‘Bangladesh's fielding won't change overnight’
Since taking over from Sohel Islam as Bangladesh’s fielding coach, Ryan Lyall Cook has seen Bangladesh enjoy enough success in white-ball cricket. Though he joined the team during their last Test of the two-match series against West Indies in July, he hadn’t had enough opportunity to assess the fielding unit in the longest format as the Tigers had a packed schedule in limited-overs cricket.
Bangladesh’s upcoming two-Test series against Zimbabwe will be Cook’s first proper red-ball series with the team and knowing that Test match is a totally different ball-game, where the teams from the subcontinent tend to set the fielder around the bat, Cook has been working in order to upskill the boys according to the team’s requirements.
In an interview with Cricfrenzy, the South African talked about his experience with the team, the slip cordon and other aspects of fielding in general. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Cricfrenzy (CF): How do you see the Bangladesh team as a fielding side?
Ryan Cook (RC): I have really enjoyed working with them so far. They are very receptive players, willing to learn a lot and coming of different bases. Some guys are a little bit better, some guys are not as good. But good thing is, everyone is willing to learn.
CF: We see boys really love working with you. What's your coaching method for them?
RC: Look, I think anything that you’re becoming good at, you enjoy and anything that you enjoy, you end up becoming good at. So we are just trying to work with them and be as positive as we can with what they are doing. We are trying to encourage them to go for it as much as possible. So if there is an odd mistake, that's okay. We know that is going to happen, especially in practices. We are trying to encourage them to push their boundaries and express themselves.
CF: So far how do you think the guys are responding?
RC: Very well, it has been a lot of progress. I had a lot of help from the other coaches as well. We are all driving the same message, obviously, Steve being the fielding coach before and Neil McKenzie's with us with the white ball, he worked quite hard with the fielders as well. And all the coaches have been really good, with topping up all the players. It has been really good progress.
CF: We have been playing a lot of white ball cricket lately. Coming to red-ball cricket, how do you get the best fielding combination right in very little time?
RC: Yeah, It's very different. There is more catching, especially the slip catching. We have done a lot of work with that. And lot more cover work as well. It’s very difficult to replicate a test match. To be in the field for six hours and you get a nick and it’s the last ball of the day. It is very hard to replicate that. But we are trying to get the guys to contribute as much as they can. That will keep their red ball skills up.
CF: Bangladesh slip cordon hasn't been successful. Is there any quick fix or we have to wait longer to see a dependable one?
RC: I think there are two things. One is education on it. That can be a slightly shorter-term solution. But when you go to a country like South Africa, every game you play, you’ll see three or four slips. Here, you maybe have only one slip, sometimes not even any slip. So we get a lot more exposure to slip catching from a younger age. So that will be a much longer-term process for the guys to work with.
CF: What about the closing fielding when the spinners are on?
RC: That's where we are very good compared to some of the other countries. They have to manufacture these players. In South Africa, It's very uncommon to have players around the bat whereas here you’ll have lots of players. In today’s practice, we had all the fielders trying out around the bat, you never know we might need one wicket to win, two overs to go in the Test match and there is a fast-bowler standing at silly point. So we are trying to upskill as many as we can.
CF: Why international teams have been inconsistent when it comes to slip cordon?
RC: Look I think there is still room for specialist slip-fielders. You look at some of the guys against the spinners – specially Rahane in red-ball cricket – they stand there and take millions of catches; Rahul Dravid and all those guys. So I think something it can do with the team, sometimes the team is fluctuating. But it does take time to trust how the slip cordon is going. Takes time to develop some good report between those fielders. Hopefully, we can upskill enough fielders, so if someone gets injured, then another can fill his place.
CF: How important is it to have a stable slip cordon?
RC: Yes, it definitely helps the guys to understand each other. Whether it helps to catch the ball? That’s a long-term process. I think it’s just a case of upskilling the players in those positions. Once they’re upskilled, then lots of different players can go there if they need to.
CF: Have you identified Bangladesh’s slip cordon for the Test matches?
RC: We have got a couple of guys who have been training out there. Those of the guys will predominantly stand there. How long they will stand there for depends on the bowlers and the surface and how they are doing. We’ve identified a few guys and we will keep working with them as much as we can.
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