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'Keeper Dhoni has been quite impressive
11 November 2011

M.S. Dhoni's entry into international cricket triggered extreme debates ranging from the collective gasp of former greats extolling his powerful hits and the superfluous discussions of hair stylists dealing with his long mane.

The man from Ranchi is much more than his batting repertoire and the manner in which he toys with his locks, be it the longer version or the close-crop shortly after winning the World Cup.

There is also this small matter of doing 540 sit-ups when he is behind the wickets during a single day of a Test match. And that number can go up if the bowlers peddle no-balls and wides!

It is a measure of the man's multi-faceted personality that his primary calling-card — his wicketkeeping role — has not gained the attention it deserved while his batting and captaincy hogs the limelight.

During the first Test against the West Indies at Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla, Dhoni scaled a peak that briefly drew attention to his wicketkeeping gloves and the battered fingers nestling within them.

In the course of that match, Dhoni nudged his tally of dismissals to 202 (176 catches, 26 stumpings) and went past Syed Kirmani's Indian best of 198 (160, 38).

A legend

Kirmani was a true master behind the stumps and is counted among the legends when it comes to wicketkeeping.

He reigned for long atop the table while his successors like Kiran More (130 — 110, 20) and Nayan Mongia (107 — 99, 8) prospered for a while. That Dhoni needed just 62 Tests to get past Kirmani, who played in 88 matches, is also a just reflection of India's improved and cohesive bowling strength over the last decade. Men like Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh charted enough opportunities for the ball to find its way into Dhoni's palms and it also helped that India began to travel well and often forced the opposition to bat twice.

Kirmani had made his entry when the spin quartet, led by Bishan Singh Bedi, was on its last lap and just had to bank on Kapil Dev.

It was not an easy journey for Dhoni, though, as he emerged from Jharkhand and pushed his way past Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik.

His batting granted him that distinctive edge and gradually his skills behind the stumps caught the eye.

Dhoni's wicketkeeping is remarkably efficient with substance ruling over flair.

He is light on his feet, can move quickly, has soft hands and is able to switch off between deliveries, talking to his teammates in the slip cordon, be it Rahul Dravid, who holds the fielding world record for the maximum catches at 207, or V.V.S. Laxman.

Effective

Even if he is in an ungainly position that might upset bio-mechanical analysts,

Dhoni still manages to stop the ball and his stumpings are always in fast-forward mode. Past masters like Jeff Dujon and Kirmani used the word ‘effective' while describing the Indian captain's technique.

True to his self, Dhoni underplayed his achievements. “When I made my Test debut (against Sri Lanka in Chennai in 2005), I was not a good 'keeper and I had to really improve a lot.

“During my debut, it was Kumble and Harbhajan bowling at me.

“With Kumble bowling in the rough, more often than not you are left to the gods.

“If the ball keeps low it will go between the legs and if it bounces it can hit your collar bone! Keeping to these two bowlers helped me improve,” Dhoni added.

Way ahead

Mark Boucher, the current World-record holder, is way ahead with 524 dismissals (502, 22) and Dhoni is now placed 12th in the list. However, in his own way, Dhoni has done enough to merit profuse praise.

And as he said, “it is still a long way ahead and, hopefully, the injuries will be minor.”

 

 

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