Hamilton: A ‘blindfold technique’ to increase reaction time, leather balls of various weights to gauge trajectory in breezy conditions and a simulation machine for slip-catching have made the Indian team a remarkably improved catching unit, fielding coach R Sridhar said Wednesday.
While the blindfold technique was specifically used in England for red-ball cricket, a simulation machine called ‘ Teammate’ was used in Australia for slip-catching.
When asked about the technique specifically, Sridhar explained: “We have a feeder behind a curtain and the catcher doesn’t know from where the ball is coming from. “We would slide it from under the curtain…It did improve their reaction time (reflex), we did that extensively in England throughout the Test series. It was specifically for red-ball cricket,” he said.
Now, balls of varying weights are being used during the ODIs against New Zealand in order to help the players prepare for skiers with steady breeze threatening to change the trajectory.
“We brought a different type of machine called ‘Teammate’ for slip-catching simulations. We did a lot of blindfold work or reaction work. By the time, we reached Australia, it was a well-oiled machine and if you see, Virat took some brilliant catches,” the fielding coach gave a peek into his trade secret.
Asked about how the team is countering the breeze while handling skiers, Sridhar said: “The biggest challenge you face in New Zealand as a fielder is a breeze. Most of the batting and bowling plans are based around that breeze.
“If we see the ball wobble a lot in the air, we try and simulate that in practice, use balls of different weights, so that the ball swerves and swings more in the air.”
Sridhar said that the Indian team’s support staff is in touch with various IPL teams to ensure that players adhere to the “follow-up programme”. “We do give them follow-up programme for fielding just like trainer (Shankar) Basu does for fitness and physio Patrick (Farhart) does for rehab. We keep the communication going with players and also try and keep in touch with fielding coaches of the respective IPL teams so that we can get information about how they are going about,” he said.
Sridhar praised comeback-man Hardik Pandya’s stunning catch off Yuzvendra Chahal’s bowling to dismiss rival captain Kane Williamson. “The desperation he brought was magnificent to see. He is always a good fielder and dying to get into the thick of things and be a part of this and get back to what he loves doing, that is to play cricket and as best as he can,” he said.
“He (Pandya) made a very difficult catch look easy. It was a piece of magic and he is known for that and he is one of our best fielders. Hardik brings a lot to the team. Not only the balance but other factors as well,” Sridhar concluded.