Saving runs and hitting the stumps, all happening for India
It’s the ‘80’s. Ravi Shastri glides across towards fine-leg, bends his knees, slides ever so gently, stops the ball, turns around as he gets up and throws the ball to the ‘keeper. Neither the slide nor the run was swift but it used to be a matter of discussion and even pride in some of the fans of that era.
He was one of the first Indians, of that era, to do the sliding-stop. In an interview in that decade, he had talked about how he had learnt it while playing in the county cricket. That an Indian had to go to foreign shores to learn how to slide didn’t even surprise some of us then, rather it seemed a given.
Unlike what we hoped, it didn’t really catch on with many of his team-mates. No wonder it never caught on in the school and public grounds; everyone wanted to bat, some wanted to bowl and no one wanted to field.
Cut to the now. Early on in Tuesday’s game, after Ireland lost a couple of wickets, it became clear that the match was going to meander along towards the inevitable Indian win in Hamilton.
With the intensity off, the eyes drifted in and out of the action when something obvious started to catch attention.
Someone dives to stop the ball within the 30-yard circle, immediately flicks it to another fielder who swings around and throws the ball as hard as he can to Dhoni who gathers on top of the stumps. The batsman hasn’t moved an inch from his crease, nor did he ever show any inclination to do so, but there is frenetic action all around him from the Indian fielders. Suresh Raina rushes to pat the back of the fielder, Dhoni gently brings his gloves together to acknowledge the effort of the thrower and even Umesh Yadav at fine-leg is clapping. That kind of frenetic action on the field used to be seen only in Australian teams in the distant past and as a fan it used to blow the mind. Now it’s the Indians who are doing it.
MS Dhoni the captain was never allowed this luxury with the Test teams for major part of his career. Saddled with several slow movers, some old, some non-athletic bowlers, it was just like the ‘80s. The ODI team has been different for a while and reaching its pinnacle of athleticism in this World Cup unit.
Ravindra Jadeja has one of the most powerful throws in world cricket. If you remember the previous Australian series in India, he had effected some stunningly powerful throws to catch out the immensely fast Aussies.
The speed at which the ball travelled out of his hands was stunning. Rohit Sharma, as he showed in the game against Ireland, can swoop on the ball gracefully and throw side-arm, almost like, but not quite matching the style, of Mohammad Azharuddin and hit the stumps.]Virat Kohli, as he did on Tuesday, has the wonderful ability to twist his body and get into the right angle to throw in a stunningly quick time. Ricky Ponting, who was better at this, used to do it so wonderfully well and Ponting, unlike the legendary Jonty Rhodes, had also the greater ability to find the stumps. Kohli isn’t quite in that league of finding the stumps always but he seems to be getting better. There he was, changing the angle quickly at short-cover and throwing down the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
Raina, who seems to have gotten stouter these days, is a good catcher and someone who anticipates better than most in this team. Often, you can see him start moving that much earlier towards the direction as he has seen, or anticipated, that much earlier. Perhaps, it’s this urge that makes him pre-determine some of his shots when batting, and at times leads to his downfall, but that’s a thought to be explored for another day.
Ajinkya Rahane is the man with the best aim in this team. He moves pretty stealthily and swiftly if it’s short distances to his right or left — not that he is a slow coach when they are further away from him but he is especially swift, lunging to his sides, rather quickly. And that arm is bang-on.
Dhoni isn’t the best catcher to seamers and many times doesn’t even try for catches not that far from him but he is the best stumper in world cricket. Probably the best execution of stumping that one has ever seen in this game. The hands never go back while gathering; his hands just move in one direction and that’s forward towards the stumps. Even Sadanand Vishwanath, who was a wonderful keeper with great hands, took his time while gathering. Not Dhoni.
What does the captain of this team think of his fielders? “You can say we are an above average fielding team. You can see the new generation cricketers which gets slightly better facilities, good grounds, so diving comes quite naturally to them. You may be fit but you may not be quick. But over here if you see the 11 that we played, almost all of them are good fielders. There may be one average fielder in the whole 11, but when you have extraordinary fielders backed by really good fielders, you’ll have a side that can outfield some of the other sides. That is the reason why we have been getting run outs quite frequently, and it’s reflecting in our playing also because that shift of momentum is needed in the middle overs. Maybe a good catch, it may be a run out. But that’s really something that’s really working in our favour.”
Dhoni also had a lovely wisecrack, and a dig at the media, while answering the question. “I think fitness plays a major role, but please don’t quote me ‘as the last team is not fit’ because it’s an easy way of going that way!” Ouch!
Source:: Indian Express