India's slip cordon's performance could be the decisive factor in England Tests
In cricket, no catch is considered easy, especially when the fielder is standing in the slip cordon, waiting anxiously for that one outside edge that might or might not come to him in the entire day's play. In order to be a successful slip fielder, a player must have the ability to maintain his focus for long periods of time and most importantly stay calm when he finally gets the opportunity to snap up the ball.
As the great Jonty Rhodes found out, fielding in the slips requires a very different type of skill set as compared to fielding in the outfield. If a fielder is fidgety by nature and generally has hard hands, then he will struggle to catch the ball in the slips.
Many great slip fielders around the world have often emphasized on having a strong base and soft hands while standing in the slips while allowing the ball come to them rather than trying to reach out for it. Mark Waugh, arguably the best slip catcher to have ever played the game summed it up perfectly "Don't try and catch the ball, let the ball catch you."
Currently, Team India sits comfortably at the top of ICC's Test rankings, as they have been outstanding both with the bat and ball in the recent past. But slip catching still remains an area of concern for the team management. In the recent past, Indian think tank has tried many options to boost the slip cordon but constant chopping & changing in the slip cordon hasn't produced the desired results. After December 2013, Indian slip fielders have dropped 46 catches off seam bowlers and taken only 38. Poor slip catching haunted this Indian side in the recent test series against South Africa too, where they eventually lost 2-1.
In this current Indian Test team, Ajinkya Rahane has the best average in terms of catches taken per innings, he has taken 60 catches in 85 innings so far in his career at an impressive average of 0.705 followed closely by the skipper himself who has taken 63 catches in 125 innings at an average of 0.504 per innings. Murli Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara averages 0.444 and 0.360 respectively.
Whilst, in terms of fitness and athleticism this Indian side is among the best in the world but their catching in the longest format of the game has certainly left a lot to be desired. Most cricket pundits around the world rate Rahane as the safest pair of hands in this current Indian setup, but strangely he's been fielding in the gully position a lot lately which is hard to understand given his impressive record in the slips. It might be a better idea if the team management backs Rahane to do the job in the 2nd slip where he has stood for a large part of his test career so far.
In order to win the upcoming test series against England, Indian slip cordon have to up their game. Indian think tank need to identify their slip fielders quickly and they have to persist with them over a long period of time, so that they can get used to fielding in a particular position and get better at it gradually.