© AFP
© AFP

Pallekele: Indian fielding coach R Sridhar has said that the team will not be deterred by the middle- order collapse in the second ODI against Sri Lanka, and continue with experimentation in the matches to come. India lead the five-match series 2-0 with the third ODI to be played tomorrow. ”The way we look at every game is that we take something into the next game and the remaining part of the series. I think the way the last game shaped up was a wonderful learning curve for us,” Sridhar said on Saturday. ”Even before the series started, we all knew that there was going to be some experiments from us going ahead over the next 18 months. It has been a great learning.”

India recovered from a precarious 131 for seven to record only their second win at the Pallekele International Cricket ground on Thursday. ”Akila Dananjaya bowled brilliantly in the last game. We take that forward, and we’ll make sure we won’t repeat the same mistakes going forward. We wanted give the other players a hit because Rahul hadn’t batted in the middle in a one-day game so we wanted to give him that opportunity. It was just an experiment. (But) It won’t stop. We will try out different players in different slots to get the best exposure to get the best out of each player. That’s the endeavour of the team management,” he added.

Saturday was an optional net session for the Indian team. Former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was among the few players who came for practice. Sridhar outlined that Hardik Pandya has recovered sufficiently from cramps and is available for selection for the next game. ”MS leaves no stone unturned to make sure he is at his best going into every game. He knows his body best and he knows what he needs to do. He is such a thorough professional.
On Thursday, Hardik Pandya was cramping. He’s perfectly alright now. He should be ready for the next game,” Sridhar said.

Along with fitness as a prime parameter, India also aim to be the best fielding unit on the field, as skipper Virat Kohli had put it before the second ODI. As such, Sridhar’s task in this long limited-overs’ schedule as well as in the build-up to the 2019 ODI World Cup is cut out. ”There is no dearth of motivation as far as the players here are concerned because the biggest motivation is that they are representing the country. As far as differing fielding drills: it all depends on the workload. If someone is playing five or eight games on the trot, we are very careful with workload.

“We design drills and the loading of the fielding drills is very much tune with that. For somebody who is not playing, the workload is a bit more. That is something we monitor very closely, reason being we want them to be at their best whenever we take the ground,” he explained. Sridhar seemed satisfied with the improvements in ground fielding.

“Compared to the Test side, I think our ground fielding has improved significantly over the last three or four years. We have affected probably the most number of run-outs in Test cricket over the last few years. In ODIs, we have been a very high-intensity fielding unit on the field. Odd errors happen here and there, that’s just the nature of the beast, but we pride in our intensity and our energy and that comes down right from the core group of Virat and Ravi bhai. They always feel the 10 best fielders along with the wicketkeeper will walk onto the field, he explained.

“In ODI, there is more buzz, there is more energy on the field. You have better fielder manning the high-traffic zones, so it’s quite a busy three and a half hours and it in turn reflects in our performance. I think we have one of the best fielding sides in the world at the moment and we look forward to make it the best in the world going forward,” he added.

While ground fielding is always a primary matter of concern, Sridhar has also been working hard on getting India’s slip cordon right across all formats.

“It all depends on the personnel we have. We really can’t decide, ‘oh, these three are going to stand in these positions!’ There are a lot of variables involved. Somebody might get injured; somebody might not be part of team. We take that call only once the team is decided.

“Once we get the 15 in hand, Virat, Ravi bhai and I sit down, have a chat and figure the people manning key positions. We try and make our practices as specific to positions and we go into player specifics too,” said the fielding coach.

“There were a few lapses during the England and Australia Test series. We addressed that during our preparation phase during the first seven days in Sri Lanka. I am glad it paid off.” Sridhar had words of praise for a few players.

“Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane plucked some great catches close-in and Virat himself picked up some good catches close-in. Of course, Wriddhiman Saha was good. We worked on the positioning and their technique. More importantly, the players themselves were driven. They were motivated to make every opportunity count. That helped us improve from those earlier series to now,” he signed off.