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New agile Indian side

Makarand Waingankar
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Several Indian fielders were passengers on the field, said Nasser Hussain two years ago, although the exact word he used was derogatory. The country erupted in outrage and hurt.

It was perhaps because we knew he was right, except that we didn’t want him to tell it to us.

The outraged lot would have been grinning seeing India field in the Champions Trophy and grinning wider knowing that Hussain was around to witness it. M.S. Dhoni’s men were superb on the field.

Quite rightly Dhoni said, much of the credit goes to the improved grounds in India that encourage fielders to slide and dive. A few years ago, diving would mean landing in the hospital.

A run saved is a run scored, and the Indian team of yesteryear lost more runs than it could score.

But like everything else, India looks like a new fielding side as well.

The younger lot from the IPL has concentrated on agility and endurance and they have learnt to position themselves by making fine adjustments.

In fact, due to the absence of proper rules till the 90s, many senior Indian batsmen would never ever field after scoring a century.

Perhaps they didn’t think of themselves as too different from the cricket-playing Maharajas.

New rules soon came and most of the issues were sorted out. But despite their slowness on the field, some managed to walk their way into the national side.

There were quite a few who would throw underhand from the boundary and were considered certainties in the Indian team in the 60s.

Remember, Vijay Manjrekar’s run-out of Hanif Mohammad, when he was batting on 160, with an underhand throw from deep fine-leg at the Brabourne stadium in 1960? No longer are underhand throws and leg-stops tolerated.

IPL has changed the fielding culture in India. Every IPL team has a fielding coach to indoctrinate the importance of saving runs through rigorous workouts.

The players love to slide, dive, pick up and throw. Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik all patrol the infield like Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi used to.

It was Pataudi who first made the revolution in Indian fielding. He would rather have increased the amount in laundry bills than have spotless whites at the end of the day.

Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar in the leg trap and Wadekar and Venkatraghavan in the slips started taking some blinders — and the difference could be seen. The spinners suddenly became all the more deadly.

Recently the Mumbai Cricket Association appointed one of the finest cover point fielders, Ghulam Parkar, as the fielding coach in the academy. There are fielding coaches for juniors too.

The fantastic drills of the fielding coaches nowadays combined with scientific practice inject confidence and enthusiasm in young players. Jonty Rhodes is known to conduct interesting fielding sessions for Mumbai Indians, sharing his fielding secrets.

IPL has changed the fielding culture in India

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