“An effort like this can lift the team’s morale immensely because when you play a team sport, you require momentum as a unit”
Harmanpreet Kaur has described Harleen Deol‘s stunning catch to dismiss England’s Amy Jones in the first T20I on Friday as a “brilliant” effort that was reflective of the Indian team’s renewed focus on more agile performances under fielding coach Abhay Sharma.
In an over that involved three superlative pieces of fielding – two catches, by Kaur and Deol, and a stumping by Richa Ghosh – India sent back two set England batters – Nat Sciver and Jones – and the in-form Sophia Dunkley. After Kaur caught Sciver off the second ball of the 19th over to break the duo’s 42-ball 78 stand, Deol pulled off a breathtaking solo effort of her own, by the wide long-off boundary.
Catching Jones’ powerfully struck shot overhead inches inside the rope, Deol flung the ball in the air before the momentum carried her on the other side of the boundary. She, however, recovered swiftly enough to throw herself back inside the rope, catching the ball in the air in time, diving forward, and then rolling over sideways to complete a catch that has since earned praise from the opposition team and has gone viral on social media.
“Yes, definitely [it’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen],” Kaur, the India T20I captain, said on Saturday. “We are working a lot on our fielding department and I’m really happy the way we fielded yesterday. It’s a great positive I can see in the game. It was a great effort from her. Credit goes to all our support staff and our team members who are putting efforts during our fielding sessions.
“Abhay sir,” she said, “has been working with us for a while now. The little differences in awareness we have seen in our fielding – we had been putting a fair bit of effort earlier too – the small adjustments he has been making in every player’s fielding, focusing on individual fielding sessions [has been paying off].
“And something I particularly like about his approach – judging what areas a player needs to better their fielding in. The field placements and the work we have been putting in as a team we are getting more results out of them day by day. It’s a great positive.”
Kaur, who herself took an immaculately timed forward-diving catch at long-on to remove half-centurion Sciver, with the ball dipping on her, praised India’s overall ground fielding and catching in the first T20I. India lost the match by 18 runs via the DLS method but Kaur said India’s improved fielding boded well for the team.
“[An effort like this] helps lift the team’s morale immensely because when you play a team sport, you require momentum as a unit and it can come from any player,” Kaur said. “Once I took that catch, it created an energy within the team and then Harleen also took a brilliant catch. To create that kind of an energy you have to put in extra effort.
“Throughout the game our ground fielding was also quite good; we saved quite a few runs that that effort and took a few brilliant catches. It’s a great sign that we are showing improvement in our fielding.”
She also commended pacer Shikha Pandey, who delivered the eventful 19th over for India and finished with eventual figures of 3 for 22, the best returns from the side on the night.
“Shikha is the most experienced bowler in our team,” Kaur said. “Every time out team needs her to deliver, she has risen to the occasion. I’m happy she is enjoying her bowling at the moment, bowling the way she should be, without overthinking. That’s a positive sign for us.”
India’s four-pronged spin attack, however, picked just two wickets between them, conceding 117 from their combined 13 overs. Both Sciver and Jones scored heavily against them.
“As regards spin, sometimes when playing on a flat track, spinners tend to bowl one or two boundary balls in an over,” Kaur said. “So the onus then falls on the fielding unit to cut down on the runs and support our bowlers. It’s just a matter of one or two balls that you need to focus more when delivering them. We are working on that aspect as a team.”
Player of the Match Sciver said after the game that in the lead-up to the multi-format series, England had done their “homework” to face wristspinner Poonam Yadav, India’s leading wicket-taker in T20Is. On Friday, Yadav picked 4-0-32-1, having had opener Tammy Beaumont caught in the ninth over. Moments after the wicket, though, Kaur, seemingly concerned, was seen involved in an animated conversation with Yadav.
“Poonam is a wicket-taking bowler for our team,” Kaur said, elaborating on the nature of the discussion that transpired after Beaumont’s wicket. “For us, it’s very important that she backs her own strengths. If she is unable to do that and instead tries what other bowlers may be doing, which may be advantageous to them, it may not always be useful for her.
“So, for us, it’s vital she sticks to her strengths such giving the ball a lot of loop in the air, holding the ball, looking for turn. If she deviates from these aspects and instead tries bowling the faster one or do something extra, we don’t get much advantage out of such deliveries from her.
“What you said [about the discussion with Poonam after the wicket] – she had tried out two-three faster deliveries, trying to beat them with pace, which is not possible, because her strength is making the ball turn in air. That’s what we want her to stick to because facing her is not easy [when she bowls to her strengths].
“As you mentioned, opposition teams have been practising to play her better. In a way, it’s also a positive thing for us that opposition teams are working on the game plans of specific players in our team. My advice to Poonam has been that she doesn’t forego her strengths because that’s what have brought her to where she is today.”
India next play England on Sunday, in Hove, in the penultimate fixture of their seven-match tour. With the hosts leading the points tally 8-4, and only two T20Is remaining, Kaur, who was yet to make a 20-plus score on the tour, was hopeful India’s batting would come good as the visitors look to get back to winning ways.
“Look, every time we go on the field, victory remains our objective,” Kaur said. “Even yesterday, our approach was anchored on winning. We were playing as per the DLS method. Unfortunately, we lost two-three wickets in a collapse. Our approach in the next two games will also be hinged on victory. The wickets are really good to bat on. Fielding first a team may end up conceding 10-15 runs but you can cover that through your batting.”
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha