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Going through the grind pays off

india Updated: Mar 16, 2011 00:51 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
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Ireland have achieved what no other Associate member have in this World Cup, and one of the keys has been their fielding.

On Tuesday, their fielders scorched the greens at the Eden Gardens with quick running and desperate dives. Graeme Smith and Co. would not have found finding the gaps more difficult had they been batting against themselves.

In fact, it was a South African, Adrian Birrell, under whose tutelage Ireland began their journey to become an exceptional fielding unit. A tough taskmaster, Birrell coached Ireland till after the last World Cup in 2007 and would drop players, however good they were with bat and ball, if they did not pull their weight on the field. The benefits of the tough regimen still show. John Mooney, Gary Wilson and captain William Porterfield allowed little to get past them inside the 30-yard circle in the first 15 overs, while the likes of pacer Boyd Rankin and left-arm spinner George Dockrell patrolled the outfield to reduce to fours to twos.

There were blemishes too with Kevin O'Brien, at short cover, and Paul Stirling, at slip, dropping a chance each. But the 18-year-old Dockrell scooped up a brilliant diving catch at third man and Mooney and Porterfield threw out two of South Africa's big guns, Smith and Jacques Kallis, respectively.

The way they got into position quickly when a wicket fell or the field changed for a left-hand batsman heightened the impression of Ireland being a well-drilled fielding unit.

The performance on the field was in stark contrast to, who look in dire need of a fielding coach. Their bowling, which is not the strongest, has been exposed further by the lack of support on the field. Everyone from Sachin Tendulkar downwards has spoken of how they have improved their batting under the head coach Gary Kirsten. Maye it is time to seek expert help, perhaps from abroad, for fielding too.