The evolution of cricket has resulted in every member of a team being required to be good enough in at least two of the three basic cricket skills. Syed Kirmani, arguably the most skilled India wicket-keeper in Tests, feels that the thrust on batting has resulted in wicketkeeping technique and skills being compromised in the modern era.
“It (keeping skill) has taken a back-seat. Since the advent of one-dayers, a specialist wicketkeeper has to be a batsman as well. They are now looking at an all-rounder who can bat and who can stop the ball behind the stumps, sorry to be blunt about it. On those basis, that trend is following,” Kirmani told Sportstar, on the sidelines of India's opening Test versus West Indies in Rajkot.
“With the advent of T20, it's gone a step above. Now, everybody is looking for a batsman who can keep; K.L. Rahul is keeping, makeshift fellows are keeping. It all started with Rahul Dravid and T20 has taken it to another level.”
Kirmani was India's most-capped Test wicketkeeper until Mahendra Singh Dhoni overtook his 88 appearances in 2014. He stressed the fact that wicketkeeping should be treated as a specialised job on a cricket field. “They say that a wicket-keeper has to be born. I wasn't aware of it until I first interacted with Alan Knott in 1976 as the baby of the Indian team. I asked Knott why is it so? He said that because right from the initial stages, you should have a good vision, you should be an athlete – nimble-footed and agile and all that – to be a cricketer, especially a wicketkeeper. He has to be gifted with all these natural abilities,” Kirmani said.
Kirmani, who was the mainstay behind the wickets for well over a decade since making his Test debut in 1976, is considered to be among the most technically sound wicketkeepers in the history of Test cricket. But, the man himself rues that the technique doesn't have much role to play in cricket now.
“No coach is talking about technique now. Performance is what is required now, nobody bothers about technique and Dhoni has proved that. Now, the youngsters are following whoever is at the top, like Dhoni, so the young wicketkeepers are following Dhoni, but in wicketkeeping, if you don't have a certain technique, you will be found out,” he said.
“You have got to have a good collection, good anticipation, you have to a good vision. Unfortunately, there is a trend of wearing glasses. When you have a good natural vision, why bring the glass in front. That fraction of a second in front of your head, you have lost the sight of the ball and your anticipation goes haywire. You might miss a catch or a stumping.”