If India go on to lose the first Test in Pune, catching is going to be biggest difference between the visitors and the hosts. While Australia were throwing themselves around, converting improbable chances into stunning dismissals, India seemed to have lost the plot in fielding. (Pune Test, Day 2 highlights)
There is no doubt Australia captain Steve Smith is their best bat apart from David Warner. However, India committed the sacrilege of giving Steve Smith three lives within a span of 15 overs.
The first chance came in the 15th over when Steve Smith was on 23 and Australia 57/2. Chasing a wide ball from R Ashwin, Smith’s flick came a tad too quickly for Murali Vijay to grasp at leg slip.
Smith was dropped again five overs later, by substitute fielder Abhinav Mukund. Coming down the pitch, the Australia captain’s flick didn’t connect well but Mukund, parked at mid-on, couldn’t hold on to the catch despite diving to his right.
Mukund committed the biggest howler in the 29th over when Smith, on 37, inside-edged Ashwin on to his pads. Fielding at short-leg, Mukund was in a perfect position to pouch the ricochet but he grassed that one as well.
Matt Renshaw, hero of Australia’s first innings, too was dropped, on 25, when Vijay’s hand came in the way of the edge that was flying to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip. It didn’t prove too costly as Renshaw was dismissed for 31.
But given the fact Steve Smith has cantered to an unbeaten 59 and Australia already have an overall lead of 298, India would be ruing the lives given to the Australia captain.
Dropping catches isn’t a new problem for India.
Despite winning the England series 4-0, India captain Virat Kohli had said their fielding needed rapid improvement. But on a day Australia --- led by the proactive fielding of Peter Handscomb --- dropped nothing, India showed they are yet to walk the talk.