Fielding grounds India

Poor catching and sloppy fielding let India down in Birmingham. S. Dinakar reports.

It was in Colombo last year that former India coach Greg Chappell, replying to a question about the inclusion of ace leg-spinner Anil Kumble in the ODI squad, said the induction of senior and experienced cricketers in the shorter version of the game had to be balanced with retaining the levels of fielding.

On the face of it, Chappell’s remarks appeared unfair, even unjust to the cricketers concerned. Yet, if analysed, his response was not without reason. If India, under the Chappell-Dravid combine, chased down a world record successive wins in ODIs, the fielding was a huge factor. Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Mohammed Kaif swooped on the ball in the circle and plucked catches out of thin air. They also hit the stumps, putting seeds of doubts in the minds of the batsmen.

The confidence levels of the bowlers go down once the fielding does not support them. And the batting side cashes in. Now only Yuvraj Singh remains in the Indian side, and even he has slowed down a touch. India’s fielding actually improved slightly at Edgbaston from the Bristol game, but even this was much below international standard as India went down by 42 runs in the third ODI of the NatWest series.

This was a game which India should have won, but it was England that took a 2-1 lead. Indian skipper Rahul Dravid’s decision to field under what was more than a partial cloud cover could not be faulted. The Indian pacemen, the all-left new-ball combination of Zaheer Khan and Rudra Pratap Singh, should have bowled a fuller length and given a chance for the ball to swing. Their length was a trifle too short, and they were attempting to seam the ball when there was little for them off the surface.

Then, poor catching let the side down. R. P. Singh put down a sitter at fine-leg off Alastair Cook’s bat and M. S. Dhoni muffed an easy stumping with Owais Shah yards out of the crease. The largely lethargic Indian fielding meant the England batsmen were able to pick the singles with ease, rotating the strike in the process. This meant the Indian bowlers could hardly apply consistent pressure. “They should be on the ball all the time, expect the ball to come to them all the time. You could be a good fielder, but it counts for little if you do not anticipate well,” said India’s fielding coach Robin Singh.

Robin, an outstanding fielder during his playing days, added India, a traditionally weak fielding side, has to put a process in place and be patient. He continued, “the younger you are, the easier it is to field.”

Sloppy fielding cost India at least 25 runs. Then, the batsmen disappointed. The Indian innings, from a promising 140 for two before the 30th over on a surface and an outfield that continued to assist batting, lost its way rather hopelessly pursuing 282 for a victory.

Sourav Ganguly stroked a 104-ball 72 that included three elegant, successive boundaries off paceman James Anderson and Rahul Dravid (56 off 61 balls), who has surely regained his touch, drilled holes through the field.

The pair had added 104 for the third wicket when paceman Chris Tremlett, who had been torn apart at Bristol, breached Dravid’s defence with an off-cutter; the Indian captain played on. Moments later, Tremlett, who only received another game because Andrew Flintoff sat out owing to an inflammation on his right knee and Dimitri Mascerenhas injured his hand during the morning practice session, got Ganguly, attempting to glide, edging the ball to a diving Matthew Prior behind the stumps. The match changed course with the Indians playing wrong shots at the wrong time. And the free-stroking Yuvraj found himself in a hopeless run-out mix-up.

It was an afternoon when the English pacemen, marshalled well by skipper Paul Collingwood, bowled with verve. The lively Anderson was quite the pick. The bowlers were backed by an outstanding bunch of fielders.

The Indians, eventually, succumbed to the stress caused by disciplined bowling and sensational fielding. Earlier, England piled up 281 for eight with No. 3 Ian Bell, anchoring the innings, with a well-paced 89-ball 79.

Bell’s footwork is his strength and he is growing in confidence. There were useful efforts at the top by openers Cook and Prior, while skipper Paul Collingwood made a handy 44 later in the innings.

Towards the end, Tremlett biffed a nine-ball unbeaten 19.The spinners, leggie Piyush Chawla and off-spinner Ramesh Powar, delighted again, operating in the Power Play overs, the middle of the innings and at the Death. There was a moment of great joy for Chawla as well, when he lured and snared Kevin Pietersen with a delivery of deceptive flight. At the end of a dramatic evening, it was the Englishmen who were jumping for joy.

THE SCORES

NatWest Series, Third ODI, Edgbaston, August 27, 2007. England won by 42 runs.

England: A. Cook c Yuvraj b Powar 40; M. Prior c Chawla b Patel 34; I. Bell c Karthik b R. P. Singh 79; K. Pietersen st. Dhoni b Chawla 9; P. Collingwood c (sub) b Powar 44; O. Shah b Yuvraj 19; R. Bopara c Dravid b R. P. Singh 10; S. Broad c Yuvraj b R. P. Singh 10; C. Tremlett (not out) 19; J. Anderson (not out) 0; Extras (b-1, lb-5, w-7, nb-4) 17. Total (for eight wkts., in 50 overs) 281.

Fall of wickets: 1-76, 2-92, 3-118, 4-193, 5-226, 6-246, 7-255, 8-273.

India bowling: Zaheer 10-0-49-0; R. P. Singh 9-1-55-3; Patel 5-0-37-1; Powar 10-0-45-2; Chawla 9-0-50-1; Yuvraj 7-0-39-1.

India: S. Ganguly c Prior b Tremlett 72; S. Tendulkar c Collingwood b Anderson 8; D. Karthik c Cook b Broad 0; R. Dravid b Tremlett 56; Yuvraj Singh (run out) 45; M. Dhoni c Collingwood b Anderson 13; R. Powar c Bell b Collingwood 5; P . Chawla c Bell b Collingwood 1; Zaheer Khan b Panesar 11; R. P. Singh (not out) 12; M. Patel b Anderson 1; Extras (lb-10, w-3, nb-2) 15. Total (in 48.1 overs) 239.

Fall of wickets: 1-35, 2-36, 3-140, 4-149, 5-190, 6-210, 7-213, 8-214, 9-234.

England bowling: Broad 9-1-34-1; Anderson 9.1-3-32-3; Tremlett 8-0-57-2; Panesar 10-0-49-1; Collingwood 10-0-45-2; Bopara 2-0-12-0.