Straight in and straight out | Pakistan Today

Straight in and straight out

“It’s up in the air, with a fielder getting underneath it. Boycott’s mum shouldn’t have a problem holding onto this one but oh my word, he’s dropped it, what an absolute dolly” as the 180 million population goes into a collective facepalm. Anyone who has been associated with Pakistan cricket for any length of time will be quite familiar with the above lines or words to such effect and with yet another series in which the Pakistani fielders showcased a ‘how not to field 101’, its slowly coming (if it has not already for some) to the point where it has stopped being rage inducing, funny or pitiful for that matter but something we have come to accept as part and parcel of the game just as we’ve come to accept that we will lose to India in a World Cup tie no matter how hard we try to do otherwise.
The sight of a gravity defying Jonty Rhodes clattering the stumps en route to running Inzimam-Ul-Haq out at the 1992 World Cup not only become an iconic image at the time but helped usher in the revolution that fielding was about to undergo. That South African team set the bar and altered how teams viewed fielding; not something that was to be done just for the sake of it but an art form that could help save 20-40 runs and subsequently help you win the match. Soon enough, other teams followed suit with Australia leading the pack. Sri Lanka and India were slightly slow to jump on the bandwagon but they eventually did and now boast a more than respectable fielding unit but Pakistan refused to alter the status quo. Various theories have since been floating around as to why we fare so badly in the field but really, we all know that it’s part of a sinister Hindu-Zionist conspiracy to keep Kamran Akmal in the team.
Speaking of Akmal, he truly is a remarkable keeper (if you could call him that), for he redefines ‘setting the bar low’ every time he stumbles onto the ground and it is unlikely that his Herculean effort with the gloves will be matched anytime soon. The worrying aspect though is that he is not the only one, the truly mortifying aspect is that the new players coming through are hardly any better. This is an indication of a long standing problem with our selection policy, prevalent not just at the international level but right down to the grass roots. Fielding is not a priority and you need not worry about it if you are talented enough with bat or ball. Inzimam-ul-Haq, arguably the best batsman this country has produced over the last decade or so would not have made the Australian side because their selectors pick players who excel in at least two out of a three of batting, bowling and fielding. Part of the reason why Monty Panesar is not considered for the England team, especially in the shorter formats, is his ability to field at the same level as us and possibly worse. It is no surprise then that these teams do well in the fielding department while we continue to suffer.
Since time immemorial, the solution to our fielding woes according to our cricket board revolves around hiring foreign or local (why even bother?) fielding coaches on exorbitant fees in the hope that they will transform our butter-fingered cricketers into Jonty Rhodes replicas just like Fair’n’ Lovely transforms skin complexion in 14 days. These coaches seem to be non-existent at junior levels where they can actually make a difference rather than at the national level where an individual is set in his ways and is unlikely to respond to new ideas.
While the planning is bad, the attitude of players is worse. Forget relay throws or single handed pickups, is it really too much to expect them to hold a simple catch and hit the stumps every now and again? Perhaps we need to tap into the psyche of our society to find the answer to this conundrum. We are by default selfish individuals who only think about ourselves and never of the larger picture. A spirit of collectiveness is all but absent. Translate this onto a cricket field and you have cricketers worrying about their own batting/bowling but not paying any heed to fielding since fielding is in a way done for the team nor does it have a ‘tangible’ form of record like the other two which the players can boast about. Add to this the fact that it is the least glamorous part of cricket and you have Pakistani fielding in a nutshell. We may as well forget about seeing a change in our fortunes as long as such a culture is prevalent
Before the beginning of every series, our captain/coach tells us that fielding is a concern. Acceptance is the first step to solving a problem, sure, but I have been hearing the same spiel for as long as I can remember. How about actually doing something about it because on the evidence of what we see, I refuse to accept that the team works as hard on their fielding as they claim. These cricketers earn millions of rupees doing something that most of us would give an arm and leg to do yet they continue to mess up the first thing a child is taught i.e. catching a ball.



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One Comment;

  1. Andy Flower said:

    What a lot of you critics don’t understand I’d that getting 20 wickets is more important than catching one catch. I would every time sacrifice a world class fielder for a world class bowler.

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