If the 10th edition IPL inaugural match had been some sort of advertisement or image-building exercise for T20 cricket it would have ended up as a miserable failure. Not because Sunrisers Hyderabad won. They actually ticked almost all the right boxes. It was their opponents Royal Challengers Bangalore who flopped — and spectacularly at that — on the big stage.
Last year, when RCB captain Virat Kohli was pointedly asked after an IPL game whether Sarfaraz Khan was rested or dropped, he just as pointedly replied: “Dropped. Cricket is not only about batting. It also involves quick running between the wickets and fielding. Sarfaraz knows what has to be done and has been informed accordingly. Hopefully he will take the advice and come back an improved player next year.”
It is obvious from Wednesday night’s performance that many of the RCB players weren’t listening when the riot act was read last year.
They have come back looking sloppy, rusty and lacklustre. There were catches dropped, overthrows, throws to the wrong end, misfields galore. It looked so terrible that Kohli, who was on the sidelines and being interviewed on live television just as one of his team's fielding lapses occurred, was forced to recall an old adage: “Catches win matches”.
By extension, dropped catches lose matches and that’s what finally happened. Post-match, skipper Shane Watson admitted his team was “sloppy and thus gave away 207 runs. They should never have got that many”.
On the other hand, SRH gave a stand-out display of fielding. Skipper David Warner led the way with a magnificent display of catching. Chris Gayle (32 from 21 balls) was going great guns but one mishit off Deepak Hooda spelt his doom. Providentially that mishit was directed towards Warner, who unlike RCB’s butter-fingered lot, pouched it competently.
The turning point though came with that incredible throw of Ben Cutting. Kedar Jadhav and Travis Head were batting really well and seemed to set RCB on the right course when Cutting gave his side the decisive edge.
To describe the throw from deep square leg, one has to borrow a phrase from Ravi Shastri’s lexicon: “It came like a tracer bullet” (Must ask Shatri where he has seen this tracer bullet.) The throw — flat, well directed and like greased lightning, smashed the stumps with Jadhav still yards away from safety. It was a spectacular piece of fielding and as Watson observed “changed the course of the match”.
About the only blemish SRH made on the field was the goofy attempt by wicket-keeper Naman Ojha to latch on to a skier from Stuart Binny. Ojha was keener on seeing where the other fielders were in an effort to ward them off. By the time he refocused on the ball it was too late to get underneath it. Not that it mattered. Binny was dismissed soon enough.
RCB’s disastrous fielding not only dropped SRH in the winners’ slot but must have also dented the bowlers’ confidence.
Fielders are expected to exert pressure on the batsmen by disrupting the scoring rate. Smart stops, runs saved, run outs effected and half chances taken can boost the efficiency levels of bowlers and also alter the complexion on any game.
That the reverse happened does not augur well for RCB. It made the bowlers seem worse than they were.
RCB supporters were well aware even before the start of the tournament that Gayle, Watson and a couple of others would be stragglers on the field. However, Gayle and Watson bring other talents to the table and they will come good in a few of the matches. The same cannot be said about some of the others in this RCB side.
That’s the cause for worry for coach Daniel Vettori. He can’t have in the playing XI players who can’t bat, can’t bowl and can’t field effectively. In fact, unless he gets the team to substantially improve its fielding, this could well turn out to be one long hot summer.
Updated Date: Apr 06, 2017 12:39 PM