India's fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar says the last-ball six by Dinesh Karthik against Bangladesh in the final of the Nidahas Trophy tri-series recently was the perfect icing on the cherry, not just the cake, for what has been a truly fantastic season.
What exactly was the mood before the last ball six by Karthik? “Honestly, we all knew that DK is a batsman who can play strokes 360 degrees. We were definitely hopeful that he would hit a four to take the issue into the super over and in fact thinking who should bat (with a big smile). But, my God, that six was incredible and he deserves all the accolades pouring in for that incredible innings," Sridhar said.
"DK ensured a grand finale to a great season in which we created history beating every team on their home ground, with the ODI series victory in South Africa being historic. Losing the Test series 1-2 was a blip but not disgraceful," he added.
"I tell you, this Indian team is the best ODI team in fielding. It is not because of just my contribution. Thanks to the collective effort as the efforts percolate right from the top, including head coach Ravi Shastri, Bharat Arun and the captain Virat Kohli himself," said Sridhar, in an exclusive chat with Sportstar here on Wednesday.
"Well, when it comes to Ravi, I can say he is an institution. (He has) got too many aces up his sleeve. The kind of invaluable inputs he comes up with is something really great. (He has) got so many ideas and I have a feeling we will see many more in the coming series. He is always a thinking brain. (He) has a lot more to offer," said Sridhar about head coach Ravi Shastri.
"When it comes to Arun, I can say humbly that I am what I am because of him. He has always been my mentor since 2007 and is one of the best in man-management skills in the world. A team man to the core,” is the compliment from the fielding coach to Arun.
How does Sridhar go about his job? "We keep evaluating each player's fielding skills as I key in every move of the players. In fact, Ravi starts off team meetings saying that the 11 best fielders will form the playing eleven. Each one should give more than 100 per cent on the field and nothing less. There is no compromise in this regard by him," reveals Sridhar.
The slip challenge
Sridhar says the biggest challenge will be in England, to take those low catches in the slips. "We have devised new ways and means to be successful in this department and we are sure our team will be the team to watch out even in this crucial aspect," he said.
"We look at it this way. Right now, we take six out of 10 catches. The world standard is 7\10. So, we are targeting 8\10 and we are pretty sure of achieving this soon," he added.
"This is exactly the reason why you see the Indian pacers like Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar), (Jasprit) Bumrah and even Shardul (Thakur) in Sri Lanka recently being so vastly improved fielders. This is a huge plus for Indian cricket. Yes, someone like (Yuzvendra) Chahal needs to improve a lot and we have told him already about this," Sridhar said.
When asked what his goal is for the near future, he remarked, "To be part of the 2019 World Cup winning squad."
'We have world-class fielders'
Comparing the fielding in the slip cordon to those days of greats Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Sridhar said those were set fielders always in the slip cordon and were naturally gifted.
"Now, mostly we play with five batsmen and one of them, the captain, is mostly always away from the close-in cordon and one is at short-leg. So, we are left with three specialists due to various reasons like team combinations, injuries,” he explained.
"Even now we have world-class fielders like (Ajinkya) Rahane, Kohli, Rohit (Sharma) and we are trying to have a set of fielders for specific slots,' he said.
"Well, like no batsman can score a century every time and similarly no fielder always takes catches. We focus on high percentage of success definitely. So, the occasional lapses cannot be a reflection the new standards the Indian fielding has reached in recent times," he concluded.