The Indian team has been lambasted for some pretty shoddy catching in the ongoing series against England.
And while better catching is highly desirable, this is hardly the first time a team has been “contagiously bad” in the catching department, as the archives amply demonstrate.
The Indian team, however, has had more than its fair share of this not so rare affliction.
In the second Test of the 1985 series in Colombo, India dropped seven catches against Sri Lanka on the first day, on which the only wicket to fall was thanks to a run-out.
India also dropped six catches in the space of ten overs in Rawalpindi in 2004, five of them coming in the first hour of the fourth day.
It is rare enough for six chances to be offered at all in the space of ten overs, and it’s absolutely criminal to drop all of them!
The ignominious record for most missed chances in a Test match for one team, is 12, also held by India and achieved against England in Mumbai in 2006.
A couple of glorious individual mentions are also warranted about Indian cricketers, while we are about it!
The wicketkeeper with the most misses is MS Dhoni with 66 (18% of all catches offered to him).
In his defence, Dhoni had to deal with a high percentage of spin bowling, which presents a much greater challenge for keepers. Miss rates for leading wicketkeepers off spinners average around 30 per cent, and clearly Dhoni can be pardoned for this record.
Another interesting one is that the batsman with most reprieves is also an Indian – Virender Sehwag, missed 68 times, just one ahead of Sangakkara.
About 37 per cent of the chances Sehwag offered were dropped, which is well above average and probably a testament to the power of his brutal hitting!
But India is far from being alone in the dropped catch record books.
The most missed chances in an innings is nine by Pakistan against England in Faisalabad in 2005, and also by Bangladesh against Pakistan in Dhaka in 2011.
And there have been some very expensive drops indeed in terms of runs scored thereafter by batsmen who were so reprieved.
In Karachi in 2009, when Sri Lanka played Pakistan, Mahela Jayawardene (240) was dropped on 17 and 43, Thilan Samaraweera (231) was dropped on 73 and 77, and Younis Khan (313) was dropped on 92. The combined cost of all the missed chances in that match was a staggering 1152 runs.
The best example from First Class cricket was the dropped catch of Brian Lara in 1994.
Lara had joined Warwickshire in the wake of his record 375 against England, and had already been bowled by a no-ball when he nicked one to Chris Scott, Durham’s wicket keeper who dropped it. ‘I suppose he’ll get a hundred now,’ said Scott.
Lara finished with 501, still the highest ever first-class score.
Mark Taylor (334 not out) was dropped on 18 and 27 by Saeed Anwar, and there was a missed stumping on 40 for Len Hutton (364) in 1938.
Perhaps even luckier were Kumar Sangakkara, who made 270 in Bulawayo after being dropped on 0, and Sachin Tendulkar who was dropped on 0 when he made his highest score, 248 not out in Dhaka.
There was Inzamam-ul-Haq, who made 329 after being missed on 32 at Lahore in 2002, and Graham Gooch who was famously dropped by Kiran More when on 36 at Lord’s in 1990. He went on to make 333.
The Ashes have a few stories to tell in this regard as well.
England and Australia went into the fourth Test at Headingley in 1997 tied at 1-1. After being dismissed for 172, England reduced Australia to 50 for three when debutant Mike Smith found the edge of Matthew Elliott’s bat and the ball plopped gently into the hands of Graham Thorpe.
And then, as gently, it plopped out.
Elliott went on to make 199 and Australia won by an innings, then wrapped up the Ashes in the next Test. Smith finished wicket less, and never played for England again.
Freddie Trueman was not famous for his subtlety when fielders dropped catches off his bowling.
But there was no denying his sharp wit, as Rev. David Sheppard was to discover in the Sydney Test of the 1962-63 Ashes series.
Right after he had dropped a sitter at extra cover from Neil Harvey, one of a long series of catches that pretty much cost England the Ashes, an exasperated Trueman walked up to him and said, “Pretend its Sunday, Reverend, and keep your hands together.”
And of course, no one who is reading this is likely to forget the most famous and expensive dropped catch of all.
Steve Waugh’s quip to Herschelle Gibbs in 1999 – “You’ve just dropped the Word Cup, mate”, is immortal and just about the perfect line to end this piece!