VVS Laxman (L) and Rahul Dravid celebrate after winning on the fourth day of the second Test cricket match between Indian and West Indies at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Three moments of agility at first slip during the West Indies second innings ensured India did not have to bat again in the second Test.
Not the most athletic Test team, India can take comfort that Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, both in late thirties, don't miss many at that position.
It started on Wednesday, when Laxman took a low catch to dismiss Adrian Barath, who looked well settled at 62. That it was completed in fading light of the post-tea session off the bowling of pacer Ishant Sharma only highlighted Laxman's skill.
On Thursday, Dravid showed that the occasional slip in England was an exception. He showed his concentration had not wavered when the West Indies were beginning to gain a mental edge, helped by a 132-run fifth wicket stand by Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels.
Bravo hung his bat at Pragyan Ojha's arm ball outside off-stump to send it past the wicketkeeper but lone slip Dravid was alert enough to lunge to his right and complete a sharp catch. “It was exceptional,” West Indian TV commentator Ian Bishop said later. “No wonder why he has got the most number of catches (in Tests),” said the former fast bowler. Dravid has 209 Test catches to his name now.
The concentration came to the fore again when Dravid caught Carlton Baugh. Foxed by an Ojha delivery that drifted in before spinning away, Baugh got a leading edge. Dravid showed age-defying reflexes to dive to his right to scoop up a low catch.
“To be able to show such concentration over a long career means Rahul is head and shoulders above many of the good close-in fielders I have seen, say like Larry Gomes or Jimmy Adams, in my time,” said Bishop.
But Bishop feels that good slip fielding alone could see India back their bowling. “If you look at the best teams in the last 40 years, it’s WI and Australia. They were successful because they had athletic outfielders as well as good slip fielders.”