Now we know why Rahul Dravid is known as The Wall - 'because the ball bounces off him' wrote a local critic here, ridiculing Team India's fielding effort at Edgbaston. When your best catcher has become the butt of jokes you can well imagine the standard of the team's fielding. The lack of runs and wickets can be attributed to the opponents' superior play but what can be the excuse for poor fielding? It's an area where you are competing against yourself.
Even when the most mediocre of teams have been under the pump, they have still gone out and made a statement by fielding well. And that is where the general outlook of the Indian team has been poor in this series.
On Monday, the team began their preparation for the Oval Test by sitting down in a huddle. Coach Duncan Fletcher, bowling coach Eric Simons and Sachin Tendulkar addressed the players in a bid to lift the team for the fourth Test.
Time to make a point
The senior members of the team management emphasised on the need to make a statement in the final game of the disastrous series. If they indeed hope to salvage some pride here, India will have to go out and prove it first and foremost in the field. It's the only thing which is in their control.
If you take into account the half-chances, India has frittered away nearly a dozen catching opportunities in the first three Tests. The world record holder for most catches in Tests, Dravid has dropped five.
Known for his splendid close-in catching, especially in the slips, this has been a poor series for him. Dravid has middled the ball right from the start, but things have not gone right for him in the field right from day one. On the first day at Lord's, he dropped Jonathan Trott first ball off Harbhajan Singh. Known as someone who thrives on early success, the offie was never allowed to settle down by the batsman after that. Dravid's woes have continued and the lapses were even more glaring in the Edgbaston Test where he dropped two more.
Lack of focus?
Being all about concentration, the fielding lapses are an indicator that the players are not focused on the field. You need the right technique, swiftness and speed.
Against England, the fielders have done the regular stuff, but the verve has been missing. Dhoni has plenty of problems on hand. Close-in catches are going down and he has limited options for fielding in the deep. Virender Sehwag's shoulder is a worry and he can't throw, Gautam Gambhir doesn't have the throw, Dravid and VVS Laxman don't have the agility to be effective in the outfield. The dread is that the Indian outfit might look even sloppier at the Oval. Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra and Munaf Patel are in the running. And all three are not blessed with natural fielding ability.
India's lethargic fielding has become more glaring because the bowling has been weak too. The injury to Zaheer has upset the balance of the bowling attack. And when your bowling is struggling, it is imperative to back it up with brilliant fielding. Eoin Morgan, for example, looked out of sorts coming into the third Test but was dropped twice and went on to make a hundred. During Monday's training, equal emphasis was made on the fielding drills. A brilliant catch, a smart stop or a direct run out will be a good way to start their fightback.