Money & Careers

Way with wickets

The concern over lack of specialist 'keepers in the country is growing. In an era where batsmen also don the big gloves, the classical wicket-keeper batsmen could be a dying breed.

Former Tamil Nadu wicket-keeper batsman T.R. Arasu is a worried man like many of his ilk. “You tend to get batsman wicket-keepers these days rather than wicket-keeper batsmen. They need to realise that a catch put down could prove costlier than an additional 30 or 40 runs made with the willow.”

Arasu was a gloveman with nimble footwork and fast hands. He allowed the ball to ease into his gloves and could whip the bails off in a flash. In 24 Ranji Trophy matches for the State, he held 55 catches and effected eight stumpings.

He was also a useful batsman with 648 runs at 28.17, including five half centuries. However, Arasu's 'keeping always took precedence. These days, the 36-year-old Arasu is busy at the TNCA Academy as a fielding and 'keeping coach for all age groups. Genuine ability, he believes, is at a premium.

He acknowledges that the advent of the mercurial Adam Gilchrist has changed people's perspective of wicket-keeper batsmen. The left-handed Gilchrist, who could orchestrate major turnarounds with strokes of blinding brilliance, was hugely influential with the willow.

Wonderful 'keeper

“But people fail to realise he was also a wonderful 'keeper who seldom put down catches. Along the way, he took some exceptional catches off the pacemen and was slick against leg-spin legend Shane Warne. While Gilchrist was a remarkable batsman, he never forgot that 'keeping was his primary job in the side. Irrespective of how the world looked at him, Gilchrist was a 'keeper-batsman in his mind and not a batsman-'keeper,” points out Arasu.

Among the contemporary 'keepers in India, Arasu considers Bengal's Wriddhiman Saha as most promising — “I looked at his movements and gathering and got the impression that he has potential.”

Ask him about the last Indian wicket-keeper who impressed him and Arasu replies, “It has to be Nayan Mongia. I have seen him keep to Anil Kumble on turning tracks and he was effortless with his takes. Kumble can really test a 'keeper on those surfaces.”

Arasu then dwells on the techniques of 'keeping. “Balance is crucial. For instance, ideally, the distance between the 'keeper's legs when he crouches should be equal to the width of his shoulder. This will lend greater balance to his movements. While 'keeping to a spinner, a 'keeper has to rise with the ball.” Footwork is essential.

Says Arasu: “A 'keeper has to move on the balls of his feet. Leg-side gatherings, in particular, probe a 'keeper's footwork. While 'keeping to a paceman, the movement has to be criss-cross. It can be conventional while standing up to a spinner. You can be blinded by the batsman on the leg-side that is why you need to move sideways in a manner that is natural and easy. A 'keeper's movements against a spinner have to be in small but sure steps. Otherwise, he could spread himself too wide and lose balance.”

Arasu is of the opinion that catches off the bowling of pacemen are tougher in the sub-continent. “There is good bounce in Australia or South Africa so the ball will stay longer in the air and carry to the 'keeper. In the sub-continent, since the bounce is low, even a catch just to the right or left of a 'keeper could be a really good one since the ball tends to die on you.”

Reading deliveries

While concentration, anticipation, footwork and reflexes are mandatory, a 'keeper also needs to watch the ball from the bowler's run-up, he says. “You need to pick the ball. If a 'keeper is not able to read deliveries from spinners, he is in trouble.”

The 'keeper, Arasu says, provides valuable inputs to the side. “According to me, a 'keeper is the captain of the fielding side. He is closest to action, can read the batsman and the pitch. For the bowlers, his guidance is invaluable. A competent 'keeper instils his team with confidence.”

Remembering his playing days, Arasu recalls a diving catch on the leg-side to dismiss Railways' Yere Goud off paceman L. Balaji in New Delhi. “That was memorable,” he recalls.

He concedes, though, that left-arm spinners and leg-spinners are the hardest to keep wicket to. “When the ball pitches on leg and turns towards off, a 'keeper has to be very good. Some of the most trying times for me came when I kept to the left-arm spin pair of H. Ramkishen and D. Vasu on turning tracks for Chemplast. They did not give the ball too much air but ripped it hard.”

Arasu thanks his employer UpDater Services and its managing director T. Raghunandhana for their help in his cricketing journey. “Back the pure 'keepers,” is Arasu's message.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 12:22:17 PM |

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