Ajinkya Rahane: India's fielding MVP
Ajinkya Rahane is by far India’s best fielder and now he holds the record for the most catches in a Test match, by an outfield player. Rahane has the ability to field at any position; he is athletic and has a safe pair of hands to take catches closer to the batsmen. He has shown across all formats that he is equally good both on the boundaries and inside the 30-yard circle.
Breaking a record which stood from so many years shows the qualities he possesses. Of the eight catches, six were at first slip and two at gully. While speaking to ESPNcricinfo, R Sridhar, the Indian fielding coach described Rahane as a “complete package” on the field.
"It's about strong hands and anticipation which he is excellent in and because he is a good athlete, he is good in the outfield," Sridhar said. Once Rahane learned he was to field in the slips on this tour, he took it upon himself to ask for "very, very specific sessions."
Rahane says the key to fielding in the slips is "focus and concentration". According to Sridhar, along with asking for specific sessions, Rahane also did a lot of "rapid reaction and decision-making drills and match simulation catches." The close-in drills, done with all the fielders, involved two different coloured soft balls, one red, one white, being thrown at the fielder, with the coach calling out the ball that he needed to catch. "We throw both at the same time and they are hidden - the players can't see which hand I am holding the ball in."
According to Rahane, the Indian players are taking "fifty to hundred" catches a day during training, and it was Rahane's "excellent reflexes" made him an obvious candidate to field at slips. "He has got a very nice composed demeanor which suits slip fielding," Sridhar said. "A slip fielder requires good bouts of concentration, also lots of calmness and composure.
"Ajinkya is a very calm and composed guy, at the same time he has got excellent reflexes, reactions and anticipation. It's a combination of these two which prompted our captain Virat Kohli to suggest that Ajinkya should be at slips."
With the way Rahane has been fielding, our slip fielding seems to be in safe and let us hope these performances from Rahane will rub off on the other players and improve our fielding, which has been under the scanner in the recent past.