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India shuffle slip cordon vs Sri Lanka, and let it slip repeatedly

India have constantly shuffled their slip fielders and it has only resulted in even easy catches being put down in the third Test against Sri Lanka.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Dec 04, 2017 17:27 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
India vs Sri Lanka,Indian cricket team,Sri Lankan cricket team
Shikhar Dhawan missed an important catch during India vs Sri Lanka Test series.(AFP)

When India dropped Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews for the second time, on 98 no less, in the slips, in the third Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground on Monday, their man who took a world record number of catches in a game was stationed at gully. (India vs Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Day 3 - HIGHLIGHTS)

It was the latest instance of India not looking sharp due to an unsettled slip cordon, with their constant shuffling not doing them any good. And Mathews went on to complete his eighth century two balls later, to continue the visitors’ fightback on the third afternoon. (India vs Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Day 3 - SCORECARD)

On Sunday, when the struggling Sri Lanka began their reply to India’s massive 536/7 declared, Mohammed Shami had opener Dimuth Karunaratne caught behind first ball.

However, Shikhar Dhawan at second slip dropped makeshift opener Dilruwan Perera soon after, allowing him to score 42, and more importantly help see off the new ball and give a breather to his teammates left breathless due to the Delhi pollution.

Record effort

Ajinkya Rahane, who took eight catches in the Galle Test of 2015 (highest in a Test), was posted away from the most crucial position for a pacer steaming in to bowl with the new ball. Of the eight, six were snapped up at slips and he has shown a safe pair of hands, and the ability to stay low till the last moment to ensure.

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But India have kept moving the slip fielders around. After Shikhar Dhawan’s let-off, it was skipper Virat Kohli’s turn next, as he moved into second slip and grassed a sitter from Angelo Mathews. The former Sri Lanka skipper, on 6 at that point, cashed in to score his first century for over two years.

As play resumed on Day 3 with Sri Lanka on a shaky 131/3, Rahane started in the slips, only to be set to mid-off, perhaps to take on ball shining duty as Shami bowled a sharp spell from the far end.

Mathews was in his nervous 90s and Kohli promptly took the new ball after 81 overs, bringing Ishant Sharma on from the pavilion end, from where he drew the edge the previous evening.

Again, Mathews, nervous and perhaps being reminded that he was run out on 99 when he got this close to a century in India the last time, nicked the first delivery with the new ball.

READ | Delhi air pollution interrupts play in India vs Sri Lanka Test, visitors wear masks on field

This time, it was another pair of hands, that of Rohit Sharma, that it went to. And the catch was dropped, and a single conceded. Mathews completed his century two balls later, tucking Ishant away to backward square leg. And Ishant again had a new second slip, this time Virat Kohli.

India have been dropping a fair number of catches in the slip cordon, but have continued with their policy of shuffling the catchers. Cheteshwar Pujara has also been tried out in the position.

On Sunday, after two catches went down in the cordon, bowling coach, Bharat Arun, was asked to explain. “Dropped catches do happen; we take it in our stride and learn to move on,” was his reply.

READ | How Virat Kohli’s discipline is an inspiration for Indian cricket team

In the previous decade, it was Rahul Dravid who remained the constant presence there with Sachin Tendulkar, with the latter moving out only after suffering back problems.

With India mostly playing abroad in 2018, starting with the tough tour of South Africa, the role of slip fielders will be crucial.

And even dropping one could make the difference between winning and losing.

First Published: Dec 04, 2017 15:19 IST