Even after levelling the two-match T20 series in Mohali, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had emphasised the need to improve fielding and catching. After the first one-day match in Rajkot where even a target of 414 nearly did not seem enough, Dhoni’s criticism seemed apt.
Wickets seen on this tour have all been heavily tilted towards batsmen and with both teams having no dearth of quality in that department, fielding could well make the difference.
In Rajkot, it was a couple of crucial run outs by Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina to dismiss Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera that saw Sri Lanka fall just three shy of the mammoth total. Had India taken the catches that came their way, the visitors may not have come that close in the first place.
Kohli dropped a sitter from opener Upul Tharanga at point when the left-hander was on 10. He went on to score more than a run-a-ball 67.
Gautam Gambhir could be spared for getting both his hands to a rasping shot from Tillakaratne Dilshan, who was on 114 then and went on to score 160.
What hurt India more was Harbhajan Singh dropping a dolly from Kumar Sangakkara when he was looking to cut loose on 58. The skipper went on to add 31. There were more dropped catches and misfields but the Sri Lanka lower-order failed to capitalise on them.
“Fielding has been a bother. In the past, we used to take the catches. But of late, we have had dropped some very straightforward ones. At this level, you are expected to take them. It’s not as if we are expecting everyone to take brilliant ones. But we are working very hard on the problem and hopefully the effect will show soon,” Dhoni said, at the pre-match press conference here on Thursday.
On Thursday, coach Gary Kirsten was seen giving an extended fielding session to his boys and bulk of it included catching high ones coming out of a baseball bat. The team’s fielding consultant for the series, Mike Young, is not here and it was learnt that he was in Mumbai for a session with the under-19 squad set to leave for a series in South Africa before the World Cup in New Zealand.