Probably summed up best by Sujit Mukherjee who said that "he never attempted the impossible, but seldom missed the possible opportunity". The Subhash Gupte-Tamhane combination accounted for 18 victims, more than a third of Tamhane's 51 in 21 Tests. The Mumbai keeper, the first to 100 dismissals in the Ranji Trophy, was also the first to earn relative permanency in the position for India, taking over from the specialist Joshi and handing over to the better batsman Kunderan. A stumping by this classical keeper meant just a single bail disturbed.
After serving a long apprenticeship to Engineer, he took over and in his second Test equalled the world record for the most dismissals in an innings. Kirmani, acknowledged by the spinners Prasanna, Bedi, Venkat and Chandra as the one who kept best to them, was in charge when that era ended and the Kapil Dev era began. He belonged to the "seen-but-not-heard" school, was particularly adept at leg-side collections, and over his 88 Tests (198 dismissals) held most Indian keeping records, including that of having made a century as a night-watchman.
The quietest and most successful among the threesome (Chandrakant Pandit and Sadanand Vishwanath being the others) who held fort in the decade following the mid-1980s. His figures in 49 Tests are second only to Kirmani's. Holds the world record for the most stumpings in an innings and in a match, five and six respectively in the famous "Hirwani" Test against the West Indies when the bowler claimed 16 wickets on debut.
Aggressive behind the stumps and calm in front of it, Mongia was the best in his time, but it was a short time and perhaps he did not live up to his full potential. Was comfortable keeping to the spearhead of India's bowling, Anil Kumble. A memorable 152 opening the batting ensured a win over Australia in Delhi.
In many ways Dhoni is a work in progress, but what work and what progress indeed! Unorthodox either side of the wicket, he was criticised initially for his technical shortcomings, but a big heart and a cool head resolved that problem. There were better keepers in India when he started out, but now that may no longer be true, and there are certainly no better batsmen-wicketkeepers. Dhoni's is a triple role as keeper, batsman and captain in all three formats of the game. A true allrounder.
We'll be publishing an all-time India XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your wicketkeeper click here
Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore