Clayton Murzello: It's pain and simple for 'keepers

Jun 07, 2018, 07:05 IST | Clayton Murzello

If Wriddhiman Saha is cursing his luck for hurting his thumb in the T20, there are other stumpers who have endured worse frustrations

India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha watches a ball travel on the off-side during Day Five of the third Test against Sri Lanka in New Delhi last December. Pic/AFP
India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha watches a ball travel on the off-side during Day Five of the third Test against Sri Lanka in New Delhi last December. Pic/AFP

Clayton MurzelloWriddhiman Saha is out of action again — for the third time in 18 months. And while Dinesh Karthik, his replacement for the June 14-18 India vs Afghanistan Test is not gloating, he will enjoy being part of a Test match after eight years.

Though the selectors have indicated that Saha will continue to be their first choice when it comes to the forthcoming five-Test series in England, anything can happen in cricket. Either way, Saha will be hurting to miss out on a historic match at Bangalore against the babes of international cricket.

Like Saha, several wicketkeepers have been dealt a cruel hand when it comes to injuries. Some of them have been career-ending; the most recent being South African wicketkeeping great Mark Boucher, who had to quit cricket after being struck on the eye during a warm-up game on the 2012 tour of England. In 2000, India's Syed Saba Karim injured his right eye while keeping to Anil Kumble in the Asia Cup final at Dhaka. By November that year, he had played his last game for India.

Another Indian stumper who was lost to the game after an injury was Ebrahim Maka. He was on India's 1952-53 tour of the West Indies as PG Joshi's understudy. Joshi fell out of favour after two Tests and captain Vijay Hazare included Maka for the third at Trinidad. However, according to cricket writer Partab Ramchand, Maka fractured two bones in his left hand while batting against pace bowler Frank King. Joshi returned for the fourth Test, but Hazare had Vijay Manjrekar behind the stumps for the final Test at Kingston. Maka never played for India again.

Another wicketkeeper who suffered two injuries on the same hand was England's Godfrey Evans. Standing back to Frank Tyson during the 1955 Manchester Test against South Africa, the technically sound Evans tried to collect a delivery which chipped the first joint and cracked the second on the little finger of his right hand. Evans pulled off his gloves during the luncheon interval only to discover that his finger had turned black. An x-ray report showed considerable damage and he was out for the season.

Unlike Evans, England's George Brown did not sustain his finger injury during a Test, but while preparing for one against Australia in 1921. Brown used to arrive for practice on a motorbike and decided to train with his motorcycle gauntlet gloves. A ball hit one of his fingers and he was out of the first two Tests of the series. Bob Taylor, the England wicketkeeper of the 1970s and 1980s, suffered soreness in the ear which ruled him out of the 1976-77 tour of India. Taylor spent a good number of years being Alan Knott's deputy and this was quite a blow. His India-bound kit including the tour blazer was taken away from him and handed over to his replacement Roger Tolchard, who had the same initials - R.W.T.

In his book, Standing Up, Standing Back, Taylor admitted feeling very low after missing the India tour. While waiting at his doctor's lounge for a check-up, he picked up a magazine to find some encouraging words from Patience Strong (a pen name for British writer Winifred Emma May) in one of the pages: "There are intervals in life. The show can't run non-stop. In between the acts there comes a pause. The curtain drops. Intervals there have to be; accept them. Face the facts. Wisely use the quiet times that come between the acts."

Australia's Roger Woolley had a promising Test career ahead of him in the wake of Rod Marsh's retirement in 1983-84. Woolley, the first Tasmanian Sheffield Shield player to be picked for Australia, was all set to play the second Test of his career on the 1983-84 tour of the West Indies, but cracked his right index finger before the opening Test at Georgetown. He returned for the fourth Test at Antigua, but Wayne Phillips proved to be a better option because the South Australian stumper could open the batting as well.

Woolley's career was thus restricted to two Tests. Wicketkeepers have also had to endure some unique disappointments on the selection front, but let that be for another day. Meanwhile, hopefully, the India v Afghanistan Test is not one-sided and may the doomsayers who predict the Test will be a three-day affair be proved wrong. After all, a lot of us enjoy supporting the underdog.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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