Asked on qualities needed for close catching in Tests, R. Sridhar was quick with his answer to Sportstar on Monday. “Hand-eye coordination, anticipation, awareness, reaction, reflexes, and concentration.”
For shorter formats, you need, “speed, agility, strength, and power.” Factors such as being quick on the turn, fluid pick-up-and-throw and presence of mind near the ropes are essential, according to the Indian fielding coach.
However, Sridhar, who has been influential in lifting the standards of Indian fielding, said, “The one element that connects fielding in all formats is technique. Fielding is a controllable skill, you got to develop the right mind-set.”
Talking about the Indian close-in catching for Tests, Sridhar said, “We had Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari at silly point and short-leg against the West Indies. Then Mayank and Rohit Sharma did the job against South Africa.”
He was particularly pleased with Mayank’s attitude. “His intensity is very good. He is quick, has a good technique, and doesn’t have the fear of getting hit.”
Avoiding getting hit in these positions was also an art, said Sridhar. “If the batsman plays the cut, you jump high at silly point because the cut is usually hit hard into the ground. The sweep shot can be very dangerous for the fielder at short-leg. He has to make himself as small as possible, shrink.”
Turning his attention to the slip cordon for Tests — crucial because of India’s potent pace attack — Sridhar said, “We have Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip, Rohit, who has great hands, at second, and Virat Kohli at third, the ball flies hard there and we need someone with Virat’s reflexes. And Ajinkya Rahane has been outstanding at gully.”
The composition of the Indian team — it often plays five batsmen and a wicketkeeper-batsman plus five bowlers — deprived the team of an extra close-in fielder around the bat, he felt.
Explaining this, Sridhar said, “This leaves us with only five batsmen. So we can have three slips, a gully and just one man at either short-leg or silly point. I am not in favour of bowlers fielding in these positions. It’s dangerous and they can get hurt.”
Coming to the volatile shorter formats of explosive speed, Sridhar was pleased with Manish Pandey. “He is a brilliant fielder, rather under-rated. I would say he is only slightly behind Ravindra Jadeja, the best all-round fielder in the world, and Kohli, a sensational athlete.”
Among the newcomers, Shreyas Iyer had caught Sridhar’s attention with his mobility. “Even the pacemen are excellent fielders now, just look at Umesh Yadav’s ground coverage and throw.”
Sridhar’s next challenge is the pink ball. “It will have its own dynamics.”
The fielding coach is on the ball.
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