Our Men Behind The Wicket
The wicket-keepers in cricket are born and not made and in stating so I have slightly tweaked a statement which is made about mangers. In the history of cricket there hundreds of batsmen, bowlers who have left their marks in their respective disciplines but the number is significantly less in the number of brilliant wicket-keepers. In the earlier decades the position of a wicket-keeper was a specialist one and a player's claim to the wicket-keeper's slot used to be based on
his wicket-keeping abilities which required an altogether different skills set. In the later decades a wicket-keeper with batting ability had a smoother entry into the team. And one who conclusively proved what a wicket-keeper allrounder could do was no other than Adam Gilchrist the Aussie 'keeper whose retirement has left a yawning void in the Australian side which is yet to come to terms with the situation arising out of his
retirement. Mahendra Singh Dhoni the reigning captain of Team India who has been in superb touch and leading India with a lot of success, is a wicket-keeper batsman. And this gives me an opportunity to look back upon the performances of some of our outstanding wicket-keepers who served Indian cricket with distinction.
When the journey of Test cricket started in 1932 Janardhan Navle made his debut as the first wicket keeper for India and interestingly he did not represent the country more than once and the wicket-keeper who made a great impression immediately after independence was Probir Sen who was also known as Khokan Sen he even won the admiration of Great Don Bradman. He epitomized all the admirable qualities of a wicket-keeper . He was superbly agile and resourceful and a fairly useful batsman. He played in 14 test matches and held on to his place for a fairly long time.
In the sixties there emerged in the scene two outstanding wicket-keepers- Budhi Kunderan and Farokh Engineer and both competed with each other to cement their places in the national side. Both of them played for the country and got centuries to prove their batting mettle. Budhi Kunderan was an accomplished wicket-keeper and a competent batter. He played for India in 18 Test matches with 23 catches and 7 stumpings with a batting average of 32.70.
Farokh Engineer was another wicket-keeper who warmed the hearts of many a cricket lover . His dashing strokeplay was a treat for the eyes and represented India in 46 Test matches and had a tally of 66 catches and 16 stumpings with a batting average of 31.08.
Syed Kirmani was the wicket keeper when our famous spinners were at their prime and Kirmani provided admirable support to them in winning many matches for the country. He was not only a great 'keeper against the spinners but also against the medium pace of Kapil Dev. This duo brought about the downfall of too many crucial wickets. Kirmani appeared in 88 Test matches and took 160 catches behind the stumps and 38 stumpings with a batting average of 27.04. And now M.S.Dhoni is worthy successor of this galaxy of wicket-keeper who memorably served the cause of Indian cricket.
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