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Friday, October 30, 2020

IPL 2020: Inside Dubai’s ‘ring of fire’, there are no safe hands

The total drop-count, by an conservative estimate, stands at 15 and those responsible for the slip-ups have been the best in the business.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Mumbai | Updated: October 7, 2020 7:44:09 am
Kagiso Rabada drops a catch during the match between Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore. (Source: IPL)

Royal Challengers Bangalore leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal dropped Marcus Stoinis in the deep when the Aussie, playing on 30, was starting to rev up his engine for the slog overs. Chahal, a safe fielder on most days, had failed to hold on the high catch. Stoinis went on to score 53 and played a big role in Delhi Capitals reaching 197.

But it wasn’t the first such fielding error at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in this IPL. Some of the best fielders in the world, including Ravindra Jadeja and Virat Kohli, have grassed relatively simple aerial catches. The total drop-count, by an conservative estimate, stands at 15 and those responsible for the slip-ups have been the best in the business.

One of the reasons for the drops could be the circular lighting system at the multi-purpose stadium which is also a popular football venue. Dubai doesn’t have the traditional floodlight towers that are seen at most cricket stadiums around the world. Instead, there is a ‘ring of fire’ with 350 lights installed into the rim of the roof.

As a result, balls tend to disappear for a moment or two every time when it is hit high. Unlike in stadiums with glowing towers, in Dubai the lights circumventing the stadium tend to disturb the fielders more frequently. Hence, no fielder can be fully confident when it comes to keeping their eyes on skiers at the Dubai stadium.

Earlier in the tournament, Chahal had spoken about the problems of spotting the high balls. “Sometimes, it’s difficult. Even in practice, even if we try, it’s a little bit hard compared to other grounds.”

Delhi Capitals skipper Shreyas Iyer too had raised the same issue. “I will give the fielders a benefit of doubt because these are not good conditions for catching. Because of the lighting, you sometimes misjudge the ball. You go hard, and it does come really fast. You are not sure where to position yourself,” he had said after a game against Chennai Super Kings at the venue.

So did his counterpart MS Dhoni after the same game. “The players are not used to playing under such lights, maybe the trajectory comes in the way.”

Dubai Ground, BCCI, catches dropped Umpires entering the field of play during match 19 between Royal Challengers Bangalore and the
Delhi Capitals held at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. (BCCI/IPL)

The Indian Express spoke to cricketers and coaches who have played games in Dubai. The general consensus seems to be that when the ball goes really high, it’s hard to judge its speed in the lights. Apart from the lights, they also highlighted a few other issues like lack of practice in the last six months due to the pandemic and the dew factor.

One player said that dew and humidity has made fielders’ hands wet and slippery, and the ball pops out as a result.

“If you even get sight of the ball well in advance, the dew and wet palms make things difficult. It’s hard to catch it as the ball is like soap, it doesn’t stick to the hand,” a player said.

A coach felt that players aren’t used to playing under such floodlights. “The other two venues are Sharjah and Abu Dhabi where they have pole lights, but here it’s like a diamond necklace. So whenever the ball reaches the height of a light, it’s very tough to judge it. Players are going for the ball faster than before. That’s where there is a problem in judging the speed of the ball,” a coach said.

Some dropped catches have been the difference between wins and losses. Kohli dropped KL Rahul twice against Kings XI Punjab and the latter went on to add 48 runs in 13 balls after the first drop and 42 from nine balls after the second reprieve.

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