A screenshot of the acrobatic catch taken by Rohit Sharma.
A screenshot of the acrobatic catch taken by Rohit Sharma.

Fielding at forward short-leg in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle, Rohit Sharma pulled off a stunner off Ravichandran Ashwin to dismiss a set Angelo Mathews. Abhishek Mukherjee explains why Rohit’s catch should go down as one of the very best the sport has seen. Live Updates: India vs Sri Lanka, 1st Test at Galle, Day 1

While purists (count me in) will whine about the dying out of the excitement Test cricket used to enjoy and rue the advent of shorter formats, coloured attire, and (horror, horror!) cheerleaders, it cannot be denied that there is one aspect in which the shorter formats have contributed immensely: fielding. VIDEO: Rohit Sharma’s out-of-the-world catch to dismiss Angelo Mathews in India vs Sri Lanka, 1st Test

It seems almost mandatory for a young cricketer to add quality fielding to his CV to make it big. Indeed, cricket has changed, and for good: those ferocious square-cuts and silken cover-drives seldom make it to the ropes anymore, and outrageous catches are plucked out of thin air, especially in the deep. ALSO READ: R Ashwin takes 11th five-wicket haul in Tests to sink Sri Lanka in first Test at Galle

However, this has not necessarily improved the quality of the specialised fielding positions every captain needs to back his bowlers with: slip and bat-pad catchers. The men who man the 30-yard circle or the fence in the shorter formats do not necessarily become quality close-in catchers.

The Indians had a reason to be happy when KL Rahul took an excellent reflex catch off Ravichandran Ashwin to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara cheaply. But the catch Rohit Sharma pulled off to dismiss Angelo Mathews was of the quality cricket has not seen for a long, long time.

Let us look at the catch carefully. Ashwin tossed the ball on off-stump. Mathews, well set by then, tried to flick, perhaps to the left of Rohit at forward short-leg. He did not time it, the ball probably brushed his pad, and the ball went up in the air above Rohit’s head, to his right.

Rohit’s initial movement was in the right direction. As he went for it, ball probably came closer (for it had touched his pad), and — this is very important, quicker — than he expected. The ball hurried on to him, and by the time he realised where it was, the ball was next to his face. ALSO READ: Ravichandran Ashwin takes 5 as India bowl out Sri Lanka for 195 at tea on Day 1 of 1st Test at Galle

Rohit managed to push the ball back with both hands, which was incredible (try doing it if the ball passes close to your face and crosses you, and you will realise what I am talking about). Not only did he manage to touch it, he pushed it back towards the direction of the pitch.

Then Rohit turned around, to some extent, realised that he had pushed the ball to a place where he could actually reach it on the rebound. So he made a lunge for it. This also meant a change in centre of gravity for him (slow-motion camera will overestimate the time he got to react). Live Scorecard: India vs Sri Lanka 2015, 1st Test at Galle, Day 1

The ball, unfortunately, was beyond his reach — well, almost. Since this was Rohit, he was acrobatic enough to reach it, using his right foot as fulcrum. By the time the catch was taken, the centre of gravity had shifted completely, and what followed was one of the greatest short-leg catches the world has seen.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)