‘A poor fielder has no place to hide’

Robin Singh stresses on ‘all-rounders’ in the field but feels slip catching will be crucial in New Zealand

Written by G.S. Vivek | New Delhi | Published: February 16, 2009 12:10:13 am

Robin Singh doesn’t mind getting his clothes dirty. Be it sliding to stop runs or diving to pluck a catch,he had given ample proof of it during his playing days. Now in his role as fielding coach,the former all-rounder seems to have rubbed it off on Team India as well. In an interview to The Indian Express,Robin talks about his journey,association with the team and how the art of fielding has evolved since his playing days. Excerpts:

India have been doing quite well in the field of late. What was the key to it?

The Indian team have improved a lot in the department. The focus was on individuals; I looked at a player’s abilities and identified which positions he was comfortable,or not comfortable,in. Then the process was initiated. It involved a lot of basics but also intensity in the sessions. Most of the drills were match-specific,like a player hitting the stumps,and then there were different clauses or obstacles added to it to keep him interested.

Also,I tried not to force it on the players. But once they were ready,I demanded a 200% effort. I would rather have 5 minutes of committed training rather than 20 minutes of loitering around in the field. I always insist on quality training rather than quantity training.

Has the bar in fielding risen since your playing days?

Cricket has changed a lot and it’s more exacting on the fielders nowadays. There’s T20 that has gained momentum and batsmen world over are playing more innovative shots. There’s no position for a poor fielder to hide and the agility and alertness required are very high compared to earlier days. Also every player needs to learn to field everywhere because the need of the hour is to be an all-round fielder. Of course,there’s scope for specialists who are good at a particular position but they need to work on other aspects of their fielding as well.

Talking about specialists,in the upcoming New Zealand tour,slip fielding could be of vital importance. How has your preparation been?

We (the think tank) know the conditions we are likely to encounter there. We have about 4-5 players who are very good in that position. Moreover,we are working to get a back-up as well,not just for slip fielding but at all other positions,so the options are always available.

Often,fielding positions are correlated with seniority. The juniors man the outfield in one-dayers and silly-point in Tests,but you have changed the trend.

In fielding,there’s nothing like a senior or junior. If a senior player is the best man to field at silly-point,then he will stand there. Everybody in this team knows who is going to stand where and there’s no fear in any player to avoid an area. I speak to player concerned,take his view on what he feels his best position is and also make my own judgment on a player’s strengths. Then I pass on the information to the skipper who makes the optimum use of it.

In the current team,whom do you consider as your best case study?

Ishant Sharma. When he started off in international cricket,he was an ordinary fielder. But he has put in a lot of effort recently. For a tall guy like him to bend down,slide and dive especially after a spell of fast bowling is creditable. In fact,the entire fast bowling department — Munaf (Patel),Zaheer (Khan) — has made me proud with an improved show in the field. RP Singh is the most natural fielder among the lot.

Is being a fielding coach a thankless job in cricket?

(Laughs) In India,fielding has traditionally been on paper,but internationally,it’s considered very important. To be a top side in the world,you need to invest quality time in the field. For me,the equation is simple: If you are a tough fielding side then that is equal to being the best side. If the fielding is bad on a day,I get flak for it. But there’s a sense of achievement when someone takes a brilliant catch or make a good save.

Still,has there been a lack of recognition,as compared to what Gary Kirsten and Venkatesh Prasad have got?

I only aspire for recognition from within the team. I don’t bother about what is being said about me by people outside. As a team,we are setting new standards and that’s the most satisfying thing for me.

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