Crouching tigers shrug off slowpokes’ tag in style

Dinesh Karthik-fielding_0.jpg

Champion sides of the past were not just been renowned for their strong batting line-ups or intimidating bowling. Be it the West Indies side of the 80s or the Australian teams of late 90s and early 2000s have had one more thing in common: fielding.
Although India won the coveted World Cup in 2011, the team was more feared for its strong batting lineup that prompted losing Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara to say, “If you look at this Indian team, anything less than 350 is not enough.” On the road to the final, its fielding was at the best against Australia in the last eight clash in Ahmedabad. Even skipper M.S.
Dhoni acknowledged it saying that was the best they can do considering the team had plenty of slow movers in Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel. And during India’s tour of England the same year, former England captain, Nasser Hussain dubbed Indians as ‘donkeys’ due to their shabby fielding efforts.
Fast forward to England, Champions Trophy 2013.
The young blue brigade of Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik and Shikhar Dhawan has lit up the tournament with tigerish fielding.
Dhoni had every right to say this after their match against Pakistan: “We are the top fielding side in world cricket as of now and we need to keep more intensity.”
Former India coach Lalchand Rajput heaped praise on Dhoni’s men.
“India’s fielding has been outstanding throughout the campaign. The young legs are showing more intensity on the field and fielding can make a huge difference. This is the best fielding unit we have had.“ Against South Africa, it was Jadeja's brilliance in the field that helped India get rid of a dangerous looking Robin Peterson and eventually it changed the outcome of the match.
Against West Indies, the ground fielding was at its best within the ‘ring’ not letting the ball go beyond it.
In the game against Pakistan too, India maintained their consistency in fielding, raising doubts in the batsmen’s minds, with Kohli’s run-out of Junaid Khan being the best of the lot.
Former India opener W.V. Raman hit the nail on the head.
“These players have been brought up in the limited overs era and they have delivered it. It was expected of them considering they are young and agile.
“This tournament has showed how important fielding can be for India. Ultimately good fielding will lift the bowlers. Be it any team, if their fielding is top-notch it will make the bowlers look extra 25 per cent difficult to score off. The batsmen too will find it tough, because when a good shot costs you nothing, it will put more pressure,” he said.
Credit should go to the fielding coach Trevor Penney who has made sure none of the slow movers have to be hidden anymore.
Not blessed with athleticism, Ashwin is stationed at first-slip and he justified the faith reposed in him by the team management by snapping a sharp catch that flew to his left from Chris Gayle’s blade.
The current team has definitely raised the bar when it comes to fielding, and gone are the days when we looked in awe at Azharuddins, Kaifs and Yuvrajs. With fresh legs, not just batting, fielding can also win matches for India.

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