Dasgupta & Bangar: what a contrast!

A WICKETKEEPER is the soul of the team. He can make or break chances and I have known countless instances of a wicketkeeper making a lasting impact on a match. Farokh Engineer, Syed Kirmani, Kiran More, Nayan Mongia... and then quality went out of the job as far as Indian cricket is concerned. It is a pity that the Indian team has to fall back on Deep Dasgupta, an apology for a wicketkeeper.

For any team, a wicketkeeper is the pivot. He gives confidence to the bowlers by backing them, but Dasgupta is an embarrassment. And pray, since when did the Test arena become a stage for someone to learn the basics? His basics are wrong and there is no point in the selectors telling us how good the Bengal wicketkeeper was and how he could improve.

The Indian team, for quite some time, has been without the services of a quality wicketkeeper and an all-rounder. This big void certainly cannot be filled by the likes of Dasgupta even though I am happy with the excellent show by Sanjay Bangar. There is a big difference in quality as far as Dasgupta and Bangar are concerned.

Dasgupta is not a natural wicketkeeper. Even if you give him as much time as possible I don't think he is going to improve in a big way. If one has to look ahead, Dasgupta cannot be termed as an ideal player to invest in. That job has to go to Ajay Ratra, the dapper Haryana lad, who, to me, looks a far better proposition than Dasgupta.

How much would Dasgupta improve? And at what cost? He would have cost us so many matches by the time he improves and there will always be a big 'if' on that improvement factor. It is just a hope that Dasgupta would improve if given chances consistently. I am sorry he does not fall in the category of talented wicketkeepers at all.

The point which has gone in Dasgupta's favour is his batting. It is a plus point no doubt, but then his first job is keeping wickets. Dasgupta has the ability to bat very well. He has the right temperament to develop as an opener. And he has the technique too to be considered an opener and the Indian team has been searching for one, for quite sometime. He is not scared of the short ball and I give him full marks for that, but the Indian team will have to look for a different wicketkeeper.

Dasgupta is not doing the job he is expected to. Let us groom him as an opener and have Ratra as the wicketkeeper. The team will gain a lot because Dasgupta would then concentrate on his batting alone and India would have a quality wicketkeeper who would give the bowlers the confidence.

Building castles is one thing, but living in them is quite another. Even if the skipper defends Dasgupta, the fact remains that he is a shoddy wicketkeeper. Leave aside the sloppy catching and missed stumpings, just see how many times the ball springs out of his gloves. Dasgupta is not even able to collect the ball properly and it does not help anyone if he holds his head after missing chances. Ask the bowler how he feels at that moment.

In comparison, Ratra certainly gives hope for the future. He is a reasonably good batsman and has the natural temperament of a good wicketkeeper. On the few occasions he has been on view, Ratra has come good and his contributions have been useful. He is completely at home when keeping wickets and he is the one who should be groomed. I will not agree with Chandu Borde that Dasgupta has shown improvement. Let the selectors promote Ratra because he is a natural wicketkeeper and looks an extremely good prospect with his aggressive attitude.

A gain from the Nagpur Test against Zimbabwe has been Bangar. One had heard about this Railway all-rounder for some seasons now and I was very impressed with the manner in which he grabbed the opportunity. I, however, do not agree with the team management deciding not to play Virender Sehwag. If Sehwag had to be replaced, then ideally a bowler, Sarandeep Singh, should have been included in the playing.

Sometimes the selection policy adopted by the team management baffles me. It was a good move to play five bowlers against Zimbabwe but then why keep Sarandeep out? Why, even Sehwag would have bowled. Sourav Ganguly could have chipped in. Of course, credit to Bangar for justifying his selection. He was given a specific task and he accomplished it brilliantly.

I think we can place faith in Bangar to come good as an all-rounder in both forms of cricket. He looks a compact cricketer and his impeccable knock at Nagpur was ample proof of the man's attitude. It was a demonstration of selfless batting as he threw his bat around even when nearing a century. He had the interest of the team in mind and Bangar stood out for his teamwork. He even outscored Sachin Tendulkar when it came to scoring briskly. What mattered was that Bangar batted as he was instructed to and that should place him in a special category. He was willing to sacrifice a century and there was a lesson in it for so many others who place self-interest before the team's requirements.

Indian cricket needs players like Bangar and every step should be taken to encourage such quality performers. Bangar was not one bit worried about his place and went about his job most professionally. The search for an all-rounder may not end with Bangar, but then his presence in the side lends such balance. To score a century at number seven requires tremendous resolve and let me also remind you that Bangar can even open the innings if required by the team management. He scored a double century against Tamil Nadu as an opener.

Let us look at the gains from Nagpur and ensure that Bangar gets the right backing from the selectors and the team management. As far as Dasgupta is concerned, I am afraid he would have to vacate the wicketkeeper's slot unless of course, he improves dramatically and proves us all wrong. I would love to be proved wrong in the interest of Indian cricket.