The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dravid role insult to our fraternity: Kiri

Bangalore: Ajay Ratra probably knew it was coming, yet looked devastated Saturday evening when word got around that Parthiv Patel had been preferred over him for the first two Tests against the West Indies.

Ratra, however, can take heart from what Syed Kirmani said Sunday morning.

Speaking to The Telegraph, India’s finest wicketkeeper-ever minced absolutely nothing: “Frankly, Parthiv should consider himself lucky... He has ‘beaten’ somebody who is not only a fine ’keeper, but is more experienced... I feel very sorry for Ratra.”

Kirmani, who finished with 198 dismissals in 88 Tests between 1975-76 and 1985-86, added: “Actually, I just can’t understand the selectors’ approach towards the most specialised of all positions. This neglect hurts... Ratra is made to feel a veteran at 21 and, worse, our best batsman (Rahul Dravid) is made into a wicketkeeper in one-day cricket.

“God forbid, but if Dravid gets injured behind the stumps — and a non-regular ’keeper does run that risk — we will lose the mainstay of our batting. Moreover, if the first six batsmen can’t get runs, it’s foolish to expect No. 7 to rescue the team. What’s happening is an insult to the fraternity of wicketkeepers.”

[While the Dravid-strategy had the previous selection committee’s endorsement, the present one has dumped Ratra.]

Kirmani emphasised the best results come with the most pucca grooming. “I could hold my own for a decade — in fact, I should have been given a longer run, but that’s a different story — because I was groomed (as Farokh Engineer’s deputy) for four-five years. I wasn’t suddenly thrown at the deep end of the sea.

“Look at Adam Gilchrist and Mark Boucher... With experience, they have been getting better each season... Having given Ratra a break in the West Indies (second Test, Port-of-Spain), our selectors should have been enhancing his confidence and allowing the younger Parthiv (17) to mature without too much pressure. An injury did give him two opportunities in England, but the teenager should now have been made to wait and learn.”

Kirmani continued: “While I definitely don’t wish to be harsh, it’s not that Parthiv is the most outstanding ’keeper around... When the difference is sirf unees-bees, go for the man with experience...”

As Kirmani is Bangalore-based, it would have been in order to involve him with the National Cricket Academy as full-time coach for wicketkeepers. Inexplicably, that hasn’t been done and, in his view, quite a few of the youngsters “look confused.”

As Kirmani explained: “That’s because enough attention is not being paid — neither at the grassroots level nor at the very top.”

Asked what made a good ’keeper, Kirmani answered: “Without a demo, the qualities can’t be properly illustrated... Basically, a number of things must synchronise... And, yes, you should judge a wicketkeeper on how he performs standing up.”

Can ’keepers be ‘made’ or must they be born naturals'

Kirmani laughed for what seemed an eternity before replying: “Look, in this age and time, everything can be made... I’m sure there are some naturals around. Only, somebody must do a proper job of scouting... The work, of course, won’t end there — the youngster(s) will have to be thoroughly groomed.”

While the Establishment continues to keep Kirmani at an arm’s length, for whatever reason, the one-time champion is keeping himself busy with quite a few things. Among others, Kirmani is involved with Saheli, an organisation which has taken the lead in organising a tournament — Voice of the Voiceless — for the boys of local slum-dwellers.

“I’ve donated the trophy... In time, I could get involved in a bigger way. I’ll be happy if I can be of some benefit to somebody somewhere,” Kirmani signed off.

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