India in Australia 2007-08 January 21, 2008

Robin defends rotation in the field

India have not been averse to trying out different combinations in the slips during the ongoing Test series © AFP

One of the features of the first three Tests in Australia has been India's constant changing of their slip cordon and close-in fielders in front of the batsman. Throughout the games Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Wasim Jaffer have often switched positions in the slips.

Robin Singh, India's fielding coach, revealed the logic behind shuffling around the close-in fielders and trying to put senior players close in when the new batsman walks in. He also admitted that a young one-day side selected for the forthcoming CB Series would field with a higher intensity.

"We have been working on certain things," Robin said after arriving in Adelaide for the final Test. "Sometimes it's difficult for some guy to stand at short leg for the whole day, especially when Anil Kumble is bowling. We don't really want to miss a catch.

"Fielding has a lot to do with experience as well. Sometimes a younger guy may not know where to stand. He may not be able to gauge the bounce and pace of wicket. VVS [Laxman] and Rahul [Dravid] have played a lot with Anil [Kumble]- for the zones and states. Sachin [Tendulkar] has played a lot with Anil. Sometimes it makes sense to have stalwarts of the game in the opponents' face. They [Australia] were really under pressure in this game and at any given point of time, with these guys who have done well and their confidence behind them, it definitely makes an impact. You see Ricky Ponting goes and stands at silly point. He need not stand there but sometimes I think it's done for effect. And it really puts pressure on a new guy that comes in."

Even at practice India have been trying out different combinations in the slips, with players switching positions in every session. "VVS has put his hand up, Sourav [Ganguly] has too," he said. "I spoke to him and said, 'Why don't you have a go'. Sometimes when the game is tight you want senior guys at your opponents' face. I think Sourav did that well last game.

"Sachin has been available to stand in the slips and Rahul is our best fielder against Kumble. You try and juggle these guys around. Wasim [Jaffer], in fact, has been working a lot in the slips. I'm working on RP [Singh] too because I think he can be a really good slip fielder. What we need to focus on is ground fielding. Grounds are really big and we don't have the strongest arms. Sydney game and Perth game, even first innings and second innings, things were different. At least we have noticed the effort from everyone."

India's one-day squad, though, consists of a bunch of youngsters and can be expected to be a far better fielding unit. Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman were left out and Tendulkar will be the only member of the side on the other side of 30.

Robin, while admitting it was an advantage, preferred to look at the pros and cons. "You can look at it both ways. If you take the senior guys and the batting experience they have, it's a big asset in Australian conditions. It's a question of how you want to go ahead.

"The younger guys are better fielders and easier to work with but senior guys are thorough professionals too, Sourav for example is somebody who's done exceptionally well along with Sachin. Definitely his experience is going to make a huge difference. But people have to fill the gaps. It's a balancing act and somewhere along the line you have to see how to go forward."

Ganguly's omission has been a major talking point in India but Lalchand Rajput, India's assistant coach, didn't think it would distract the team from the job at hand. "All these guys are professional cricketers who will focus on the game rather than what's happening outside," he said. "At the moment they're concentrating on the Test series and not looking ahead to the one-dayers. It's a very, very important game for us and we're focussing on the upcoming Test."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo