Indian Fielding - The revolution is on!!!
I recently had the opportunity to watch an U-13
match at the famous Bombay Gymkhana ground. An
abiding memory of the game is young enthusiastic
cricketers dressed in orthodox whites throwing
themselves in all directions on a lush green
outfield. It was an indication of the extent to
which fielding has improved at all levels of the
game in India.
Mohammed Kaif (left) Yuvraj Singh
India's fielding revolution.
Indian teenagers have had the advantage of growing
up in the Television Era. Besides the lessons
imparted to them by their coaches, they are also
able to acquire tips from their heroes, whom they
can see in action from every possible angle on the
TV monitor. They try to imitate their idols on the
field of play. This exposure to the highest level
of the game has helped them tremendously.
Indian cricket in the bygone days was indifferent
to fielding. One got into the team on the basis of
runs scored or wickets taken, and fielding was
never given due weightage. Some of our greatest
players abhorred the word "fielding". They would
look to scurry into the dressing-room to avoid
being out on the field at the slightest
opportunity! The consensus was that batting and
bowling were the all-important departments, and
fielding an unavoidable chore.
Another factor detrimental to the evolution of
fielding in India was the coarseness of grounds.
Even today, most grounds at the grass-root level of
the game are devoid of grass. They are dry and
rough, and the water-shortage in some areas of the
country only makes things worse. Fielding on such
grounds can be a hurtful experience rather than a
In the past, a majority of first-class matches were
played on government-owned multi-purpose grounds.
These grounds staged different sports and also
concerts and exhibitions right through the year.
Consequently, the local cricket authorities got
hardly any time to roll and water the arena and
prepare it for a match. Club matches were played on
uneven, uncultivated grounds that lacked even a
proper boundary. There were stones and rubbish all
around and fielding in the deep was a perilous
I remember an incident that took place during a
Times of India Shield match at the Parsee Gymkhana
Ground in Mumbai. We had got a new recruit from
Nagpur, Anil Deshpande, who did extremely well at
the first-class level and went on to become a
national selector. He was fielding in the covers,
when the batsman got the ball past him. Deshpande
chased it and had almost cut it off when he banged
himself into a wall he had not noticed. So badly
did he injure himself that he had to be taken to
hospital to get his wounds stitched.
Injuries were also sustained when one's foot would
get stuck in a hole, or the ball would hit a stone
and bounced sharply just as you were about to field
it. There were also instances of enterprising
fielders having to leave the field in pain after
jumping to stop the ball and landing on a sharp
stone or a broken piece of glass instead.
These sub-human conditions were the reason for
Indian fielding never coming close to Australian,
South African or even English standards. Coaches
could never practically demonstrate a good
effective dive or a sliding stop.
Add to this the mental block against fielding.
There was a famous incident on India's tour of
Australia in 1947-48, wherein an Indian fielder
made a half-hearted attempt to stop a stroke played
by Bradman. When confronted by his teammates, he
argued that he hadn't stopped the ball as that
particular stroke played by the great man deserved
a boundary! The Indians of that time also had an
inferiority complex regarding their stamina and
mental toughness. All this meant that there was no
way the Indian bowlers could depend on the fielders
to help them take twenty opposition wickets.
Consequently, Indian cricket suffered.
Today, times have changed. Youngsters seem to be as
interested in fielding as they are in batting or
bowling. Jonty Rhodes, Ricky Ponting and others
have had an inspirational effect. Even the coaches
are being specifically trained in imparting
techniques and exercises to enhance their pupils'
movement and suppleness. The conditions at grounds
where the most talented junior cricketers are
trained have improved considerably, and qualified
physios and fitness experts are part of the
coaching process. Young cricketers have become
fitter, tougher and confident as a result.
Slow movers will soon be history in Indian cricket.
Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh, two young men who
spent their formative years in the TV era and
undoubtedly watched the likes of Rhodes, have shown
scores of youngsters the way. Even as I write this,
I know that somewhere in the land, a 12 year-old
has snapped up a blinder at forward short-leg, or
flung himself to take a splendid catch in the
We are in the midst of a fielding revolution in
India. The quicker everyone connected with Indian
cricket realizes the importance of saving 25-30
runs, the better. The last World Cup was won by the
most consistent fielding side of the tournament.
The same was the case in 1999. 2007 should be no