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Peter English in Brisbane
February 4, 2008
Cricketers rely on "feel" and Australia's catching is currently badly out of touch. During the Test series against India the cordon was under-performing and the problems continued in the opening match of the CB Series when two edges were grassed in the same Mitchell Johnson over.
The Australians are convinced there is not a problem with the amount or quality of their training, but there has been a recent addition to their methods. International teams have started wearing black, fingerless gloves to soften the impact of the repetition and most of the local players have been using them in the lead-up to matches.
Michael Hussey is a fine fielder who has had some troubles over the past couple of weeks - he missed a reasonably comfortable offering at second slip off Gautam Gambhir on Sunday night - and is open to the idea that the accessory can reduce a player's feel for the ball. "Maybe a little bit," he said. "We practise very hard and we do a lot of catching as part of that.
"You do build up some hotspots on your hands. If you do have hotspots and you favour a certain hand, then you are practising with the wrong technique. That's probably one of the reasons why we use the gloves, so we can protect our hands and practise the right technique."
Australia's previously exceptional standards have lowered since the exit of Shane Warne from first slip and in the subsequent restructuring a number of players are in unfamiliar international positions. Hussey, who spent much of his time in the gully after Matthew Hayden's move to Warne's old spot, was standing at second slip on Sunday night beside Ricky Ponting, who also spilled a tough chance off Gambhir, and Adam Gilchrist.
Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds had unsuccessful stints next to Gilchrist during the Test series when a trend that started in Perth grew worse when eight - including some extremely difficult ones - were put down in the final game in Adelaide. Gilchrist's drop of VVS Laxman convinced him it was time to retire.
Under John Buchanan's old guidelines the team wanted to catch 50% of one-handed diving takes, but that figure has been well out of reach. "It's been a bit disappointing, I must admit," Hussey said. "It's not something we're panicking about because we work that hard on our catching.
"The guys in those positions have pretty good hands, I think it's just a case that we've had a bit of a change and we're in new positions. It just takes a little bit of time."
However, Hussey said the players fielded regularly in those spots during their state careers. "So they should be comfortable," he said. "We are continuing to practice hard and will hopefully we become better at it."
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