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Syed Kirmani on being a self-taught wicketkeeper, 1983, and his peers
Interview by Vishal Dikshit
September 30, 2013
I was offered a job at the age of 17 by State Bank of India and I appeared for my class ten exams after joining the bank. I was employed and sat in the bank for a week and then applied for leave to appear for my exams.
We just had a manager in our time. We never had any support staff the way international teams have right now. We looked at other teams' top players and assessed ourselves and corrected ourselves on our own after making mistakes.
There was a lot of discouragement from my parents about getting deeply involved in sports. Their concern was for me to get a degree and a government job. I used to take part in sports in school on the sly.
I achieved high wicketkeeping standards by keeping to the three legendary spinners - Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and BS Chandrasekhar. To start with, I played with Chandrasekhar and Prasanna as a schoolkid. When I played for the country, I kept to Bedi also.
Wherever I played, my consistency brought me into the limelight.
As a kid I lived in Jayamahal Extension in Bangalore. The local team used to play with cork balls. Once, the captain of the team said, "Go and stand behind the sticks and stop the ball." Now, how do I stop the cork ball? There were bricks lying there. I picked one up and started stopping the ball with it. The bricks would break and I would get a scolding from the contractors who were constructing buildings there.
I have never read a single book on anybody or any topic till date. It's all just personal experience.
I liked the style of Bob Taylor the most among all the wicketkeeper-batsmen, and I tried adopting his type of technique. I admire his skills more than Alan Knott's and Rod Marsh's.
At our school there was only a PT master.
Nobody taught me the details of wicketkeeping. If somebody started keeping wicket, he was told to keep every time. I excelled without any technique, without knowing what wicketkeeping was all about. Nobody told me about technique.
I ran barefoot, as my father could not afford to buy canvas shoes for me.
I never had a role model in my life, never idolised anybody. Having said that, I never shirked from admiring anybody who was doing a great job in whatever walk of life - be it sports or academics or anything else.
In 1965-66, an Australian schools side was touring India and I was selected in the Indian schools team. We played three "Tests" and I scored 121 in the first match in Chennai, 132 in Hyderabad, and 75 in the third, in Bombay. I was then picked as the vice-captain of the Indian schools team to tour England in 1967 - the first-ever Indian schools team to tour abroad.
When I was a schoolkid, Keki Tarapore, my mentor, used to come and pick me up to prepare me for school cricket tournaments. He used to say, "Keep the ball down", that's all. That was his guidance or coaching.
My first captain in the Ranji Trophy was V Subramanya. Budhi Kunderan was the first Indian wicketkeeper I saw. He used to play for Karnataka/Mysore as an opening batsman and wicketkeeper then.
Once, when I was having dinner with Knott, Marsh, Jeffrey Dujon and Taylor during the 1983 World Cup, I said, "I consider all four of you the best in the world." Knott interrupted me and said, "Kiri, wicketkeeping ability is judged only when a wicketkeeper stands up to spinners, not to fast bowlers. And you have kept to the best [spinners] in the world."
|"We looked at other teams' top players and assessed ourselves and corrected ourselves on our own after making mistakes"|
I was the baby of the Indian team in 1971 when I was introduced under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar. From 1971 to 1975 I was in the reserves, and they retained me because of my consistency in the side games we played in England.
No captain I played under lived up to my expectations. That is my assessment of who a leader is, who a captain is.
In my first match on English soil, against Hampshire schools in 1967, I scored 104 not out. That was the beginning. When I returned from the tour, I was picked as a specialist batsman for the Mysore Ranji Trophy team at only 17 years of age.
The first sport I participated in in school was athletics. I ran 100 metres, 200 metres, and relay at state school level. My second sport was hockey, and then cricket and football. I used to excel in my team, in my group. I had god-given ability.
I have always appreciated the efforts of Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath, who are batting legends.
I have been taking notes on some big corporates of late - Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji, these big icons who have been instrumental in the development of our economy.
Viv Richards was the world's best batsman of our time on an all-round basis.
I always admired Knott. When I went abroad, the first foreign wicketkeeper I met was Knott, who was considered the world's best wicketkeeper. After that I met Rodney Marsh, Bob Taylor and Wasim Bari of Pakistan.
The best moment of my cricketing career was during the 1983 World Cup final, when I was recognised as the best wicketkeeper in the world and awarded a silver glove and a silver ball by none other than the all-time great wicketkeeper Godfrey Evans.
Cricket is no more a gentleman's game. Certain mannerisms exhibited in the game these days are not gentlemanly.
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