and Prasanna have epitomised this. Dilshan has been outstanding, diving around at forward short leg, leg slip, backward square leg. Even late in the day, three wickets down, he wasn’t complacent, flinging a hand out to stop a single off the pads. In comparison Gambhir and Karthik, who repeatedly stood up near the bat instead of crouching low, allowed easy singles.

Karthik and Parthiv have fumbled regulation takes. Rated India’s best wicketkeeper and one of the better in-fielders, Karthik’s display this series has been substandard. Parthiv has improved marginally since 2004.

Sri Lanka’s infielders dove around and cut off singles while India’s struggled. While Mendis and Chaminda Vaas, newbie and old hand alike, returned throws into the wicketkeeper’s gloves, Ojha and Ganguly had a hard time getting it in on one bounce from the outfield. There was no discipline or ruthlessness from India, who seemed wilted to the extent that they hardly ever touched the stumps.

Reflexes and anticipation are key elements of a good close-in fielder and India haven’t had one since Aakash Chopra’s vigil at the position. Memories of Chopra’s batting may not evoke a smile, but his fielding was top notch. Among his better ones are, his catch off Anil Kumble’s bowling to get Adam Gilchrist in Mumbai in 2001, his brilliant one-handed effort to get Abdul Razzaq at Multan in 2004, when Pakistan trailed by 162 runs, and his catch at forward short leg off a Justin Langer pull in the Australian series of 2003-04, which was unfortunately a no-ball.

Chopra created half-chances, and in Tests that counts for a lot. India soon need to find another such fielder, for they have struggled to create half-chances and take the ones that were there to held. Instead of reports, the BCCI should asses the ground realities.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi

India in strong position after play stops for bad light

August 2, 2008

Heavy attrition was followed by heavy artillery in the first two sessions of play, and India walked away with the honours from both: Anil Kumble came up with a special two-wicket over ten minutes before lunch, ending a resolute period of defiance by Mahela Jayawardene; and Virender Sehwag hurt Sri Lanka with a characteristic fifty – his first in a match in which he had scored a century already. Despite Jayawardene’s calm innings, and the fall of Sehwag’s wicket against the run of play, India looked like moving towards a comfortable lead on a pitch that should be at its worst in the fourth innings.

After India had secured a 37-run lead in the first innings, Sehwag continued from where he had left: hitting the first ball he faced for a boundary. Nuwan Kulasekara got a repeat dose four times in his four overs. Muttiah Muralitharan, introduced in the sixth over, was swept for four in his first over and a six in his second. Ajantha Mendis, brought on in the 17th over – the latest he has been introduced in his two Tests so far – was cut for a four in his second over. Only Chaminda Vaas, who was faced mostly by Gautam Gambhir, escaped the treatment. And finally, when Sehwag thrashed a wide ball from Vaas towards extra cover, Tillakaratne Dilshan held on to a special catch: it was fast, it was high, and Dilshan was at short cover.

Gambhir, meanwhile, who had made a slow start, quietly took the front seat: he had scored two runs off 20 when Sehwag had 22 off 15, but when Sehwag got out for 50, Gambhir had 39 off 65. His handling of Murali was exceptional: no more getting suckered out of the crease, he was almost always right to the pitch of the ball. He slog-swept Murali, cover-drove him, and then charged him straight down to reach his second fifty of the match – another first, as with Sehwag.

The first session was slow by contrast, but just as intense and gripping as the others, and perhaps much more crucial. Almost every over – before Mahela started farming strike following a double-strike – featured a loud shout, an edge that fell short, or a sharp spinning delivery that missed everything. Kumble and Harbhajan bowled 24 successive overs in tandem, and but for a three-over spell by Ishant Sharma in the final session yesterday, bowled 68 overs at a stretch. Harbhajan took his unbroken spell to 37 overs, and after he was finally taken off, returned immediately to bowl from the other end.

Jayawardene, despite back-to-back wickets for Kumble and Harbhajan, kept Sri Lanka in the game. He was unaffected by the spinning ball, the variations in the bowling, and all else that happened around him. There were no free runs on offer; but he was assured enough to not try to hit himself out of the situation. He managed a total of five boundaries in the session – Malinda Warnapura had hit four in one over yesterday. And once Prasanna and Vaas fell in consecutive overs, two things happened for Sri Lanka that haven’t happened in tandem for India: Jayawardene farmed the strike adroitly; and Kulasekara gave solid support to his captain, facing the few deliveries he needed to with aplomb. In sharp contrast, in the first Test, Laxman failed to keep the strike to himself; in the second, when Virender Sehwag farmed it, he got zero support from the tail.

The only quarter Sri Lanka received from India came from the close-in fielding. Gambhir, who let a half-chance go yesterday, couldn’t hold on to a similar offering from Prasanna early in the day. And when Jayawardene, anxious to shield Kulasekara, went for an unwise single off the last ball of the 79th over, Gambhir – at short square leg – failed to gather the ball as it came off a slightly bad bounce.

In keeping with the narrative of the match till then, just when Sri Lanka seemed to have got themselves the upper hand, another turnaround followed, with Kumble making his first impact of the series. Jayawardene, 14 short of a deserved century, edged Kumble to Dinesh Karthik, and the game was back in the balance. Although Jayawardene and Kulasekara frustrated India for 17.1 overs, India had managed to keep the partnership down to 36 runs. Kumble and Harbhajan then proceeded to remove the next two – taking the last three wickets in seven balls – to get the lead, which on this pitch will surely be bigger than the number it consists of.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi