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Catches win matches, goes the saying. But the Indian cricket team, despite doing very well in familiar conditions over the last two years, has not always held the chances in the slip cordon.
During their 2016-17 home campaign, when they won 10 of the 13 Tests, and even in the latest home series against Sri Lanka, India’s slip fielding was one of the most problematic areas.
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Unless they drastically improve, it could prove to be their undoing on pace-friendly pitches in South Africa. Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly says catching must improve ahead of the three-match Test series starting in Cape Town on Friday.
“Slip catching needs to be at its best for India. Over there, the mode of dismissals will be completely different from the subcontinent and that is where the slip fielders will come into the game. The fielders need to pay more attention and their performance will be crucial to the team’s future,”Ganguly told India Today on Wednesday.
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The most recent example of India’s disappointing show in the slips came during the final Test against Sri Lanka in New Delhi, where they missed crucial catches that could have prevented the struggling visitors from escaping with a draw. Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were all guilty of dropped catches. Cheteshwar Pujara acknowledged the issue in the post-match press conference, pointing out that forced rotation of openers due to injuries was also causing the problem.
Ganguly, however, felt the bouncy South Africa pitches may make life easy for the Indian slip fielders.
“The conditions will be in their favour as the ball will carry comfortably to the fielders in the slip cordon and the Indian players need to use it to their advantage,” he said.
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This will be the first major away series for India after two years of playing in familiar conditions. The spotlight will be on skipper Virat Kohli as India have won nine Test series in a row under his captaincy.
Ganguly said the South Africa series will be an acid test for Kohli.
“As a batsman, Virat (Kohli) has nothing more to prove. He is already one of the best batsmen in the world and thanks to him India has gone from a talented side to a winning side. However, this series will be the biggest challenge of his captaincy, and that is where he needs to prove himself.”
India have not won a Test series in South Africa. Though they have come close a couple of times, victory has eluded them. Ganguly believes this team is capable of ending the wait.
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“This is their best chance to win a series in South Africa. The team is well balanced and their performances have been quite impressive. But they need to fight as hard as they can and believe in themselves. There will be sessions where they will be completely outplayed. But they can’t lose heart, and it is important that the senior players keep the rest of the side motivated.”
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