One of the things Virat Kohli would have stressed on, before stepping onto the playing field would have been along the lines of "alright boys, our bowlers will give us chances, let's make sure we take our catches. Apparently, the fielders heard it along the lines of "don't worry boys, even if we drop our catches, we will be fine."
Within the first six overs on day one morning of this epic five-match Test series between India and England, the hosts slip fielders dropped three catches, two off Alastair Cook and one off the debutant Haseeb Hameed.
Dropping Hameed, who has looked good in the middle, playing some aggressive shots, might be bad enough, but to drop Cook, and that too, two times, was just plain crazy.
The England captain has an average of over 62 in Test matches in India, with four hundreds and three 50s in nine Test matches. He was India's bane in the 2012 series, which the home team lost and, so, to give the left-hander two lives in the space of a couple of overs was tantamount to cricketing sacrilege.
The India slip fielders, though, did not get that particular memo, with Ajinkya Rahane, a reliable catches to the spinners, but not so much to the faster bowlers, the first culprit.
The third ball of the morning, Mohammed Shami, having already beaten Cook with the opening delivery of the Test match, saw the ball flying off the opener's blade, waist high, a little to the fielder's right, to gully and there was Rahane, with hard hands, letting the ball pop out. The ball lobbed up in such a manner that Rahane could have even hung on at the second attempt, but with panic mode already set in with the first drop, the ball rolled onto the grass, with Virat Kohli showing his disbelief, standing at second slip.
So, you would have thought Kohli would have been prepared to take an opportunity, if it came his way. It did, in the second over of the match, when Cook edged one off Umesh Yadav. Standing well up at second slip, the ball carried, only just, but Kohli just could not get his hands under the ball in time to take the catch. It was a difficult catch and it would have been a brilliant take had he completed it, but with the standards that Kohli sets in his cricket, the skipper will know he should have hung on.
The two reprieves would be followed by a drop in the fifth ball of the sixth over, Hameed the man this time to get a life. Another beautiful ball from Umesh, another regulation outside edge, another ball that went down. Murali Vijay was the man, with hard hands again, letting the ball out when he should have comfortably snaffled it, nice and low to his right.
India would be let off by Cook later in the morning, when the left-hander was given out lbw off Ravindra Jadeja. Ironically, had the captain reviewed it, he would have gotten a third life – and yes, would have been officially announced as a member of the cat family – but he decided not to and India breathed a kinda sigh of relief.
Hameed would also be dismissed before Lunch, but moresuch fielding, and India will struggle to banish the ghosts of 2012.