While India and their fans may be fretting over the future of batting following the retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, coach Duncan Fletcher, it seems, is besieged by an additional worry — slip fielding.
Dravid and Laxman had the safest pairs of hands in the slips, with Dravid manning the first and Laxman the second on most occasions. Together, they took 345 catches in 298 Tests over the past decade and half. Most of their scalps came in that arc behind the wicket. Now for the first time, India will be going into a Test without either of the two.
Stats a worry
Statistics can put Fletcher’s worry in perspective. As compared to 1.15 catches per match the famed duo scalped, the rest of the players, with even Sachin Tendulkar in, account for less than half of that number per match.
In short, 295 catches in 516 matches don’t match up to what Dravid and Laxman did in fewer Tests. If Tendulkar is removed, it gets even worse.
No wonder, Fletcher’s concern was evident on Monday as he shuffled his preferred quartet, comprising Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, during a slip-catching session that went on for about an hour.
For a major part of the session, which saw Fletcher giving catches, Tendulkar occupied the first slip and Sehwag the second. It was expected as the two senior-most players were the first choice for Dravid and Laxman’s spots. Virat was at third slip while the acrobatic Raina, occupying the fourth, was expected to dive around, taking chances that would fly between him and gully.
The position was changed later as Tendulkar and Virat exchanged spots but the message from all this is getting clear.
Fletcher will have to get a pair of slip fielders ready.
India’s opening batting partners, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, ensured that the handful of fans got full view of a recovered Ishant Sharma and express bowler Umesh Yadav. The duo went full throttle bowling at the batsmen during nets on Monday. The third pacer in action, however, was a local bowler and not Zaheer Khan. Zaheer caused some worries as he left early due to illness. Sources close to the team said that Zaheer wasn’t well, but added that there was no cause for alarm. “He left due to minor cough and cold. Should be fine soon,” said the source. -- Khurram Habib