Former Indian wicketkeeper-batsman and ex-selector Syed Kirmani, on Tuesday recollected the story of how India's former captain MS Dhoni was selected for the senior national team before admitted that handing him the captaincy role was the biggest thing that happened in Indian cricket.
Ardent fans for Indian cricket have all seen Dhoni journey to the Indian cricket team, on the big screen. Yet there was a crucial section missing from his the biopic and Kirmani filled the gaps by narrating Dhoni's selection for the East Zone team in Deodhar Trophy in 2004.
“I have never disclosed this before but here is how Dhoni was picked. I and Pranab Roy - my co-selector from East Zone - were watching a Ranji Trophy match. I’m not sure which match it was since it was a long time ago, but Pranab Roy is proof. He said to me ‘there is this keeper batsman from Jharkhand, who is a very promising youngster and deserves selection’,” Kirmani told Hindustan Times in an exclusive chat.
“I asked him ‘is he keeping wickets in this match?’ Pranab said ‘no but he is fielding at fine leg.’ That is when I got Dhoni’s stats from the last two years to look into. And Wow! There was terrific consistency in his batting ability. Without even seeing him keep wickets, I suggested that Dhoni be selected for East Zone straightaway. And the rest is history.”
Dhoni's rise through the domestic ranks was during the time when India were experimenting with options for the wicketkeeping spot. Nayan Mongia was snubbed due to match-fixing allegations, Saba Karim's career was almost over and hence selectors were tossing up between Mumbai’s Sameer Dighe, Haryana’s Ajay Ratra and Deep Dasgupta from Bengal.
Besides, the world was witnessing a revolution in the role of wicketkeepers who were evolving as equally effective batters as well. Indians had good and young keepers in Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel, but none were as effective with the willow as they were behind the stumps.
And then stepped in Dhoni, in 2004 and thumped his authority with a ravishing 183 against Sri Lanka.
“A wicket-keeper is the best guide to the captain, to bowlers and is in the best position to set the field and to find the weak points in a batsman,” Kirmani said.
“When Dhoni was appointed captain, it was the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket. He proved what the importance of a wicket-keeper batsman is all about. In my time, the committee thought that it would be an added responsibility, which could hamper the performance. I’m glad Dhoni proved them wrong and changed that perception.”