Although, Slip catching is not a new thing in cricket, but the way it is being held has rather become a new sensation in cricket. Cricket has seen a lot of acrobatics with the introduction of short formats of cricket all around the globe.
Yet, some dollies pops out more than often in the current cricketing scenario. What else a writer needs when he has such a hot subject that is making slip catching a complete bizarre phenomenon, let’s dive into its hits and misses.
As Mike Brearly, the former English captain and an author, phrased in his writings for The Guardian in 2010, “Catching catches is itself catching, so is dropping them.” The modern game of cricket is an effect of thinking ahead of time, an anticipation that is way ahead than it should be done.
It’s an era post retirements of some of the best catcher the world has ever seen; who turned the table of the matches with their proper visualization, discipline, anticipation at the right time as well as concentration which was then at a maximum level in the game.
Cricket today has come into an era where only few teams play good in overseas conditions. The English conditions are getting tougher than ever for most of the subcontinent teams and vice versa. In addition to that, one thing that has changed abruptly is the quality of catching mostly in the slip cordon.
There was an era of Clive Lloyd as well as Allan Border towards the end of classical era of Cricket where they creamed everything into their hand. Then, post classic era of slip catching featured Mark Waugh alongside his 38 international hundreds for Australia in all form of cricket, had 289 catches in 445 international matches under his name. He was a perfect partner for Shane Warne and led the catching department supremely anywhere in the field.
In the same era, few years later, on the other part of the world Rahul Dravid was preparing himself to make every slight chance provided by batsmen in his team’s favor. He held on to some important scalps until he reached 406 catches in his entire International career. He was the main reason behind the smiles of Harbhajan and Anil Kumble.
Similarly the era featured some of the finest catchers in the history of game than other. Slip catchers turned household names in the likes of Stephen Fleming, Andrew Flintoff, Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, VVS Laxman, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Paul Collingwood, Michael Clarke and Mahela Jayewardene. Just look at the names and you will know what generation of cricketer this century is missing in the bizarre young generation of slip fielding.
Right after the retirement of Michael Clarke, after that horrible Ashes series as a captain of then transforming Australian team, the last catcher of an exceptional era of catching in cricket came to a halt.
For my good fortune thanks to Google, I luckily found one of the best stat based writings about Tracking the misses by Charles Davis in 2016 October’s edition of The Cricket monthly. Charles did some outstanding job to make his work worth thousand time reading with all exceptional stats. Not to my surprise, Charles helped me to fill one of the missing names of the recent era of good days at slips, Graeme Smith.
His stat brings us to the heaviest of all facts that if any teams in the world wants to win overseas, catching specially at slips counts a lot as it would help any bowler to come to his natural rhythm adding to his positive mentality. It will help team to shift momentum in their favor that would hugely contribute for victory in any format of cricket.
He had this raw data that he transformed into mathematical abstract for calculating the percentage of catches and stumpings that has been missed by then top 10 nations of the world. Eventually, the team that had the worst time in cricketing arena was the one with poor catching and stumping abilities.
Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Pakistan as well as India were the bottom 4 team with India slightly better than Pakistan even in the catching departments. While India had their rate in mid 30(in %) in 2013, they have been very good in 2015 but past 2 overseas series in South Africa as well as England, their bowler’s magnificent job has been overshadowed by their poor catching in slips and gully.
Another important reading of the stat of Charles was how costly were some misses mostly behind the wicket, right from graham Gooch’s 333 to Tendulkar’s 248, each of them had one lucky chances behind the stumps. Brian Lara’s imperishable 400 too had some academic chances as mentioned by Davis that too behind the wickets in the slips was well.
So the amount of drop catches are not always cheaper, it may sum up an outstanding day in the field to silly in no time against quality batter who would make maximum of the given opportunity.
Charles summed up his article in the magazine with a bar graph that showed good improvements of catching in the 1990’s and I doubt the same improvement after 2015 Cricket World cup in Australia, I can argue a fact that more catches are dropped specially in the long format of the game than ever in the span of 3 years or so with basic ability being ignored with Modern fielding drills like the famous YO YO test.
Seeing the recent 2 tests in England as a part of India’s tour to England, Virat Kohli’s men repaid the dropped chances that helped him get a magnificent test century in England while Sam Curran making the most out of the drop chance gifted to him shifting the momentum and yielding victory for his team to have an edge over India at Edgebaston. The effect of that error of small margin by Shikhar Dhawan at slips had cost India back to back Test matches making them difficult to put a tag of No. 1 test teams of the world.
Thus the modern Phenomenon is being tested by the classical technique of keeping yourself calm even at the 100th over of the game, if a chance plunks out of nowhere, an international player must be ready to pouch it in the basket; if missed, then the hit can yield carnage.