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Indian wicketkeepers have always been encouraged to be many-skilled. Three of five in this list have scored centuries, and one holds the record for the most stumpings in an innings
August 23, 2010
In the years when there were at least three claimants for the wicketkeeper's slot in the Indian team, I suggested that such riches were due to the "squatting" style of emptying the bowels in India. Crouching low with intense concentration prepares those with wicketkeeping ambitions. The writer Ramachandra Guha expanded on that theme, saying that such training was ideal for keeping to spinners.
Jokes aside, the fact remains that India, whose spinners, allrounders, batsmen and fast bowlers can take their place among the best in the world, have not produced a world-class wicketkeeper who would walk into any team for his keeping skills alone. This is partly due to the belief that has gained by repetition: that a single skill is one too few. Long before the Dutch conceived of total football, India had already thrown their weight behind total cricket. Generalists were encouraged from the start - it wasn't enough if you kept wicket, you had to contribute with the bat too.
Wicketkeepers were also expected to open innings; the theory being that the reflexes needed behind the stumps were the same that could take on fast bowling in front of them. Few Indian wicketkeepers have escaped the opening slot. Syed Kirmani is a significant exception. He has batted in every other position.
Five wicketkeepers did duty in India's first 11 Tests, and Dilawar Hussain became the first in the world to score fifties and top-score in each innings.
The best of them in the pre-Tamhane era, Probir Sen and Nana Joshi, didn't have great batting records, although interestingly the former did have a first-class hat-trick for Bengal. It was seven decades before Ajay Ratra became the first regular wicketkeeper to make a century abroad (Vijay Manjrekar had kept wicket and scored a century in the West Indies earlier).
Manjrekar, Lala Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Rahul Dravid have all kept wicket when the regular keeper has been injured, or in the interests of team balance.
Indian wicketkeepers fall into two groups - the quietly efficient like Joshi, Naren Tamhane, Indrajitsinhji, and later Krishnamurthy, Kirmani and Kiran More, or the flamboyant like Farokh Engineer and Budhi Kunderan. Keeping to the spinners has been the real test.
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