Pakistan’s fielding too has been woeful and while India catch well at most times, their out-cricket still gives you the impression it is a generation behind time.
OK, fine. Reasonable point — players should focus on the simple things (catching dollies, running, stopping the ball by bending your knee, maybe even tag-team throws back to the wicketkeeper). But beyond that, I don’t think fielding is all that important. That’s right; I said it — catches don’t win matches.
Forgive the heresy, but say you had to pick 11 players. Six excellent batsmen (averages above 50!) and five excellent bowlers (five-wicket hauls abound!), but they’re all terrible fielders. Wouldn’t you still fancy their chances to win most matches?
I sound stupid, but I’m trying to make an important point: yes, we all want to see players catch the simple ones, and yes, direct hits usually make the difference. But resources are finite and players can’t do everything. So, after coaches focus on the simple stuff — the stuff Bhogle wants — they should step off. Not everyone needs to be a Jonty Rhodes, or even a Yuvraj Singh (and I’d rather have Yuvraj the Batter than Yuvraj the Fielder, especially if he’s going to hurt his knee every time he dives).
Because good fielding rarely wins matches. Unlike good bowling or batting, it’s purely reactive (catches need to be caught, yes, but they must first be offered; same with run-outs). That’s even more true in the world of Twenty20, when batsmen are now regularly hitting out instead of through, and behind (the wicketkeeper) instead of, um, in front. In high-scoring situations, you don’t want a good fielder; you want a hitter.
Conclusions: if you’re a coach, follow the law of diminishing marginal utility returns: the payback of teaching a fielder how to catch properly is immense (and relatively easy to do). But as training goes on, the payback begins to fall: diving in the covers properly isn’t easy, and the utility isn’t all that much (you saved 4 runs. Big deal).
Let me put like this: someone once argued that Dhoni had nowhere to hide Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar (all old legs) on the field, but I never had a doubt: put ’em in front of the stumps, padded up, facing a bowler.