A Fascinating Wicket Keeper and a Stylish Bat

A short Biography on Syed Mujtaba Hussain Kirmani.

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Syed Mujtaba Hussain Kirmani was born on 29th December 1952 in Madras. He did his schooling in Hyderabad and studied at All Saints High School. He has played for Mysore and the Indian Railways in domestic cricket. He played domestic cricket between 1971 and 1994. He is popularly known as `Kiri’.

Syed Kirmani spent many years as an understudy to Farokh Engineer, touring England between 1971 and 1974 without playing a test. His first test appearance for India was against New Zealand at Auckland in 1976. In the same series, playing his second test at Christchurch, he equalled the world record of six victims in an innings, five caught and one stumped.

Syed Kirmani played 88 tests in all, scoring 2,759 runs with two centuries and twelve fifties. He had a highest score of 102. He had 198 dismissals behind the wickets. He was a right hand bat and a right arm off break bowler too besides keeping wickets. He has one wicket to his credit in tests, with his best of 1 for 9. He played tests between 1976 and 1986. He has played 49 one day matches, scoring 373 runs with 36 dismissals behind the wickets. He has played 275 first class matches, scoring 9,620 runs with a highest of 161. He made thirteen centuries and thirty eight fifties. He had 479 dismissals behind the wickets.

Though Farokh Engineer was quite flamboyant, It was Syed Kirmani who has earned his place as India’s best wicket keeper batsman after Mahendra Singh Dhoni who in a span of few years has proved not only to be the best wicket keeper batsman for  India but also a very successful and influential captain.

The job of a wicket keeper is not an easy one. He has to be alert all the time while playing. The keeper is hardly praised after a noteworthy performance, but if he makes a mistake, he is blamed by his fans.

Syed Kirmani has been voted by Cricinfo as one of the best wicket keeper batsmen to have played for India. He was also voted as the best wicket keeper during the Prudential World Cup of 1983 that was played in England where India emerged victorious as world champions. He has also been declared as one of the ten best wicket keepers of all time.

Syed Kirmani was constantly in and out of the Indian test team being sometimes in the thick of controversies and was always under scrutiny by the selectors. It was a fate similar to that of Mohinder Amarnath.

Syed Kirmani’s unbroken stand of 126 runs for the ninth wicket with Kapil Dev Nikhanj against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup in England was his most valuable knock even if it was only for 26 runs because it took India forward in the tournament that they ultimately won. He has partnered Sunil Gavaskar in a record unbroken stand of 143 for the ninth wicket against West Indies at Madras. He had another record of 235 runs for the seventh wicket with Ravi Shastri in 1984 at Bombay against the West Indies. One of the best catches he has taken has been the one to get Faoud Bacchus of West Indies in the final of the World Cup in 1983 at Lord’s, England.

After retirement, Syed Kirmani has been involved in cricket administration. He has also served as the Chairman of the selection committee for India few years back. He has been awarded the Padma Shri in 1982.  He has acted in a Hindi Bollywood film called `Kabhi Ajnabi The’ (Once we were strangers) along with his fellow teammate, Sandeep Patil. He has also acted in a Malayalam film. He was a fascinating wicket keeper and an extremely stylish bat.

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