India need to tighten their fielding

By Veturi Srivatsa, IANS
Sunday, February 20, 2011

NEW DELHI - Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said he was by and large satisfied with his teams performance in the inaugural match of the 2011 Cricket World Cup against Bangladesh. You cant quarrel with him after an emphatic 87-run victory.

Since he had to touch upon at least one glaring deficiency, he chose to make a passing reference to fielding. He could have also said he did not expect his senior colleagues to run the way they did between the wickets or said, like Sehwag did, that Sreesanth had an off day.

Dhoni actually felt his bowlers bowled well. It would be interesting to know what he thinks of Munaf Patel. The Baroda medium-pacer, actually, flourished in the series against New Zealand when Gautam Gambhir led the side.

Munaf may not have an impressive gait or is fleet-footed on the field, but he is as good a bowler today as Zaheer Khan is and by far the most attacking fast bowler in all forms of the game.

Virender Sehwag has a way of speaking his mind out. He said a couple of weeks ago that he would like to bat for 50 overs instead of being satisfied with quick-fire 40s. Not many would have hazarded a guess as to how much he would score if he bats for so long.

If not many have taken Sehwag seriously, they may not have reckoned with his big Test hundreds, including two triple centuries, scored at a frenetic one-day pace. Yet, he wants us to believe that a double century was not on his mind Saturday. He, however, wants to carry his bat through the 50 overs innings.

He showed all his determination at the first opportunity Saturday and when was got out in the 48th over he looked a tired man. A bout of cramps did not help his cause and he got out for 175 runs when wagers were on whether he would get 200.

Sehwag, in his present frame, can carry India very far in the tournament whether he gets a double century or not. If Sachin Tendulkar had not been run out, it would have been a double whammy for Bangladesh, who in any case were batted out of the game.

The fast rising Virat Kohli was not overshadowed by Sehwag. The Delhi youngster yet again showed he has class and the ability to get big scores. His fifth ODI hundred was beautifully compiled on his World Cup debut and amazingly, he scored at more than a run a ball right through the innings.

He is now an indispensable batsman in the top order and talented Suresh Raina will have to fight it out with Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan for the other batting slot as he, too, is a backup spinner.

In a One-dayer, the team batting first can only have an imaginary target and in a match where factors like the toss and dew have a major influence on the outcome of the match, it is difficult to assess a teams real worth.

Just as well the Indians went the whole hog in posting 370 on the board. Looking at Bangladeshs reply, whatever the conditions, any target a little over 300 could have been dicey. You cant have the luxury of big scores against better bowling sides and sloppy fielding can be disastrous in close encounters. On low and slow pitches, the medium-pacers need protection, just as the spinners, from the field.

When bowlers could work on their batting and the batsmen on bowling, why cant they put in quality hours on their fielding? It all has to do with fitness and their inclination. Maybe it is too much to expect agility from a side the average age of which is steadily creeping up.

Yuvraj spoke up for all his team mates when he said that he cant be expected to field at 29 like he did at 22! Look at Sachin Tendulkar, who at 37 is still the safest fielder anywhere in the park and you cant have a better model for inspiration.

(Veturi Srivatsa can be contacted at

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