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Wednesday, January 30, 2008 

Standing Up

A lot has been happening in the last month both on and off the field as it were, and I haven’t had time to write much. But the sheer amount of activity in the last month of 2007 kept me consumed. Most of the activity happened in office, with long hours of work and at times working through to dawn.

Sometimes the mind wonders about what exactly is it that we look for when we put in that kind of effort at work. Is it the money? I am pretty sure that I am not getting a hell of lot of money. Then what is it that I really get out of it. The answer probably is nothing. And the problem compounds when you attract discredit for some work that you fall short of doing. More often than not, all the good work is forgotten by just one instance. And while that is bearable, what frustrates you the most is when you are not at fault in your book. A couple of times now I have felt like being at the receiving end for no fault of mine. Funnily enough, at times I feel people giving me the discredit are at fault themselves. But then again it matters for too less to make a difference.

It is probably a part of my first real professional learning, that doing well is a matter of fact and so is being held responsible for any breakdown whatsoever. The other thing about being held responsible for someone else’s mistake is that you can not even reason yourself out. On most occasions you are not given a chance to prove things right and even if you snatch a chance, people are smart and have all kinds of bullshit to throw at you to convince you about your mistake and trying to sound helpful by being the person who highlights your incompetence. Just as well I stopped listening to such feedback and advice a long time back. After a while you have to find your footing at work and think on your own feet. No one works for charity is probably the mantra.

The situation I find myself in these days, persistently reminds me of the predicament of a wicket keeper. I think keeping wickets is the most thankless job in cricket. You can go all day sitting up and down doing 500 situps a day and one missed chance or even a poor collection can ruin the effort. And add to that some of the rubbish that bowlers keep bowling down the leg side and some ridiculous half volleys from the outfield that these guys have to collect, at times take the blow on the shin. Wickets keepers seldom get the kind of appreciation they command. In addition to the work they do with the gloves a wicket keeper is an important part of the field setting process as he is closest to the action. Even that credit is usually enjoyed by Captains alone.

And things get worse when you have to stand up to the stumps. From that distance, even good bowls are difficult to take. Rising sharply going above the shoulders. These days keepers have started using crash helmets, thanks mainly to Nayan Mongia and Anil Kumble I believe. At least they have some protection now, but the job remains an ordeal and appreciation is hard to come by.

Ofcourse on the topic of keepers its relevant to mention Adam Gilchrist who recently retired from cricket, to concentrate on the IPL. He has been iconic in his display as a wicket keeper batsman, even inspirational at times with his batting. He will be missed by the world of cricket, but after his recent antics I am really not a fan anymore.

India has had a long history of producing great wicket keepers from N. Tamhane to Nayan Mongia. But in the last 10 years we have had as many number of regular wicket keepers which is an astonishing figure for a country where the average height is 5.5-5.6. Where have all the little men gone? Pakistan, in fact, has a better record than us with only three major wicket keepers in the last ten years. Moin Khan (my favourite), Rashid Latif and now Kamran Akmal (maybe one or two in between). The Indian list is much longer. Let me finish the post with a few lines on each one of them:

  1. N. Mongia – truly a gem behind the stumps, the last real cheetah that we have produced behind the stumps. Was good with the batting and probably betting too :P.
  2. S.S.Karim – basically ok in both departments, had a couple of memorable games but that’s about it. The eye injury abruptly ended a potential career.
  3. MSK Prasad – never looked like he wanted to make an impression, nothing special with the bat either, still a mystery his selection
  4. Samir Dighe – the old man from Bombay, one memorable score of 22 at Chennai was all there was to him, another mystery
  5. D.D.Gupta – no mystery here, simple humour. The MCC manual on what to avoid while keeping wickets. He was hilarious and brought a lot of joy in an otherwise disappointing drubbing in south Africa. And with the bat he even left Rahul Dravid behind (or ahead) when Rahul was in his hay days (pun intended).
  6. V.Dahiya – a proper wicket keeper and lower order batsman, never quite understood why he got lost in selection. Maybe Dada ko uske joote pasand nahi aaye…India could have used his services for sometime
  7. A.Ratra – the under 19 fashion caught on. Young blood became a thumb rule and robin singh had to go as a reason, what a shame! Don’t see his name in the Haryana team these days, who knows where he is now.
  8. P.Patel – the under 16 fashion caught on then. This time dada liked the shoes…kya gaddha tha yaar wo…looking at him keeping, I was reminded of the song, ‘aati nahin…’. Bloody could not collect straight forward balls and to stand to Anil Kumble was always going to be a problem, probably cost the Sydney test last time. Batting was ok types, but really mystery again as to why he was in the team
  9. D.Karthik – one of the inspirational success stories of Indian cricket in recent times. I have never really seen someone fall off the ranks and then make a comeback like he has. All the above keepers were one time wonders and he looked good to be another one in the list, but he went back and scored loads of runs to make a stunning comeback to both one day and test teams. And a good fielder as well apart from his good keeping abilities.
  10. M.S.Dhoni – I was never comfortable with the idea of an Indian player donning long hair. The Jharkhandi looked like one, and still does. But his batting exploits were just breath taking. Initially a poor wicket keeper and kept his place only due to his batting. But much improved now, some silky takes down leg side and back of the hand flicks to remove the bails. And now also the captain, he is doing well and I hope he continues this way.

And last but not the least, Rahul Dravid. Poor man trying to add balance to the team, his batting went 2-3 notches higher after taking the gloves and in that little period he was probably the best batsman in the world. His keeping wasn’t inspirational but his application and desire was. And as always his keeping only brought criticism because people only saw the mistakes he made and carefully ignored the value he added to the team. Hats off!


The irony of this post or really the essence of the post lies in my comments on Gilchrist.

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