After lofting the first ball he faced for a six,Kieron Pollard seemed set to launch Mumbai Indians final assault. At 93/4 in 13 overs,the home team was desperate for acceleration. With part-time off-spinner David Hussey in attack now,Pollard made a move. As he stepped out,he missed the line. But so did the Kings XI wicket-keeper. Pollard got a life. In the dugout Adam Gilchrist,sitting out after a string of failures,must have had second thoughts about his playing XI.
Gilchrist had handed the gloves to Gurkeerat Singh,an exceptional fielder,who had taken the catch of the tournament while fielding on fence,but someone with no experience of standing behind the stumps. Gurkeerats fumble proved to be costly. MI scored 81 runs in the final 7 overs without losing a wicket,but re-emphasised an important cricketing point. Even the most outstanding fielder cant replace specialist keepers.
The toughest challenge for a keeper is to the judge the bounce early. This helps them to decide when to stand up from their initial squatting position. It takes years to master this movement. Those with the best of hands can catch the ball but the perfect anticipation to meet the ball just as it crosses the stumps cant be availed overnight. Specialists too can make mistakes but frequency is certainly more in case of part-timers.
With T20 said to be a batsmans game,wicket-keepers get under-valued. But smart captains use the gloveman wisely. They make bowling plans keeping him in mind. The stumper can be asked to stand up to pacers. This stops the batsmen from taking stance outside the crease which would help them cut the swing. MS Dhoni has often done this when Bhuveshwar Kumar bowls.
At times slow bowlers,after warning the keeper,let one rip down the leg side. This change of pace is to tempt the batsmen to flick and in the process get them to edge one behind the stumps. Or get the batsmen stumped as he raises the back leg to retain balance. These tactics only work if there is a specialist keeper.
Teams like RCB,Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors have been experimenting with makeshift wicketkeepers this season. RCB despite having AB de Villiers use Arun Karthik as their wicketkeeper. With the business end of the tournament approaching ,RCB can learn a few lessons from Gurkeerats costly miss.
Siddhartha is a senior correspondent based in Delhi