In a close contest, like the see-saw battle being played out between India and Australia, unforced errors prove decisive. India escaped paying the price despite committing some cardinal errors in Ranchi. A similar poor show at Nagpur would mean curtains in the ODI series.
The Men in Blue put down as many as five catches to allow the Australian batsmen make a strong recovery from a poor start. George Bailey was dropped on the first ball and Glenn Maxwell in the 40s. The two went on to score 98 and 92, respectively.
The Indian innings was rained off, but the poor show has been playing heavy on the minds of the coaching staff as they get ready for the final two games. In the team’s first training session after arriving in Nagpur for the sixth ODI, a do-or-die tie for the hosts, the focus was on fielding drills. In, so far, the most serious fielding practice of the series, the players were divided in three groups with Duncan Fletcher honing the skills of the slip catchers, Trevor Penny working on the fielders in the point region while Ravindra Jadeja was given the responsibility of hitting high catches.
R Ashwin, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma spent most of the time in slips; Yuvraj Singh, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli were taking catches off the cut shot, and the others were running for high catches and ground fielding. Kohli, who had dropped Bailey on zero in the slips, later had a one-on-one slip catching session with Fletcher.
The poor fielding effort at Ranchi was a cause of concern for it was more out of complacency than ability. This team is among the best fielding sides in India’s history with the likes of Kohli, Rohit, Raina, Jadeja and Dhawan providing strong legs and speed in the inner ring as well as in marshalling the outfield. Among the bowlers, except for Ashwin, the rest are competent fielders in the deep. Add a rejuvenated Yuvraj and MS Dhoni’s safe pair of gloves, India, for once, can boast of a competent fielding unit. More importantly, at Nagpur, the bowlers will need all the support from the fielders for the wicket is expected to be a belter. Trailing 1-2, it leaves India no margin for error. Dhoni’s men cannot afford any more slip ups in the field.