DateLine: 1st July 2010
Amongst one of the finest glove-men Pakistan has ever produced, Wasim Bari is well qualified to comment on the fielding standards of the current Pakistan team.
Bari's international career spanned nearly seventeen years and during that period he took 253 catches and made 37 stumpings. A wicket-keeper of the highest pedigree, Bari seemed a natural behind the stumps whether he was stood up to the wicket with the magician Abdul Qadir bowling, or whether he was stood back and keeping wicket to the hostility and pace of Imran Khan and his co-seamers.
Speaking to PakPassion.net, the wicket keeper turned senior Pakistan Cricket Board official expressed his frustration at the below par fielding performances of the current Pakistan cricket team.
"Fielding is something that you have to enjoy. If you don't enjoy fielding then you can never become a competent fielder. The best fielding teams that I have seen are the ones who field with smiles on their faces and whose fielders literally compete with one another".
Bari explained how he felt he wasn't initially a natural wicket-keeper, rather someone who worked hard at the art and over the course of time his efforts and hard work paid off.
"At first I wasn't sure whether wicket-keeping was something that I really wanted to do, but once I set my mind to it, I realised that it was such a specialised role and something that I wanted to do".
Bari feels that hard work eventually pays off and the more you practice, the more it can improve your game.
"I remember after the standard practice sessions with my team mates, I would get a few of the other players and ground-staff at the Karachi venues where I was practising to provide me with additional practice. We would set up the roller between us and I would get them to throw cricket balls towards the roller, so that the ball would rebound off the roller in my direction. The heat would be searing but I insisted on 50 throws to my right, followed by 50 throws to my left. My arms would be bleeding from all of the diving on the parched outfields, but I would dust myself down, clean up my elbows and then continue with 50 more throws either side. This would continue sometimes for hours. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that those practice sessions helped me improve my wicket-keeping. You simply cannot practice enough".
Dropped catches and poor ground fielding have become the norm for Pakistan teams over the years and this was once again evident in Sunday's tour opener at Lords against the MCC XI, as Pakistan kicked off it's three month tour of England. Bari is of the opinion that there should be absolutely no excuse for below par fielding performances, especially given the standard of the outfields in the modern game.
"The days of the grassless outfields are long gone. The standard of outfields all over the world is excellent. There should be no excuse for the modern day cricketer not to be able to dive or have a decent standard of ground fielding. During the tour of England, Pakistan will need to take their half chances. Both Australia and England are high class fielding units and Pakistan need to step up their fielding if they are to challenge both teams in the coming months. You can't give top class batsmen lifelines and expect to win, those batsmen will make you pay for those mistakes".
Pakistan start their international commitments during the extended tour of England with two Twenty20 fixtures at Edgbaston against Australia.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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