Syed Kirmani: ‘The idea of a specialist wicket-keeper is gone’

The changing trend may not necessarily be harmful “as long as it is beneficial for a team,” says the former India stumper and erstwhile chief selector.

Syed Kirmani... “Ultimately, it is the result which matters.”   -  Shayan Acharya

He belongs to a generation when wicket-keeping was an art and a niche pursuit. But former India stumper and erstwhile national chief selector, Syed Kirmani, has gradually realised that the concept of having a specialist wicket-keeper has now become a thing of the past.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of ‘Vannangal’ — the Rotary International District Conference — here on Sunday afternoon, the member of India’s 1983 World Cup-winning team welcomed the idea of batsmen doubling up as keepers.

Excerpts:

Q. Who is the best wicket-keeper in India now?

A. They are all in the process of becoming good. They have to be better to be the best.

Being a former stumper and an erstwhile chief national selector yourself, would you be taking any particular names?

No names. They are all equally competent. There is just a 19 or 20 difference between all of them. There are promising wicket-keepers like Wriddhiman Saha, Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel, Naman Ojha, then there is Rishabh Pant. There is also Sanju Samson. They are all good competitors; it’s just that they have a difference of 19 or 20. They cannot be the best at the moment.

But the first three names you took are already seasoned stumpers. Are you trying to say that even Saha, Karthik and Parthiv are ‘promising talents’?

They are already in the Indian frame. That’s what I said and I am repeating again. There is just a 19 or 20 difference, whoever shows consistency and delivers, will be there in all the three formats.

You have always emphasised on good techniques for wicket-keepers, but M. S. Dhoni — with his unorthodox keeping skills—is still hugely successful. Do you think the trend has changed over the years?

The current era of coaches say that we don’t want techniques at all, we want results. And, that is what Dhoni has done — he has given results. But following a proper technique and the copybook style would actually be a learning process for the youngsters. It is not right to criticise or point out the flaws of anybody, or the shortcomings. So, I refrain from doing that.

Dhoni faced criticisms during the 2011 World Cup. The commentators raised questions over his technique — both for ‘keeping and batting. I was giving so-called expert comments on a television channel at that time, and they asked me about Dhoni’s technique. I said, ‘you do not require techniques’. He has taken the country to the top in all three formats, and has led from the front. He has all the credentials of a greater leader, is one of the most consistent batsmen alongside Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman. What more do you want? You want his technique or the result that he has given?

Ultimately it is the result which matters.

 

Do you think that the teams have now accepted that it is okay if a wicket-keeper only takes catches, but he must score runs?

This is a trend that has come in cricket in general. The teams want a batsman who can keep wickets also, this is because they can add another player into the team as an all-rounder. Keeping this in mind, Rahul Dravid stood behind the stumps and even K. L. Rahul kept the wickets in Sri Lanka last year. This is done to accommodate another all-rounder into the team.

Do you back the idea? Is it good or bad for the game?

As long as it is beneficial for a team, it is welcome. As long as an added all-rounder is beneficial to a makeshift wicket-keeper and batsman — who can bat better than a specialised wicketkeeper — it is welcome.

But then, dropping a catch is extremely crucial as it may change the course of a match…

Well, it is all a part and parcel of the game. If there is a costly miss, then it has to be compensated (with the bat). But let’s face it - the idea of a specialist wicket-keeper is gone. The teams don’t consider a specialist wicket-keeper any more and it has happened across the world.