Tamil Nadu’s wicket-keeper dilemma

Given his India commitments, Dinesh Karthik’s appearances for the State could become fewer in the days ahead. There are several contenders for his spot in the side.

Jagadeesan (left) has emerged as one of the prime contenders to fill in for Dinesh Karthik (right).   -  R. V. Moorthy

An interesting race is on in Tamil Nadu. It’s a contest between emerging wicket-keeper batsmen. There are several contenders.

Given his India commitments, Dinesh Karthik’s appearances for the State could become fewer in the days ahead. N. Jagadeesan donned the big gloves for Tamil Nadu in Karthik’s absence. He could be challenged.

R. Rohith, a competent ’keeper and a powerful striker of the ball, is already a part of the Ranji squad. He has impressed many. Then there are S. Lokeshwar (who ’kept for India under-19 last season), U. Sushil (who played the last of his six Ranji games for Tamil Nadu in 2015), and the handy S. Karthik.

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Following the emergence of the explosive Adam Gilchrist and M. S. Dhoni, the expectations from a wicket-keeper batsman increased manifold. He now had to double up as an extra batsman, lend the line-up greater depth.

Yet, along the way, are we losing sight of a wicket-keeper’s principal job – be alert, efficient and reliable behind the stumps?

Finding the balance

Former Tamil Nadu wicket-keeper batsman, T. R. Arasu, known for his quick glovework, said to Sportstar, “If a ‘keeper drops a catch and the batsman goes on to score a triple hundred, his team is dead and buried. To ’keep on a rank turner, to judge the turn and the bounce, can be very hard if you are not a specialist.”

Arasu, guiding budding ’keepers at the TNCA Academy, believed ’keepers needed natural ability. “Then, aspects such as soft hands, suppleness of body, footwork, anticipation and overall technique will be there. You will allow the ball to come into your gloves.”

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But then, Arasu was also aware of the present-day scenario where ’keepers needed to be capable batsmen. “We have to find the balance. It is possible. Look at Wriddiman Saha. He is the best wicket-keeper in the world, he is also a fine batsman.”

Good package

Of the present bunch in Tamil Nadu, Arasu felt Rohith was a good package. “Rohith’s got sound wicket-keeping skills. And he is an attacking batsman.”

Indeed, Rohith’s blistering 46-ball unbeaten 102 for Lyca Kovai Kings during the Eliminator against Karaikudi Kalai in the last edition of the TNPL is the quickest hundred in the competition. Jagadeesan, who slammed a Ranji century on debut last season, can be aggressive with the willow. “He’s improving but needs to work on his ’keeping,” opined Arasu.

Lokeshwar, Arasu said, was one for the future. “He’s short, which is an advantage in ’keeping because you got to stay low. He seems to have a strong lower half, the base, which is again important. He needs to be nursed.”

Arasu observed Sushil was a dependable ’keeper but fell a tad behind others in batting ability. S. Karthik has shone on occasions but Arasu noted the youngster had some way to travel.

It’s tough run to the top and only those with mental fortitude to back their skills will survive. But then, wicket-keeper batsmen never had it easy.