Saturday, Sep 13, 2003
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By K.C. Vijaya Kumar
Parthiv Patel, Ajay Ratra and Thilak Naidu cannot be blamed if they feel extremely lonely behind the stumps. The three of them have been kept on their haunches as the selectors mull over the probable wicketkeeper for the season ahead.
The TVS Salve Challenger Series at the Chinnaswamy Stadium is the stage to nurture secret dreams.
"I just want to keep well and I don't look at how others are performing,'' Parthiv has said. Ratra and Thilak have a common statement "hoping for the best."
On the tournament's rest day here on Friday, the gloved trio were kept busy at the Chinnaswamy Stadium while a majority of the India A and India B players rested as the nets sessions were made optional.
With India Seniors crashing out of the tournament after two successive defeats, Anil Kumble's India A and Rahul Dravid's India B have qualified for Sunday's final. And when the two teams clash on Saturday in the tournament's third match, it will be an opportunity to test a few raw spots before the summit clash.
The spotlight will, however, trail the wicketkeepers as India's search for a `keeper who can also bat continues. Former India wicketkeeper and National selector Kiran More cleared the cobwebs over the `should-keep-should-bat' confusion when he quipped, "wicketkeeping comes first.''
Kiran More had an extended session with Parthiv, Ratra and Thilak besides filming their drills for an instructive video. "They are good. We did some drills,'' Kiran More said when queried on the trio.
"The drills were very helpful. He (More) spoke to us about the need to stay firm behind the wicket rather than move with the batsman while keeping to spinners,'' said Ajay Ratra.
Adam Gilchrist's zest and verve behind and in front of the stumps has blazed a trail that other Nations are keen to tread. The Gilchrist factor cropped up as Parthiv and Thilak made their admiration for the Aussie evident.
"I like the way he plays, his keeping and his entire personality,'' said Thilak. And Parthiv's cameo 30 in Thursday's match against India B, indeed, had shades of the Aussie maverick.
The trio, however, have different roads to follow. Parthiv is busy firming up his grip over being first choice for the 'keeper's gloves, while Ajay Ratra on a comeback trail and Thilak Naidu busy awaiting his maiden cap have to constantly bolster their confidence levels.
Ratra after a Test century in the West Indies lost his way as a left toe injury sidelined him and helped Parthiv make his debut in England. "Well that is part of the game, I am working hard for an opportunity,'' said Ratra, while heading back to the dressing room.
The fluctuation of form is something that hurts a wicketkeeper more than anyone else. "It is like a duck for a batsman, it (dropped catch) stays in the mind,'' said More. He should know. In 1990, he dropped Graham Gooch and watched the burly England opener march past a 300. Dropped catches haunt and it is something that Parthiv, Ratra and Thilak have to guard against.
On Friday, Thilak failed to stump Hemang Badani. It is a blemish that can be erased with better glove work here on Saturday and Sunday. The Karnataka wicketkeeper looks ahead and awaits his turn with the bat in the middle. "I just need to score some runs,'' Thilak said.
Parthiv will head back home as his team India Seniors led by Sourav Ganguly has been knocked out of the tournament, while Ratra (India A) and Naidu (India B) will be seen in action on Saturday and in Sunday's final.
The first two games of the Challenger Series marked by tall scores were also one-sided and it is time for some `tough cricket'. And as John Wright said at a recent camp press conference, "all this running around we do is not for nothing. We hope to see some good tough cricket in the Challengers.''
A bloated extras list (119), some dropped catches and a few batsmen struggling with their footwork have caused a few worry lines on Wright's forehead, but with two matches still remaining, perhaps, India's leading cricketers may make amends.
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