In their next World Cup fixture, India should wallop Ireland without breaking a sweat. The minnows will find it tough to repeat the shock story of the last edition in the Caribbean where they scripted Pakistan's exit. Nevertheless, there's one area where they can leave the hosts embarrassed — fielding.
Not up to mark
India’s performance in fielding, catching, throwing and scoring direct hits has left much to be desired. It has become even more glaring with bowling, too, turning out to be quite ordinary. In big grounds and quick outfields here, fielding will be a big factor. One needs right technique, swiftness and speed.
Experts are unanimous that it's going to be a tight World Cup, given most teams are evenly matched. The margin for error is limited and every run will count as was seen in Sunday's game against England.
A grey area
India skipper MS Dhoni admitted it was their gray area. “Fielding is not one of our strengths, and games like these make you understand that even more. If we had fielded slightly better, we could have won by at least one run,” he said. Injury to Praveen Kumar has upset the balance of Indian bowling attack, and when bowling is weak, fielding becomes even more crucial. Taking half-chances, spectacular stops and direct hits could make an average bowling more effective.
Too many weak links
Dhoni has a problem of plenty when it comes to poor fielders. Virender Sehwag's shoulder is a worry, Gautam Gambhir doesn't have the throw, Sachin Tendulkar has lost his sharpness, Harbhajan is up and down, Yuvraj is a shadow of his old self, and Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan are not blessed with natural fielding abilities. The Indian captain just doesn't have options. With Suresh Raina losing his spot in the side, fielding has gone down even further.
No fielding coach
What defies logic is that, given the obvious weakness, the most high profile cricket team in the world is without a fielding coach since Robin Singh was given the boot.
Ireland coach Phil Simmons, the former West Indian all-rounder who was known for his fielding, had a sly smile when HT broached the topic. “It's become a specialised role. It was too much for me to hold fielding sessions for 15-16 players, hence we appointed a fielding coach. Fielding will be a big factor in this World Cup,” he said.
The reason for Robin getting the sack was that he couldn't stem the rot. It's expected the issue would be addressed with a better professional. It was expected that the BCCI would appoint someone, at least for the World Cup. It's shocking they have left it unaddressed. Hopefully, it won't cost India the Cup.