Sunrisers Hyderabad all-rounder Washington Sundar dropping a chance against Kolkata Knight Riders. Sunrisers are one of the teams who have dropped a number of chances. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The standard of cricket in the Indian Premier League has been on the rise with batting, bowling, athleticism and powerhitting seeing an upward graph. But fielding, especially catching, has been bad in the last couple of seasons.

Catches win matches and the Royal Challengers Bangalore learned it the hard way when the Kolkata Knight Riders made them pay for their lapses. Bangalore stand-in skipper Virat Kohli, who spilled a catch in a previous game, was livid at the team’s sloppy fielding.

“To be honest, we handed over the game,” Kohli said after the 21-run loss to the Knight Riders in Bengaluru. Kolkata skipper Nitish Rana was dropped twice before he hammered a 21-ball 48 to guide his team to 200 for five.

“We deserved to lose because we weren’t professional enough in the field. I thought the bowlers hit decent areas, but we didn’t hold on to our chances. That’s what you call a freebie in T20 cricket and we literally handed them a victory.”

Freebies at alarming rate

The freebies are coming at an alarming rate in this IPL.

On the contrary, it was Venkatesh Iyer’s good diving catch that ended Kohli’s innings, and Andre Russell took one inches from the boundary to end Mahipal Lomror’s stay, and that proved to be the turning point.

Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad have been the biggest offenders this season. Five-time winners Mumbai have floored at least one catch per match, while the four-time champions Chennai are dropping almost two a game, and Sunrisers are spilling at an average of 2.5 catches a match.

How can a fielder who takes a stunning catch drop a sitter in the same game? It happens at the amateur level, but it is not acceptable in the IPL, which prides itself as the best Twenty20 league in the world.

Rinku Singh of Kolkata takes a catch to dismiss Dinesh Karthik in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Image Credit: SPORTZPICS for IPL

A total of 56 catches have been dropped so far in 36 matches, the halfway mark in Season 16, according to statistician Mohandas Menon. That’s a staggering figure of an average of 1.5 catches per match.

Former Indian Test player Yajurvindra Singh, in his recent column wrote: “The area that has not seen a significant improvement has been that of catching. The IPL’23 has had umpteen number of blemishes as regards dropped catches. One wonders what the reason for this could be, especially, with modern equipment and support staff to assist.

Playing football and loosening exercises

“Outfield catching requires plenty of practice. One reason for the pathetic catching is the lack of practice at the venue. Even before the match, players are not seen taking high and flat-batted catches. Playing football, doing loosening exercises, batting against throw balls and bowling on a side strip seem to be the normal way of warming up before a game,” Singh added.

The words of Australian skipper Steve Waugh comes into the mind when Herschelle Gibbs dropped a sitter in the final match of the Super Six during the 1999 50-over World Cup at Headingley. “Mate. You just dropped the World Cup,” the Australian had reportedly uttered.

It could happen in the IPL too. A top team could lose the trophy due a butterfingered fielder.