India haven't found the right men for slips: Azharuddin

India haven't found the right men for slips: Azharuddin

Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin feels picking K L Rahul ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara in the first Test against England was a correct decision.

When Ajinkya Rahane dropped Keaton Jennings on the first day of the first Test against England in Birmingham, India's slip fielding frailties were once again exposed.

The long and arduous journey of five-Test matches at the Old Blighty could come down to which team makes the most of the chances. And slip fielding, on surfaces bound to offer pace and bounce, will be under scrutiny. 

Mohammad Azharuddin, one of the greatest slip fielders ever, felt India haven't identified the right men who can do the job. Apart from the former India captain, India were blessed with Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman, who were safe bets behind stumps. It was mainly due to the continuous practice of taking catches that resulted in finding fine slip fielders in the past, Azhar pointed out. 

"Slip fielding is a specialist's job. You can't get anybody and everybody to stand there. That's what is happening to the Indian team” he said here on the sidelines of his announcement as the brand ambassador of Bijapur Bulls, a Karnataka Premier League franchise.

“Players play a lot of T20Is and ODIs now and slip hardly matters. But you should still practice and take 50 to 60 catches everyday. We need to identify players who are willing to do that,” he said. 

Dropped catches at slips hurt India during their tour of South Africa earlier this year, where they lost 1-2 in the three-match series. Azhar reasoned that the technique shown by the players needs improvement.

"Concentration is important. You first need to stand correctly,” he began. “Fielders nowadays stand erect. Then you can't catch those which fall at your feet. You should crouch. Then, even jumping up to catch isn't tough. When you field for spinners, your reactions and reflexes have to be good. Slip fielders should also learn to adjust their positioning according to where the wicketkeeper stands. Nothing comes easy. So you need to keep practicing.”

Chance for Rahul 

India opted for K L Rahul ahead of the struggling Cheteshwar Pujara at the No. 3 position and Azhar said it was the right call. "It's a golden opportunity for Rahul. Pujara has struggled outside Asia and he needs to wait now. It happens. He is a good player but he has to learn his lessons fast. As for Rahul, this is a chance for him to cement his place. He has been playing well but he needs to maintain consistency," he observed. 

Many of the Indian batsmen are out to prove a point in the Test series but Azhar, who enjoyed a great record in England, believed conquering the pacy pitches isn't an easy task. "When we go abroad we struggle because we are finding it hard to play the moving ball. Playing on flat wickets at home isn't helping us. Batsmen also need to quickly adapt according to the format. After an ODI series, you cannot take one month to alter your technique for Tests. By that time the series is over. Kohli is a master at adapting to different conditions," he opined. 


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