India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 4th day August 26, 2012

India's fielding set to play bigger role

India may have lost years of slip-fielding experience with Dravid and Laxman's departure, but younger players promise new energy

No Dravid, no Laxman. Apart from all those runs, 'who will catch 'em in the slips now' was the question before this series started. On the evidence of the Hyderabad Test, Virender Sehwag has over the years, and will continue to catch 'em, with the addition of Virat Kohli. And yes, as an inevitable by-product of having two young men replace two not-so-young men, India's fielding will have more energy, and will play a bigger role in the game.

India caught almost everything that came their way, barring a tough chance put down at second slip by Kohli off Martin Guptill's edge in New Zealand's second innings. It was a somewhat difficult pitch for close-in men. There was variable bounce; some edges would carry, some would not. It was also a slow wicket; many catches went low. But India's new group of close-in fielders passed this test.

"I thought there were a couple of very good catches that were pulled out," R Ashwin, five of whose 12 wickets came off close-in catches, said. "As a spinner, you know when catches are being taken, it puts the batsmen under a lot of pressure and it's definitely something you relish as a spinner. I thought it was a terrific catch by Sehwag to dismiss [James] Franklin. That's the kind of support you expect. From three wickets, I could push on to five wickets and close out the game today. So it makes a difference."

Sehwag was outstanding at first slip, where he stood in place of Dravid, the man with the most field catches in Test history. Sehwag and Dravid were at opposite ends in their approach to batting; the difference carries over into standing in the slips as well. Dravid was all focus; till the very last moment, Sehwag would appear as if he is standing at fine leg. He would roll his wrists, crack a joke, smile broadly, he would even acknowledge the crowd chanting his name with a back-waving gesture. Just as the ball is about to be delivered though, he will put his hands on his knees and concentrate. And pull off stunners like the one against Franklin, when he dived one-handed to his right to snap up a thin edge which had nearly brushed the keeper's gloves.

Kohli exudes intent even when he walks down for the presentation; so it was to be expected that he would stand in the slips and at backward short leg as if that was what he had wanted to do. All three of his close catches were sharp, low chances. The first two were at backward short leg, a difficult position because of the angle and visibility. Kohli's reactions were as sharp and quick as the chances. He stands with feet wide apart, arches forward markedly with his back almost horizontal to the ground and remains very still. India have a new asset around the bat. Suresh Raina was the third man in the slip cordon, but he wasn't tested. We already know his value in the inner ring; hopefully for India, he can carry that value into the slips.

Another young man, Cheteshwar Pujara, stood at forward short leg. And dived around to stop the ball from passing him. Pujara got hit by a Kane Williamson pull and had to leave the field. In came another young man, Ajinkya Rahane, and dived around at the same position. He was to get hit as well later, but carried on after treatment.

India saved numerous singles and cut down potential threes into twos and twos into ones with energetic chasing and sliding throughout their time on the field. That adds considerably to the pressure on the batting side. With Sehwag set to spend almost all his time on the field in the slips now, and Sachin Tendulkar as effective and enthusiastic as a 39-year old can be, India have only Zaheer Khan and Ashwin as the slow men in this XI. Even more encouraging is the strong possibility that all these young fielders could prove to be as effective wherever they are used; whether on the boundary, in the ring, or close to the bat. The future is here, and it is looking good.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ut4me87 on August 28, 2012, 7:10 GMT

    Spinners need help from close fielders. Pras, Bedi, Chandra had Solkar, Abid Ali and Wadekar and sometimes Venkat to hold on to some of the fantastic catches ever seen. Are Kholi, Sehwag, Pujara in the same class of fielders of yester years?

  • Satish on August 28, 2012, 6:23 GMT

    Well.. Not every bowler is a good fielder.. Ash is slow for sure.. And not a great runner in between wickets.. But still, he is ok.. I think it is the responsibility of his partner to respect his slowness and run accordingly.. I would rather equate Ashwin as a runner and fielder to the great dada or Kumble.. Just safe fielders who doesn't miss catches but still, allows 2's/3's.. Given his age, he always has the chance to improve..

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2012, 6:21 GMT

    @vinoth Last time I saw sachin field he was running faster than most of the team members. His throws from boundary had power. And he had not given up on fielding when opposition was just making merry. And the last time was not that long ago. It was in Australia 2011-12. unlike others who were standing and sulking n letting the opposition score. Sachin was still running all over the place to save every run.

  • Conrad on August 28, 2012, 2:34 GMT

    If Ashwin is a bit slower in the outfield than others, but can bowl 6 on the dot, take the odd catch that comes his way, turn and flight effectively, pick up five wicket bags consistently, slap the odd fifty, he's good enough to start in the team..Even if he just plays the home series. You can't deny what is in the scorebook at the end of the day.

  • Naresh on August 27, 2012, 23:52 GMT

    Rohit and Ashwin need to work on their fitness. The paunch at their age is not good. Rohit is talented - as stated by Greg Chappell years ago. Its just that he is not looking at his body shape. Ashwin bats well ,but is slow in the field. If he dreams of playing long for India he needs to address this problem. Khan and Sachin should retire soon as they lower our feilding standards( one of the problem areas when we were on Oz/Eng tours.

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2012, 20:39 GMT

    There is nothing to go gaga over this victory. India will definitely wiin this series 2-0. Even the II test will be won handsomely by the hosts. The Bigger issue still remains. Playing abroad and winning. I am pleased that Indian colts won the WC in australia. More than winning, the way these young guys played the quickies and came back and won matches. Kudos to BccI and NCA for giving these players more exporsure. Bcci should invest more and send these youngsters on A Tours to SAf, Australia and England. If they do, we will see more townsvilles in the senior tours too.

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2012, 16:45 GMT

    @Kris : mate plz, time to stop thinking about the dont see countires like Aus, SA n Eng trying to have a 3-men spin bowling attacks so that they can do the job in sub continents...every one plays to their strength and currently India's strength lies in Batsmen and Spinners in home lets enjoy the spectacle for now wout worrying about the future because it seems barring SA none of the other teams are winning consistently abroad and the trend will continue in future

  • debarata on August 27, 2012, 14:11 GMT

    @Vinoth Lingesan. Er, the spade IS being called a spade. Notice the cute little paunch Ashwin's developed of late? In the India-Aus QF in the WC, he was diving quite energetically at the boundary. Check the Youtube video; now he's quite content to happily jog alongside the ball for 20 meters. India's outfielding is still substandard; slow ones like Sachin (40 years),Zak ( who looks 50) Ashwin, Ojha; and then there are some who sometimes just don't feel like running, like Gambhir, God bless em. As Sanjay Manjrekar said, slip catching against pace in Oz, England and SA, is a different art. Kallis' and Smith for eg; Kohli will need experience before gets close to that level.Thats why Rohit frustrates me so much; an excellent slip catcher/outfielder, supreme aggressive batting talent against pace and seam( irrespective of how many ducks he get in ODI series against SL), but consistent failures at the crucial junctures mean both India and him are deprived of each other. Come on, Rohit !

  • Shanmuga on August 27, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    @Krishna: Ashwin is hopeless in running between the wickets & ground fielding, especially considering his age! Period. Nothing is farther from the truth than calling it a hogwash. @Vinoth: Can you pls point out where the article says Sachin is not slow! It only says that he is as enthusiastic in the field as a 39 year old can be! It means that you can't expect him to chase & attempt to stop certain boundaries like Raina, Kohli or Rehane does, but he has always been a safe fielder all through his 23 years! You should at the least compare Ashwin's fielding with players of his age group and not with Sachin, VVS & Sehwag!

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    At vinoth.Sachin is 39 and Ashwin is 25.Its a different matter why Sachin is playing at 39.But at 25 years you can't be so bad.Once you are 30+,as Sehwag is seeing today you will be tested very badly.So unless Ashwin does something spectacular,he will have tough time to strech his career.On the contrary ,I need not tell how good was Sachin @ 25 years (in fielding).

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