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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Catches Win Matches - again

Australia v Pakistan, MCG, Day 5

One over into day 5. Pakistan resumed at 3/170. Five balls later and they were 5/171.

Pakistan had to pull-off a record-breaking run chase of 422 to win. But with 170 already under their belt, the remaining 252 with seven wickets was actually quite achievable, even more so considering there were two world class bats at the crease with another next to come in. That chance went out the window with Mitchell Johnson's 4th and 5th deliveries.

Where I am leading to is a further dig about the Pakistani fielding. No, I am not referring to the dropped catch that gave Shane Watson his maiden century. It was those badly-missed chances in the first session of Day 1 which has cost Pakistan this game.

As a bowler it is heart-breaking to bowl your guts out, give it everything, get the edge only to see eminently catchable chances hit the turf. As a captain, it is incredibly frustrating to see your players spill chances that they should be taking. I imagine coaches would be uttering unrepeatable (at least in this blog) phrases.

At the end of the day, poor fielding has undone some fine Pakistani bowling, particularly the hard work by Mohammad Aamer in getting 5 wickets.

The team management and coaching have to wear some of the responsibility here. It is all very well to talk about the underlying culture of not taking fielding seriously, but it is the management and coaching staff that are in the position to take positive action with the team under their control. If fielding is sub-par, which the Pakistani catching most definitely is, then the players must be forced to work at it harder. Introduce mandatory sessions at the slips cradle at most training sessions - that sharpens those slips reflexes like nothing else. Force the players to have sessions taking catches in close with tennis balls off a tennis racquet - that forces you to soften your hands and to stop snatching at the ball.

Those sort of training tactics will not turn every player into Mark Taylor quality in slips, but it would vastly improve Pakistan's quite lacklustre performance with this fundamental.

As I said on Day 1, catches win matches. And dropped catches have almost certainly cost Pakistan this game.

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