India in South Africa

Post Dhoni, why does India keep going back to Parthiv and Karthik?

Dhoni replaced the two as India’s wicketkeeper, but two years after his retirement from Tests, both are still vying for the spot left vacant by him.

On Day 3 of the second Test between India and South Africa at Centurion, there was a spell of play which was particularly frustrating for the visitors. Play had resumed after a short rain break. Skipper Virat Kohli was wondering why the teams were out on the field as he felt the conditions were still damp.

Jasprit Bumrah, though, produced a brute of a delivery to get an outside edge from Dean Elgar, who was batting on 29 at the time. The ball flew to keeper Parthiv Patel’s left as he gestured towards Cheteshwar Pujara, who was standing at some distance away from him at wide first slip. The ball sailed to the boundary. It was the keeper’s catch and Kohli wasn’t too happy.

It again exposed India’s catching behind the stumps, which has been nothing short of woeful but has been overshadowed by the team’s batting troubles.

Coming into the XI in place of an injured Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv hasn’t really made a seamless transition. The Gujarat lad, who first made an appearance for India under Sourav Ganguly, dropped a couple of catches in the Centurion Test and wasn’t a hit with the bat either.

Ahead of the third Test, the BCCI announced that Saha will take no further part in the series and has been replaced by Dinesh Karthik, who will fly in for the final game to be played in Johannesburg. Karthik’s presence will provide the team with an added option for the spot of keeper. Considering, Parthiv’s below par performance, it won’t be surprising if Karthik makes it to the playing XI straightaway.

Parthiv and Karthik are keepers, who came into the international fold even before MS Dhoni came into the picture. It’s been two years since the former skipper retired from Test cricket. However, despite the long spell in between, two keepers who he replaced are still vying for the spot left vacant by him, begging the question if there exists a void in India’s wicket-keeping probables list.

Parthiv Patel (left) did not have a great outing against South Africa in Centurion (Image: Sportzpics)
Parthiv Patel (left) did not have a great outing against South Africa in Centurion (Image: Sportzpics)

Perennial back-ups

Karthik and Parthiv have been on the periphery of the Indian team for more than a decade now. With Dhoni more or less killing all competition in the late 2000s, there was no real scope for a keeper. Saha was always a backup for Dhoni in Tests, and finally got in after Dhoni called time on his Test career.

Saha fought tooth and nail with Parthiv to bag a position in the Test squad as both players produced enviable performances in the 2016-’17 domestic season. The former edged ahead and has since cemented his position in the team.

Karthik, meanwhile, has returned to the fold in the limited-overs setup albeit in the capacity of a batsman. While the likelihood of him replacing Dhoni behind the stumps are slim, his presence in the team always provides a back-up in case the former skipper is ever injured during a series.

Most dismissals in Ranji Trophy 2017-’18

  • Srikar Bharat (Andhra)24 in 6 matches. 
  • CM Gautam (Karnataka)24 in 8 matches
  • Mahesh Rawat (Railways)19 in 6 matches
  • Manoj Singh (Chhattisgarh) 21 in 6 matches
  • Akshay Wadkar (Vidarbha) 21 in 5 matches
  • Rishabh Pant (Delhi) 21 in 7 matches
  • Wriddhiman Saha (Bengal)20 in 4 matches
  • Parthiv Patel 20 in 7 matches
Rishabh Pant is being nurtured to replace MS Dhoni as India's wicket-keeper, at least in the limited-overs format. File Photo.
Rishabh Pant is being nurtured to replace MS Dhoni as India's wicket-keeper, at least in the limited-overs format. File Photo.

Scarce resources

With his experience and current form, Karthik is a logical choice, but his inclusion exposes the dearth of wicketkeeping options at India’s disposal. Saha is 33, while Parthiv and Karthik are both 32.

Among those being groomed for a future role as India’s wicketkeeper are Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson. However, the selectors have not been quite pleased with their recent performances.

“Let me tell you frankly, those boys still are not up to the level as what we would have expected,” India’s chief selector MSK Prasad was recently quoted as saying. “We will still be giving them chances on India A tours and see that they are nurtured,” he had added.

At 20 and 23, Pant and Samson are still earning their stripes and have some time left before they can be trusted with the important responsibility of keeping for India full-time. And as Prasad pointed out there is still some time before they are able to play to their full potential.

Saha has done a fabulous job in the Test format so far. Dhoni’s accomplishments in the limited-overs arena are unparalled. However, a sudden injury, of the kind faced by Saha, can never be ruled out in competitive sport. This is especially true in the hectic round-the-year schedule in which India operates.

So, it’s quite perplexing that other than the seasoned quartet of Dhoni, Saha, Parthiv and Karthik, India’s next lot for the wicket-keeping role are two youngsters, who are barely in their 20s. What happened in the intertwining 10 years, why aren’t there more options?

Dinesh Karthik has been included in India's squad for the third Test against South Africa. Photo: AFP
Dinesh Karthik has been included in India's squad for the third Test against South Africa. Photo: AFP

Generational gap

Perhaps thanks to Dhoni’s success, the search for any future keepers seems to be directly incidental to their prowess with the bat. While the practice seems fair in context of limited-overs cricket, in the longest format it does leave a lot to be desired. Post Dhoni, India’s search for keepers has been limited. Those who have been tried are also known for their batting ability.

Between Nayan Mongia and Dhoni, India tested as many as eight players for the role of the keeper. Prasad himself was one of the first to be given a go. BCCI’s current General Manager – Operations, Saba Karim, was another. Vijay Dahiya, Sameer Dighe, Deep Dasgupta, Ajay Ratra, Parthiv and Karthik, all came and went before Dhoni came aboard. Even Rahul Dravid took up the responsibility of keeping wickets in between.

Since Dhoni took over, only two other players – Saha and Naman Ojha – put on the gloves for India. Robin Uthappa did keep wickets for India in ODIs, but has since given up the gloves and did not keep wickets for his Ranji side Saurashtra this past season.

Ojha is next in line and has been a constant feature on most India A tours. However, his performances have not been deemed consistent enough to warrant a long stint with the national team. With one game apiece in Tests, ODIs, and two in T20s, Ojha has hardly been given time to prove himself. But due to his prowess with the bat as well as capable performances behind the stumps, he has remained in contention.

Among the top five wicketkeepers who picked up the most dismissals during the recently-concluded Ranji Trophy, none even feature in the list of 50 batsmen to have scored the most runs during the season.

Pant, Parthiv and Saha occupy the sixth, seventh and eighth spots in the list for most dismissals. Despite these numbers, these top five players will never be in contention because of the way they fared with the bat.

This dual responsibility has meant that the likes of Pant and Samson are forever struggling in either aspect, which eventually quashes their chances of being picked for national duty.

Saha is the last known keeper to have made the cut for the team thanks to his keeping abilities. Parthiv’s below-par performance behind the stumps has only highlighted the need for an out an out keeper at least in overseas conditions.

India travel to England this year before going to Australia. For now, other than Saha, the ones lining up for the role are Parthiv, Karthik, Pant and Samson, all of whom are known as batsmen who also keep wickets. Is having a specialist keeper such a bad prospect?

Saha has hardly been a batting mainstay for India in the past year. However, his performance behind the stumps does inspire confidence and leaves one less thing for the team management to worry about. Is having a few of such players on the roster really that bad a deal?

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.