India vs England: India banish catching blues in style
It is the brilliant catching in the cordon that has given India the third dimension, turning the tables on England. An area in which many critics put India below England has now left the hosts under fire after dropping 14 catches so far.Updated: Aug 25, 2018 17:56 IST
The Trent Bridge win has handed India all the momentum going into the current break before the series against England resumes at Southampton with the fourth Test starting on Thursday.
India’s rejuvenated batting, the newfound confidence among batsmen and their focus on team requirement, and the bowlers’ consistency have put Virat Kohli’s team ahead despite Joe Root’s side leading 2-1 with two matches to go. And both aspects have been highly praised.
However, it is the brilliant catching in the cordon that has given India the third dimension, turning the tables on England. An area in which many critics put India below England has now left the hosts under fire after dropping 14 catches so far.
England’s weakest link is young opener Keaton Jennings. His repeated early dismissals have left him on the verge of being axed once again.
The story could have been very different. In the first Test at Edgbaston, Jennings was on nine in the first innings when Ishant Sharma drew an edge. Ajinkya Rahane, one of India’s safest pair of hands, dived from fourth slip in front of third and dropped it. Jennings was finally out for 42.
England won by 31 runs on Day 4, and the margin was essentially the extra runs scored by Jennings, so crucial are catches and conditions and ball used in the Test all level things out.
But India were electric in the cordon at Trent Bridge in the remarkable comeback after the demoralising show at Lord’s. Debutant wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul at slip both snapped up seven catches. It eased India’s long standing concerns, be it in last year’s home series against Sri Lanka or in South Africa.
At Trent Bridge, edges kept flying to the safe hands of Rahul and Pant as pacers shared 19 wickets. Rahul’s seven victims were one short of Ajinkya Rahane’s world record eight in a match, against Sri Lanka at Galle in 2015.
India had struggled with slip catching for a while. In the home series against Sri Lanka in 2017, questions were raised about constant shifting of personnel in the slip cordon. More crucial catches were put down in South Africa, where India lost 1-2.
With the ball swinging in England, slip catching is everything. Experts put England way ahead of India before the series. But it is England who are facing the heat. The biggest let-off was Dawid Malan dropping Kohli off James Anderson on 21 in Edgbaston, and the India skipper hit a career-defining 149.
Kohli was also dropped on 51. Catches didn’t matter at Lord’s but Jennings, who has dropped a few suggesting low confidence levels, let Kohli’s edge on 93 off Anderson go through his hands and legs at fourth slip. The veteran swing bowler, yet to get his main man this series, doubled over in agony.
At Trent Bridge, initially India’s slip fielders were seen standing too close but not forward enough as lack of bounce on the pitch saw chances fall short.
Those concerns vanished as adjustments were made. Rahane was used at slip when R Ashwin bowled but moved to point, midwicket or cover when the pacers came on with Pujara, Rahul and Kohli taking over. England, on the other hand, have dropped over a dozen catches. Cook, Jennings and the axed Malan have all dropped more than one.
England assistant coach Paul Farbrace explained the problem that is hurting the hosts.
“We think we’ve got some good catchers, but you can’t keep shelling chances the way we are. That comes down to two things – concentration not being good enough, or confidence, when you start to miss chances that starts to eat away at you.
“When bowlers are creating opportunities and catches are being dropped, that can be soul-destroying. Nobody means to drop a catch, but we are shelling too many.
“It’s when you come under pressure in a game situation that you want the technique to stand up. There’s no hiding place, it’s not good enough. We’ve been saying that for too long.”
First Published: Aug 25, 2018 17:55 IST