Close-in catching and its importance on India's tour of Australia
The Indians will shortly be embarking on their tour to Australia with a lot of optimism, although their recent series in England was a let down from a result perspective.
While there will be a lot of noise made about team selection, batting orders, combination of the playing XI etc, one of the most critical things, particularly in Test cricket, which tends to get overlooked is close-in catching.
India would do well to place a lot of emphasis on this aspect of fielding, the standards of which have sadly declined over the years. India certainly have the necessary ammunition to do well overseas and if the dropped chances were gobbled up in England, who knows, the series scoreline could have been a lot different.
In the only Test match that India won in England, the team took almost all the catch that it came their way with KL Rahul picking up quite a few in slips. It would be something that the Indians should consciously work on before their tour of Australia.
In the years gone by, assured close-in catching was a key element of the team that has dominated world cricket especially in the long format. The West Indies in the Eighties and the Australian teams of the Nineties and early 2000s hardly missed anything and even convert the half chances. You do not have to look beyond Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh in the slips for the Australians.
Even earlier Indian squads had excellent slip catchers like Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who were both good at slips of medium pacers as well as spinners. It was never easy to be at slips for a bowler like Anil Kumble because of the trajectory that he bowled but Rahul Dravid was so good with his hands and have produced many key wickets in Tests.
So what has happened suddenly and why don’t India produce good slip catchers? Well, there could be a couple of factors that has led to the decline of the quality of close in catching in India even as our fielding and out fielding has improved tremendously.
Not enough match practice
The first and most obvious factor could be that the test cricketers are not standing at slips or any other close in position as much and the only time they maybe standing is in the Test matches.
Because of their busy schedule, most Indian players who are part of the Test side hardly play any longer duration matches at domestic level. This means the only time the players get used to close in catches is in the training sessions which is completely different when it comes to taking them in actual match situation.