Penney defends fielders

There was this striking moment that reflected India’s fading spirit on the face of a clinical dismantling by Alastair Cook and Nick Compton. Pragyan Ojha offered width to Compton, and the right-hander cut the ball between Yuvraj Singh and R Ashwin with precision to bring up 100 for the opening wicket.

Now, you would naturally expect them to give a good chase, but Yuvraj and Ashwin chose to stare at each other in some desperation, showing hardly any inclination to chase the ball. It’s quite natural that on some days bowlers will struggle to make an impact, but an agile fielding unit could cheer them up with a few good saves.

Unfortunately, India lacked nimbleness on the field on Thursday, also magnifying a poor day in office for the bowlers. To add to the chaos, there was constant change in the personnel who manned the slip cordon.

Virender Sehwag, the usual figure at first slip, did the duty only for spinners on the day and when the pace bowlers were operating the job was shared between Virat Kohli, Cheteshwer Pujara and Ashwin. It didn’t help India’s cause one bit that Pujara had to rush from short leg to slip and had no time to remove the shin guard and chest pad, thus reducing his agility -- must for a fielder at slip. It was one of the reasons for him dropping Cook on 17 at first slip, and how the England skipper exploited that let off!

“Pujara is a good catcher and it’s different from those old days when you go in and never come out again (from the slips). It’s changing a little bit. He made a mistake today and these sort things happens on some days in cricket,” said India’s fielding coach Trevor Penney.

Fair enough. But what about Cook and Compton stealing quick singles even when the ring was packed with as many as six fielders? At one stage, India had Yuvraj, Zaheer, Ishant Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir among others inside the circle, and they were quite ineffective on the day to cut sharp singles.

Penney admitted that India didn’t have the right fielders on some positions. “Yes, may be we didn’t get our best fielders in those positions. It’s crucial, especially with the batsmen were hitting and running against spinners,” he said.

If that was the case inside the circle, India’s fielding in the deep too didn’t make for pretty viewing, particularly the efforts of Zaheer, who was reticent even to make a start at times to chase the ball. Penney had an answer for that as well. "He has got his own methods," Penney said. "He is bowling a lot, and he has played a lot of cricket."

Then came the real defence. "He is doing well (as a fielder). I don't want to comment on what he is doing. He bowls a lot. He is a super hero of Indian cricket. I don't want to start
picking on his fielding. He does a good job in general."

Penney, though, can’t be blamed for defending a senior member. But it requires more serious effort from the ageing stars to vindicate Penney’s faith in them.

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