Riding on belief to keep it going

Boucher has played more than twice as many Tests as his Indian counterpart, most of them on bouncy, seaming tracks at home, and has always been part of a pace-heavy set-up that has created numerous chances for the wicket-keeper. Dhoni, on the other hand, has played half his cricket in India, hasn’t always had the same opportunity-creating attack at his disposal as the South African, and has had to balance the responsibilities and making runs at number seven with being the captain of the team too for the last three years.

Plenty has been said about Dhoni the captain and Dhoni the batsman, but Dhoni the gloveman has seldom been in focus. It needed him to become the first Indian stumper to touch the 200-mark for his wicket-keeping skills to be talked about.

The Indian captain can never be accused of the grace and feline movement of some of the great stumpers, including Syed Kirmani whose Indian record of 198 victims he went past during the Feroze Shah Kotla Test. The Jharkhandi is a street-smart, canny wicket-keeper who takes pride in getting the job done, be it putting his pads together to stop a grubber, or often just patting the ball down rather than focussing solely on gathering it in the middle of his gloves.

His wicket-keeping, much like his batting, is a mix of rustic skills and a keen eye for opportunities. Sometimes, he makes things happen out of nowhere, not unlike Carlton Baugh, and his glovework to the spinners has been near exemplary, thanks to the initiation he had when Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh welcomed him to Test cricket.
“When I made my Test debut, I was not a good ’keeper and I had to really improve a lot,” Dhoni said matter-of-factly. “The conditions were difficult and not to forget that when I made my Test debut, it was Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh bowling at me. We played quite a few games in the sub-continent. I can really imagine with Anil bowling into the rough, more often than not, you are left to the Gods!

“You cannot do much because if the ball keeps low, it will go between the legs and if it bounces, it can hit your collar bone! That’s how I have improved. Maybe keeping to these two bowlers helped me improve as a ’keeper. There is still a long road ahead and injuries keep happening. Hopefully, the injuries will remain minor and won’t affect my keeping.”
Dhoni’s greatest strength has been his equanimity in both success and failure. “Records are a part of cricket,” he said of going past Kirmani. “It means that the bowlers have done really well to give me these dismissals like catches and stumpings. They have other ways of getting batsmen out -- bowled, catches by other fielders – but it is good that they have selected me for the task!” As simple as that!

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