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Cricket: Jeet Raval candidate for top catchers' club

Jeet Raval celebrates his 50 runs during day two of the second cricket Test match between New Zealand and Pakistan at Seddon Park in Hamilton. Photo / AFP
Jeet Raval celebrates his 50 runs during day two of the second cricket Test match between New Zealand and Pakistan at Seddon Park in Hamilton. Photo / AFP

Much has been made of New Zealand opener Jeet Raval's batting in his two tests, but his hands have been as useful for snaring leather as wielding willow.

Raval has taken seven catches in three innings, six of which have come at second slip. The exception was at deep mid-wicket in the second innings at Hagley Oval, when he scampered in to remove Asad Shafiq.

A concern when a fielder of Martin Guptill's stature exits a team is that runs and catches might be sacrificed.

Raval's provided reassurance that New Zealand have recruited another safe set of hands. Too often a player's public value can be based on one dimension: batting or bowling. Raval is proof it's worth employing a wider field of vision. His slip catching effectively makes him an all-rounder.

The 28-year-old's relaxed Stephen Fleming-esque hands-on-knees stance whirs into action when bowlers hit their delivery strides.

The hands lift and the palms open for business.

Four catches in the first test against Pakistan is a record for a New Zealand non-wicketkeeper on debut. He also secured three in the visitors' first innings at Hamilton. The ball may as well have headed for a skip bin.

Raval's only blemish was dropping a flier high to his right from Shafiq off the bowling of Matt Henry in the 17th over. Third slip Tim Southee and gully Colin de Grandhomme did their best to compensate on the rebound but ended up too far off balance.

A strength of the New Zealand game on seaming pitches has been a production line of capable slips such as Ross Taylor, Fleming, Bryan Young, Jeremy Coney and Bruce Murray.

Raval's composure makes him a candidate to join them but he has yet to establish any obvious superstitions as he goes about his work.

Young often pocketed the ball to celebrate successful pouches.

Coney, a renowned cordon entertainer, preferred his fun as the bowler came in. He was known to play 'chicken' to enliven a tedious day's play. That involved slips closing their eyes as a bowler approached and opening them at the point of delivery.

Raval might want to wait a few more tests before he tries that.

- NZ Herald

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