Mumbai: Team India's fielding has come a long way-- from losing close ODI matches due to poor fielding to turning the game around with some spectacular catches.
In Test cricket, fielding department was not regarded as India's forte. The standard started improving gradually after fielding became inevitable for success in limited-overs cricket.
The 1980s and '90s saw skippers Kapil Dev and Azharuddin as flagbearers of India's fielding. After more than three decades, India has been evolved into an excellent fielding unit according to the statistics. India have dropped least number of catches in the ongoing ICC World Cup 2019. Thus, fielding has been considered an important aspect behind Team India's success in the mega-event.
Fielding has emerged as a key element of the game, along with batting and bowling. Specialist fielding coaches are assigned the job of scrutinizing a player's performance on the field. The players now have the responsibility of being reasonably good on the field, if not brilliant.
However, batting and bowling performances steal the limelight and fielding efforts often get overshadowed by centuries and five-wicket hauls.
India's fielding unit is considered as one of the best in the modern era, but it is not perfect. There are still areas in which the Men in Blue need to improve. Rishabh Pant, who was included in the playing XI in place of Vijay Shankar needs to notch up his fielding as an outfield player.
India fielding coach R Sridhar admitted that the 21-year-old needs to raise his fielding standards.
"A lot of work has to go into him (Pant). First of all, he needs to improve his technique in throwing and also needs to be a little more athletic to be an outfielder," Sridhar said at the mixed zone after India posted a 28-run win over Bangladesh on Tuesday to make it to the World Cup semifinals.
Skipper Virat Kohli and veteran MS Dhoni have identified a few fielding positions for the young wicket-keeper. India played three wicket-keeper against Bangladesh-- Dhoni, Karthik and Pant. Pant was given the responsibility to keep the wickets when Dhoni was off the pitch for a while.
According to Sridhar, Dinesh Karthik was not given a chance to keep the wickets as Karthik is a better outfield player than Pant.
"Obviously, Dinesh despite being a wicketkeeper is a good outfielder. He pulls off some good saves at backward point. Rishabh is developing and he needs to do this a bit more to develop the awareness, to get a hang of it. That's why we harp about getting fielders in the same positions so that they get an idea."
At Edgbaston, England batsmen thrashed India's wrist spinners-- Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal for 160 runs in their 20 overs. The English batsmen used short boundaries of the ground in their favour. Virat and Co may have to play the semi-final at the same ground.
"In a ground like Edgbaston, which isn't exactly spherical in shape, knowledge of angles becomes important", said Sridhar.
"This is all about awareness just like you saw in the last game against England. This ground is a bit like Eden Gardens. Once you are beaten, there's no way that you can chase it. There is no point running around towards the boundary line."...