Fielding April 6, 2009

India's finest slip fielder

Mohammad Azharuddin will rank as the greatest all-round Indian fielder, and he was quite brilliant in the slips, but as a specialist and for sheer longevity, Dravid stands alone

Now I believe that everything happens for a reason. So despite waking up at 4am and getting to the airport well in time I have missed my flight to Chennai for a reason so silly that I can't bring myself to own it up in public. But what makes the misery bearable is that it ensured I didn't miss Rahul Dravid's record-breaking catch. I didn't want to miss it, though I always feared I would.

I remember telling him jokingly before the series that if he wanted his countrymen to watch him break the record he better make sure that it came after lunch, or better still in the final session. Of course I have been up to see the first session on most days and I saw him take the first catch of the series, in the seventh over of the first morning's play on March 18, but the next one has taken some time to come. But when I left home in the morning just after India declared, I had a feeling that I would miss it.

And despite sitting in front of the TV in the airport lounge I almost did; had I got up in time to catch my flight, I certainly would have. It was just in time that I shifted my attention from the laptop to watch Zaheer Khan induce the edge from Tim McIntosh and Dravid go down to his left at second slip to pick the ball few inches from the ground. It was a good catch, not spectacular, but not as easy as Dravid made it look. It was a result of what makes Dravid such a good slipper: good anticipation, swift movement, perfect timing, and soft hands.

Dravid has spent a lifetime in Sachin Tendulkar's shadow and the big batting records - centuries, number of runs scored - were never going to be his, but he is quite on his own in the slips. Mohammad Azharuddin will rank as the greatest all-round Indian fielder, and he was quite brilliant in the slips, but as a specialist and for sheer longevity, Dravid stands alone. Sunil Gavaskar was pretty good at first slip too, but I reckon Dravid has taken more difficult catches, and made them look easy.

There are many theories about what makes top-order batsmen such good slip fielders - Bob Simpson, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor, and Mahela Jayawerdene are the names that spring to mind immediately - but perhaps the ability to concentrate for long periods is the most accurate. But like everything else in cricket, slip catching requires good technique and lots of practice. Mark Waugh, whose record Dravid has broken, took far more spectacular catches and he was superb in the outfield too, but what has marked Dravid out is his catching off spinners, an art in itself. It requires standing closer, reading the bowler and anticipating the batsman's response. In the recent years, Dravid has sometimes moved away from the slips against the quicker bowlers, but Anil Kumble would have none other.

I can't afford to miss the second flight of the morning, so I will wind up with my favourite Dravid catch. It came in Adelaide in 2003, in what must count as his finest Test. In the first innings he rescued India from 85 for 4 with a double-hundred, and stayed unbeaten in the second to see his team through to the unlikeliest of Test wins, but his catching was sensational too. Sachin Tendulkar took two wickets in the Australian second innings that began the collapse, and Dravid caught them both. The more spectacular one by far was the one that dismissed Damien Martyn, who drove hard, edged, and Dravid, who had very little time to react, flung himself to his right to bring off a spectacular one-handed catch.

This record is likely to stay with him for a while. At the average rate for catches, the men behind him, Ponting, Kallis and Jayawardene, will need about three years to catch up, and given how well he has played in this series, Dravid, if he chooses to, still has a season or two left in him.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on July 3, 2010, 12:37 GMT

    Rahul Dravid is a man of immense determination , patience and controlled aggression, an epitomy of calm perseverance.

  • testli5504537 on August 27, 2009, 13:58 GMT

    congrats RAHUL !!!!!!! for this great achievement. i hope you will play till 2011 and lift the world cup for india..all the best "THE GREAT WALL OF INDIA"

  • testli5504537 on June 20, 2009, 6:22 GMT

    It has been a wonder & mystery as why Dravid is not in the ODI squad now and has been ignored from September 2007. The form & class and not the age should be the criteria for a player to get a chance. Just because one is 20 yrs old and lloks well built, you can't add him in the squad in place of a proven champion & legend. Kumble was consistently overlooked and disrespected through out his career and now it's Dravid just because he is old? Shameful!!! Jayasurya still plays. Hayden,Lara,W Akram, Warne all played till they were in prime form. Dravid's last 15 ODI scores-74,2,36,10*,46,92*,56,1,24,4,0,DNB,31,0,13,0,7. Do these scores deserve elimination from squad for 2 yrs.? Could u just get anybody like him now in India to anchor the innings & rotate the strike so easily? The young gen doesn't know what is rotating strikes at all.One of them tries to hit only 6s and other hits hard to long on & off only.It seems the list of legendary players in India will end with Sachin & Dravid era..

  • testli5504537 on June 17, 2009, 4:09 GMT

    No one cant forget his great contribution to India. Especially his contribution worked at the lacking areas. After azharuddin left, dravid took the responsibility for slip postion and proved as one of the best fielder in slip ever. And after Gundappa viswanath, india dont have a strong batsman to stand and rotate strike in slog overs, Dravid filled that place exactly than any other player for more than a decade.

  • testli5504537 on April 27, 2009, 20:37 GMT

    Kudos to Rahul Dravid on his achievement. He has prooved his worth in all parts of the Indian cricket team.

  • testli5504537 on April 12, 2009, 16:47 GMT

    it is indeed a gr8 achievement as indians are traditionally not know to excel in the fielding dept although v hv hd ppl lyk gavaskr, azhar, sachin being vry sfe in the slip.hopefull y in the future, v will have a indian who has achieved the most number of run ots. and i feel that standing at slip wud defintely help in batting later as you get the birds eye view of the pitch cnditions and also gr8 batsmen hv bn gud slip fielders. kudos 2 the wall of batting nd fielding rahul dravid

  • testli5504537 on April 11, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    I felt really very happy to see so many positive comments on Dravid's feat. He is definitely one of the few people whom I would recommend as a role model for my daughter. Actually he should be a chapter in the 'life skills' textbook for school children. His humility, hard work and determination are qualities that everyone should try to emulate. Hope he scores a double century in catching too.

  • testli5504537 on April 10, 2009, 17:39 GMT

    Its a honour to Indian Cricket......

  • testli5504537 on April 7, 2009, 18:16 GMT

    Congrats Rahul and Thank you for allowing me to enjoy watching great Cricketer like you. You are a role model in all respect.I'm very happy to see your new record and form in NZ. India needs you for couple of more years. Your involvemnet in highest number of century partnerships says it all. WALL is back... only stronger!!

  • testli5504537 on April 7, 2009, 13:51 GMT

    I would be lying if if i said i was merely happy for dravid breaking the record- because, I am in fact THRILLED!! He is player with so much class and style as a batsman and also a slip fielder. Dravid has indeed been 'shadowed' by the Indian Greats of Cricket, which is a pity, but credit should be given where it is due-CONGRATULATIONS DRAVID!!Here's one for you!!! I hope you continue to be the marvelous player that you always are, and may you break further records!! Cheers 'Jammy' aka 'The Wall'!!

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