With batting becoming an additional or mandatory skill for wicket keepers, selection is no more based on the primary skill alone. With fitness levels being raised in a manner never heard of in Indian cricket before and predominant consideration being given to batting as well, wicket keepers are expected to make fairly good contributions with the bat too.
Romesh Kaluwitharana, Alec Stewart and Adam Gilchrist were few wicket keepers who batted at the top order for their teams in at least one format around the late 90s and the early part of the twenty first century. India had its share of keepers who could bat with aggression too - Budhi Kunderan being a shining example. With time, the late 80s and early 90s saw many wicket keepers being drafted into the national team at various stages but without much success. After Nayan Mongia, who could make valuable contributions with the bat and who was also at times used as a ‘floater’, the Indians were in search for a specialist wicket keeper who could contribute well with the bat.
While Saba Karim and MSK Prasad played for India in between, both of them never made the spot their own. Several other wicket keepers were considered and few represented the country before M S Dhoni broke into the side. Rahul Dravid kept wickets in One Dayers in between - he did not fancy doing it but went on without much fuss because of his always-team-first attitude, and his sacrifice ensured that India could play an extra all-rounder in the side.
Between 2000-2005, there was a frantic search for a wicket-keeper who could also potentially develop into a solid batsman. Then as many as five players were tried in a period of 2 years. With those players not shining as they were expected to, MS Dhoni came into the team and the rest is history. With few like Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel still competing for the spot and the arrival of youngsters like Rishabh Pant, let us take a look at few others who kept wickets for India. These players came into the reckoning against the backdrop of strong performances in the domestic circuit but were not able to replicate the same in the highest form of the game.
#1 Sameer Dighe
The Mumbaikar would be best remembered for his contribution while chasing 155 against Australia in the third and decisive Test at Chennai in 2001. Under testing and tense circumstances, his 22 not out secured India a series victory. Another instance that comes to memory would be that of his throw from behind, which missed the stumps and thereby allowed the Pakistani duo of Saqlain Mushtaq and Waqar Younis to complete the winning run off the last ball at Brisbane.
Sameer Dighe could not continue in the team because of the lack of consistent performances. He also worked as a coach and a selector for various teams.
#2 Vijay Dahiya
Dahiya made his debut along with Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan against Kenya in the ICC Knockout tournament in Nairobi. He certainly did not rise up to the levels of his fellow debutants and played only two Tests and 19 One Dayers with only one half century - incidentally against Australia in the first One Day of the 2001 series at Bengaluru, which India won after a close Test series.
He was consistent in the domestic circuit and also captained Delhi. He also took up coaching assignments after retirement and Delhi won the Ranji trophy in 2007-08 when he was the coach.
#3 Deep Dasgupta
Over his short international career, he played against some tough opponents in their backyards - South Africa and West Indies. He also opened in a few games and even scored a century against England at Mohali, which showed his grit but which could not sustain for long and he was overlooked by the selectors soon.
He continued to perform well in domestic cricket - he had begun it with a century - and eventually led Bengal. He continues his association with the game as a commentator and television expert.
#4 Ajay Ratra
He has the rare and perhaps unique distinction of scoring a century, keeping wickets and even getting to bowl in the same Test match - against West Indies at Antigua in 2002. But with such sporadic good performances, he could not substantiate his claim to the wicket keeper's spot and lost his place soon.
He scored more than 4000 runs in first class cricket. He was also part of the under-19 World Cup winning team in 2000.