Ranji Trophy 2012-13 February 17, 2013

Karnataka's 'streetsmart' keeper makes big strides

CM Gautam has just had the best Ranji season ever for a gloveman with the bat, and while his keeping needs a few finishing touches, he doesn't think a national call-up is beyond him

Talk to people about Karnataka wicketkeeper CM Gautam, and you repeatedly hear about how he loves to bat under pressure, and how he is a 'streetsmart' cricketer. Ask them to explain the second part and there are anecdotes aplenty. "In the Buchi Babu tournament this season, he got the opposition team captain and bowler to quarrel among themselves," Karnataka batting coach J Arunkumar chuckled. "When another batsman hit a four, he said 'what a slap', or something like that to the bowler, the bowler didn't like it and Gautam started laughing loudly which really upset the bowler. He started bowling bouncers, he ducked against that and again laughed, he disturbed the bowler so much that the captain stopped the spell, and that really helped us."

For nearly five seasons now Gautam, 26, has been a fixture in the Karnataka line-up, breaking into the team as a batsman before taking over the gloves from the long-serving wicketkeeper Thilak Naidu. Always a source of runs for Karnataka in the lower-middle order this season, aided by a promotion to No. 4, he hit the headlines with 943 runs, the highest season-tally in Ranji Trophy history by a wicketkeeper.

"I bat No. 4 for my club, and my bank team," Gautam said when asked to explain his purple patch this season. "It gives me a lot of time, I have time to settle down, I can read the bowler, I can read the situation well, and during the off season I really worked on my fitness."

Arunkumar, who took over the Karnataka Ranji team this season, said he realised straightaway that Gautam could be pushed up from his usual position at No. 7. "Technically I knew he was a lot sounder, he was like an opener basically," Arunkumar said. "His concentration levels were always good. I trusted him to get a lot of runs for me, he was very happy with it when we promoted him in the batting order, he was waiting for it. He knew he was now seen as one of the main batsmen in the team, and that he could not take it easy and throw away his wicket."

For many Ranji batsmen, their run haul is boosted by a bounty of meaningless second-innings runs but Gautam's numbers have hardly been padded by cheap runs. There was an unbeaten 130 in a high-scoring first-innings shootout against Tamil Nadu, followed by a two-hour unbeaten 26 that denied Uttar Pradesh an outright win, a second innings 71 to help defeat Delhi despite conceding the first-innings lead, before the highlights of his season, the 250-plus scores against Vidarbha and Maharashtra.

"The double-hundred I got in Pune was very special because we needed to win the game outright and the team needed me that time," Gautam said. It was the final league match of the season, and Karnataka had to take six points to stand a chance of qualifying. His 264 set up a massive lead, but his job with the bat wasn't done yet, as he had to return in the second innings with an eight-ball 16 as Karnataka hunted down the target of 89 in the 12th over with eight balls to spare.

Gautam has always been a busy player, strong on the sweep and always on the lookout for singles to avoid getting bogged down. "He knows where to pick his runs, his strong point is the back V," Arunkumar said. "When they block that he plays the cuts and drives really well, he plays the over-covers shot really well, he sweeps from fine leg to mid-on, you know it is very difficult to stop a batsman like him from scoring runs."

While his batting has flourished, his keeping too has improved though questions remain over his ability to stand up to the stumps. Irfan Sait, Gautam's mentor who has coached him for the past 15 years, said: "He has tremendous reflexes but he just needs some finishing touches. He has to work on his agility while keeping up to the stumps."

"I hadn't kept much to spinners before. We used to play three fast bowlers, and only Sunil Joshi used to bowl spin," Gautam said. "But now I'm getting used to it as we're always playing two spinners, and JAK [Arunkumar] has been helping me out."

Arunkumar has used an unusual method to help Gautam, using a broomstick instead of a bat during catching practice so that he is better attuned to taking faint nicks. "Sometimes what happens is, when you hear the sound, your hands get stiff, so to get used to it, I [practise with the broomstick]," Gautam explained.

He has 34 dismissals to go with the wagonload of runs this season, and has been rewarded with a place in the India A side for the warm-up match against the Australians. Gautam said he "fancied his chances" of making the senior side soon, and when reminded that plenty of other wicketkeeper-batsmen, including Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Karthik and Wriddhiman Saha, had had solid seasons, he joked, "That is my bad luck."

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • thomas on February 20, 2013, 22:35 GMT

    time to have a Gautam or Saha take a chance at Test cricket while Dhoni keeps the other jobs

  • Patturaja on February 19, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    May be he is like Stuart MacGill who is an exceptional leg spinner but unfortunate to have played in the same period as Warne.

  • Raj on February 19, 2013, 3:23 GMT

    No one dislike Dhoni. People will like Dhoni, if he supports giving chances to people like DK, CMG not Parthiv & Saha again and again. DK is middle order batsman and never been given chance to him by treating him as WK. DK should be in middle order and CMG should be back up keeper.

    Dhoni will get fulll support from fans even if he loose another 20 tests, but only he has to give up his frds circle and start looking for other players waiting in queue for long time.

  • timothy on February 19, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    after a season like that he should definitely become the no.2 keeper in India. He is much better than Saha and while Parthiv also scored lots of runs this season his keeping is not international quality

  • Kuldeep on February 19, 2013, 0:24 GMT

    No chance unless Dhoni retires, which could be very soon. If Dhoni gets his team wiped out 4-0 against Australia then we will see him retire from Test Cricket.

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2013, 20:27 GMT

    those who criticize Mr.Dhoni...please make a note of what i am saying. 1) Under Azharuddin captaincy we lost to australia 4-0 in 1992 then we lost to england in 1990 .we used to loose against nz too unde rhis captaincy. still he managed to captain india for almost a decade. 2)Under Ganguly we never won a series abroad though we managed to win some test abroad only coz SEHWAG LAXMAN TENDULKAR DRAVID were all in great form from 2001-2008 if i am not wrong. he had harbhajan and kumble to win test matches in india. 3)BUT under Dhoni captaincy we won 2007 t20 world cup we won 2011 50 over world cup we were placed at the top of the test ranking. we were no 1 in Test for the first time. we won triangular series in aus in 2007.he has backed JADEJA KOHLI ROHIT CHAWLA YUSUF RAINA even when they were going through bad phase...........well nothing to say much but i think those who dont like dhoni must stop watching India play cricket for a while atleast till dhoni retires.

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    I personally know this guy - hard working & jovial at nature. People mentioning about Karthik & Parthiv, well both don't desrve a test call up. Saha desrves it & then its Gautam. He is a better test batsman than Dhoni by a country mile. He is very good limited overs batsman too (better than Saha) in that criteria. All the best CMG!

  • Kev on February 18, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    Well it seems to me that Watson and Cowan seem to have their technique in order and many others need to follow suit. Once again Khawaja fails to impress and will need to work out his technical deficiencies. The middle order really needs to support Cowan and Watson. Seems Warner fires every few games so I'm hoping this will be the case in the first test. If the guys think they can leave the run getting to Watson and Clarke, they need to think again. Partnerships win matches in both batting and bowling. Go well guys.

  • gurinder on February 17, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    dhoni should take responsibility for recent losses and leave team india , he held the team back by his poor batting,, let more talented guys represent india.

  • Jay on February 17, 2013, 18:33 GMT

    I don't know why Dhoni is so hated by our own Indian fans. I can see the reason behind the frustrations among us Indian supporters but Dhoni is NOT the ONLY one to be blamed for the 8-0 losses and the recent 2-1 defeat to England. A captain is only as good as him team. Every member of the Indian squad should take the blame for the losses, including the coach and support staff. However, I do agree that MSD is not a good test player. His attacking instincts and subtle approach suits the ODI and T20 formats well. But he is still India's BEST captain to date. He doesn't deserve the flak he's getting at present. Anyway, all the best to this young man. Hopefully he can don the Baggy Blue for India.

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