April 12, 2010

Indian Premier League

The IPL has featured breath-taking fielding

Aakash Chopra


Blinders such David Hussey's involve several hours of practice © Indian Premier League
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IPL 2010 may well be about the Mongoose, the inexplicably mammoth fines for slow over-rates, Yuvraj Singh’s incessant form-woes, Sreesanth’s daft flare-up, and other peripherals that have the tendency to become talking points. Yet, there is something about this particular season that reassures me, there is still much cricket left.

Remember that stupendous catch David Hussey took on the boundary line to dismiss Paul Collingwood? Or the one that Doug Bollinger grasped to get rid of the dangerous Yusuf Pathan? And many more such moments of brilliance that strike when you least expect them to. Yes, I am talking about fielding, the one aspect of the game that has been beyond belief during this IPL.

Both these catches were exceptional, involving presence of mind to keep the ball in play, immense core strength to come back into the field of play after stepping out, and above all a lot of practice. While some may dismiss them as flukes, I choose to give credit to the amount of practice involved. Yes, players do practice taking such catches and several other fielding moves in this day and age. While saving runs and taking catches are important in all formats, it is at times, the deciding factor in Twenty20 where the difference between a win and loss is only a few runs.

It’s not only the youngsters who’re raising the bar, seniors are also contributing equally. Remember those sparkling catches by Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid? Dada’s direct-hit to get rid of the hazardous Gautam Gambhir, a quick runner between the wickets, is certainly etched in our minds.

So what has made this turnaround on the field that has made us sit up take notice? Most teams get together only a few days prior to the tournament. There’s only so much a team can do in such a short time. With regards to batting and bowling, it’s mostly about assigning roles to individuals, for if you try to change the way someone plays, there isn’t enough time to imbibe the changes.

The only practical thing that a team can and must do is spend time on getting the fielding right. Last year, at Kolkata Knight Riders, we had spent countless hours in improving our fielding skills: in getting our throws more accurate and getting our slides perfect and even the bare basics such as calling loudly to avoid misunderstandings in the noisy match-situations. Since diving did not come naturally to a lot of players, the coaches had spread mattresses for us to jump on. We were told that at least two players should converge on every ball and try to help each other. We even practiced relay throws in case the situation demanded it. The idea was to cover all grounds with regards to fielding; indeed, every run saved, is a run scored.

Most teams are doing the same this year and the brilliance on the field is an outcome of the efforts put in the practice sessions.

Coming back to Hussey’s and Bollinger’s catches, teams have included that drill in their fielding sessions where you stand next to the rope and try to save the six or catch it, if possible. I saw Jonty Rhodes showing the fielders from Mumbai Indians how to do it. Similarly, Ponting taught us how to line ourselves up while attempting a direct hit. There’s a specific way of throwing which increases the chances of a hitting the stumps. I daresay, Dada might have picked up the basics from him. David Warner would tell his teammates how to cut the angles on the field to cover more ground and also restrict the batsman from taking that all-important extra run.

The IPL has indeed brought together an array of thinking cricketers and coaches. Their attention to detail is what makes them brilliant in specific deartments and they’re happily sharing it with others.

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by What on (April 12, 2010, 13:22 GMT)

baseball balls are bigger and they have gloves on, what do you guys actually mean when saying baseball fielding standards are higher..

Posted by kp on (April 12, 2010, 13:18 GMT)

@ aps"Except Rahul none of them is famous for their athletism" r u joking????

Posted by Vim on (April 12, 2010, 13:17 GMT)

The fielding hasn't been bad that I have noticed, but I have mainly watched Deccan matches. And at times they have looked extremely professional in the field, getting the small things right.

Posted by MB on (April 12, 2010, 13:15 GMT)

What is Aakash talking about, I would say for every one brilliant catch that Dravid or Kumble take, they also leak a lot. I have seen the likes of Zaheer, Bhajji, and many younger Indian players who cant field well. I think they are just slow and lazy and reluctant to see fielding as a part of the game.

Posted by Radix on (April 12, 2010, 13:10 GMT)

I think cricket's fielding skills are not given enough credit when people claim baseball is superior. I mean, when a shortstop or other baseballer is throwing to first base to get an 'out', he only needs to hit his team-mate, who can stretch as far as he likes once his foot is on the base. Many of these throws in cricket would be considered 'wayward'. No doubt, baseball fielding is excellent but the quality of fielding in cricket is equally brilliant.

Posted by prasad on (April 12, 2010, 12:22 GMT)

the fielding in ipl matches is really good, however a lot matches are played, hence the number of dropped catched tend to appear in big number

Posted by Vipul on (April 12, 2010, 11:48 GMT)

Hello Akash, I can perfectly imagine that KKR and indeed other teams have spent a significant portion of their practice time on the fielding aspect. Could you please throw some light on why we are yet to see those efforts translated into results? I agree, the fielding has improved but KKR was guilty of some poor fielding and yesterday, Aditya Dole just dropped RR's chance of a semis berth. I am putting this question to you as you are one of the very few who have been in the thick of things until very recently and more importantly, you can communicate your thoughts really well. Also, while we are on catching, could you please inform L Siva not to describe any catch as Kamaal catch and that we have gathered enough trivia about MRF and its blip already? They can probably choose to remain quiet when that balloon is being shown on the TV.

Thanks, Vipul

Posted by Jay on (April 12, 2010, 11:33 GMT)

Some have criticized the comparison with baseball, but arguably one of the reasons for Australia's fine fielding standards is its use of Mike Young, a baseball fielding coach. It is imperative that fielding is regarded and rewarded on a par with bowling and batting instead of being handled in a patronizing manner. As long as batting reigns supreme,bowling is a distant second, and fielding a poor cousin, cricket will never make it in countries like the US and China where very high standards are demanded in all forms of athletic endeavour.

Posted by Jason Harcourt on (April 12, 2010, 11:13 GMT)

Spinoza is right - the Hussey catch was actually illegal under the Laws of Cricket. Having seen bits of the IPL on TV, I've generally found the standard of fielding to be pretty poor.

Posted by Basavraj hebbal on (April 12, 2010, 10:20 GMT)

Ab catch was brillient and Bolli catch to dismiss dangerous Pathan was outstanding.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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