Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Dying Art of Slip Fielding

The palpable decline in the standard of slip catching is taking away from the fans one of the most pleasurable sights in world cricket. Even the mighty Aussies (or should I say once mighty Aussies) who not too long ago boasted of a superb slip cordon consisting of Mark Taylor, Mark Waugh and Shane Warne are lacking in quality when it comes to slip fielders these days. The erudite Bob Simpson once wrote in an article in the Sportstar that the good and the great slip catchers are judged by the number of catches they drop as opposed to the number that they grasp.

Notable modern day slip exponents such as Rahul Dravid, Mathew Hayden and Graeme Smith can never be considered as great slip fielders, as for all the fantastic catches they snatch, they drop the odd clanger. Andrew Flintoff and Mahela Jayawardene are more the exception than the rule in so far as the correctness of their technique is concerned. As Graham Gooch points out, the trick to being a successful slip fielder is to ride the ball. The hands mustn't reach out for the ball as the ball comes towards you. Soft hands, terrific concentration powers and slick movement are all vital ingredients of a good slip fielder, all of which are sadly on the decline in modern day cricket.

Across nations, young upcoming cricketers possess superb athleticism and are exceptional when fielding in the covers or at backward point, but very few of them can be considered as potentially good slip fielders. In India, the likes of Rohit Sharma, S. Badrinath, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are all fabulous in the outfield, but seem like unlikely candidates to replace Laxman and Dravid in the slips. Of course, the world may never get to witness a catcher like Mark Waugh again, who with his languid grace and elegance made slip catching look ridiculously easy at times. But at least by emphasising on the importance of slip fielding and imparting the virtues of a correct catching technique in cricketers from a very young age, the quality of slip fielding, if not its beauty can be restored to its rightful state.


Rahul Saha said...

One of the worst slip fielders I have seen is Ganguly. I rememebr how he dropped two simple catches of Kumble's bowling once in the same over. Luckily for him the game was won by then

A Couch-side View said...

It's a specialist position. I just saw Matty Hayden who is considered one of the best in the business drop one in the slips this morning. It was a difficult chance alright, but one that Mark Taylor or Mark Waugh would have taken with great ease.