The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian fielding has come of age

Indiaís wonderful win against England can now allow them to relax a little and plan for the next game against Pakistan and then the Super Sixes. There was much to be happy about the victory for the Indian team, but the great realist, coach John Wright, will look behind the victory for things to improve. Apart from the four points he will be entitled to a breath of relief and also the accolades for Indiaís fine fielding.

John Wright and his trainees have worked very hard on improving the overall fitness of the team and the basic fundamentals of fielding. Both have rubbed off on each other. A big improvement in fitness has meant they are now faster to the ball and thus cover more area, but more importantly have more time to set up the correct procedure for catches and top ground fielding.

Perhaps the most obvious part of the ground fielding was that frantic late dives were left to a minimum. No longer were fieldsmen sprawling across the turf to balls they should have been able to stop standing up.

This was because not only is the team physically fitter, but they are also mentally sharper and concentrate better.

In the past, too many Indian players have been guilty of dozing off and looking for others to do the hard yards. Top fielding always lifts and motivates bowlers. If they feel half chances will be taken and big shots stopped they will respond accordingly. This was very obvious against England when the Indian bowlers got a boost after some brilliant fielding early culminating with the run out of Nick Knight.

While the wicket may have had more life under lights than when India batted, as Englandís supporters/critics kept suggesting, nothing should be taken away from the Indian bowlers.

You still have to get the ball in the right spot, whether on a flat track or on a seaming one if you want to get wickets. India did this beautifully and this pressure forced the English batsmen into errors.

Ashish Nehra was quite superb and his line and length calculated to take advantage of Englandís batting frailty. The English batsmen perished by their own sword and exactly the way a left hand pace bowler would plan to get them.

Lord and perhaps Duncan Fletcher only know whether at the team meeting, it was discussed that against the left hand swing bowlers you must seek to get forward as much as possible to nullify his in-swing and place yourself in the best position to counter the ball going straight on.

In addition, I would have hoped the captain or coach would have hammered home that any ball, apart from the short ones, must be played with a full face of the bat between mid-on and mid-off. This certainly wasnít done, nor were there many balls played on the full-stretch forward right under the nose.

Most dismissals, even attempted drives were caused by batsmen going just beyond the crease and meeting the ball with bat angled between extra cover and point. Little wonder then that the wicketkeeper and the slips had a feast.

A word of praise about the catching of Sehwag. He has wonderful soft hands and the patience not to snap at the ball but let it come as far as possible to him. He looks almost casual as most good slippers do because by letting the ball come they give themselves that extra time that allows them to appear to not hurry or snatch at catches.

My only disappointment with Indiaís bowling was Sourav Ganguly. On a wicket ideally suited to him he gave far too much away. Sourav is a naturally gifted bowler with the knack of being able to get any batsman out. Even on flat tracks he will do the unexpected and get the ball to seam.

Unfortunately, he is not making most of his talent and bowls far too many no ball and wide deliveries. Sourav can remedy this, but to do so he must be prepared to spend hours bowling at the nets, something he is very reluctant to do.

The Indian bowlers showed they can use a helpful seaming pitch as well as any team. If Sourav can bowl to his potential, India need not fear any kind of pitch.

While the Indians are on the upswing, great rivals Pakistan are doing it tough. I would not write them off at any stage. I feel their team is due for major reconstruction.

Wasim Akramís 500 one-day International wickets is a monumental achievement and on his day he can still pose a threat for any batsman.

Unfortunately the days are more widely spread than they used to be and not nearly as damaging.

Waqar Younis, I feel, is in the same boat. Both he and Wasim have had long distinguishing careers and have bowled a huge number of overs. Like Wasim, he can still have a brilliant burst, but his cutting edge is not as sharp as it once was.

On paper Akram, Younis and Shoaib looks a masterful line up. Shoaib is certainly fast and on occasions dangerous, but he is also very predictable. Watching the three of them bowl, it seems to me they donít act as a ďpackĒ as the great West Indies quicks did.

This pack mentality and killer instinct seems to be missing from the Pakistani method. Seldom do you see great pressure exerted from both ends when you see this trio operating.

Pakistan seems to have some middle order talent emerging in their batting. Unfortunately they are not getting much help from the top order. For many years, Pakistan had openers as good as any in the world. At present neither the young nor the old are doing their job.

Unhappy teams seldom field well, particularly if things are not going your way. Unfortunately fielding gets harder as a team ages and certainly in this area Pakistan need some inspiration and perhaps hard work.

Pakistan as a cricket nation have always fascinated me. They have continual trouble and changes at the highest administrative level and a coaching and development programme is almost non-existent.

Yet they have some unbelievable emerging talent. Most of them are highly gifted but also inevitably have good techniques. How it all comes about I have no idea. What I do know though is if they could get their cricketing structure straightened out they could take on anyone.

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