Interview: With big gloves to fill, Sadiq Kirmani waiting to grab every opportunity
The relationship between a father and a son is one of the most enigmatic of connections. For many of us, they are the first role models, the ones we look up to and try to impress; The ones we adore and try to emulate.
“My dad was my first role model”. It is not surprising, then, when Sadiq Kirmani quickly responds back on being asked about the person he looked up to as a kid.
Yet, Sadiq is not alone in this regard. His father happens to be the role-model to a whole generation of wicket-keepers, and one of the best to ever grace the game for India.
The younger one doesn’t harp on the fact that he is the son of Syed Kirmani. In an earnest attempt to quell the notion that sons of famous players cannot repeat their deeds, Sadiq Kirmani is on the path to creating his own name.
A budding wicketkeeper-batsman, Sadiq is confidently rising through the ranks to carve a niche for himself. He was included in the Karnataka Ranji squad last year, and made his List A debut for the state as well.
As has been the case for a number of youngsters, the Karnataka Premier League has been a focal point in bringing a big turnaround to his fledgeling career.
“Before last year, I didn’t get to play much as I was warming the benches. Last year, I found myself. People were not giving me the right opportunities. Last year I got my opportunity. I found myself. I proved that I was capable of setting high standards. That’s how it has given me the confidence, and I aim to look higher now”.
The 27-year old owes a lot to his KPL franchise, the Namma Shivamogga, a team that has helped him realise his potential as a wicketkeeper-batsman, where he received praise for his exploits at the top of the order. Being the leading run scorer of the Karnataka Premier League’s 2015 edition, he certainly has some expectations from people.
“People expect you to perform and depends on how one takes it. They take it in their stride or they take it and buckle up. “
Over the years, the tournament has grown from strength to strength, and has helped give numerous players a platform to raise their game and exhibit it on a larger scale. Kirmani has been one of the beneficiaries of it.
“Before last year, I didn’t get to play much as I was warming the benches. Last to last year as well. Last year, I found myself. People were not giving me the right opportunities. Last year I got my opportunity. I found myself. I proved that I was capable of setting high standards. That’s how it has given me the confidence, and I aim to look higher now."
Now that he has become a confident and successful T20 player, does he intend on focussing on the shorter formats only?
“Being a Test player is a dream for every budding cricketer. Wearing a Test cap is a different feeling altogether.”
Yet, enjoyment of racking up quick runs in the shortest format is not lost on Sadiq.
“I enjoy the shorter format as well. I am really fond of Test cricket. All my formats are favourites”
Apart from being the opener for his KPL franchise, he handles the role of keeping wickets as well: just like his father used to.
If you think it was an ideal change of guard from the elder to the younger sibling, you are mistaken. It was by chance. He volunteered when the team selectors were looking for a keeper. Still, he believes that being a keeper is an innate quality.
“I totally feel that keepers are born. Nowadays, anyone who dons the gloves and catches the ball is called a keeper. But for me, a keeper has to be born”.
Kirmani is upset by the way additional batsmen are being pushed to keep wickets at the expense of a regular keeper.
“They can be groomed from younger age groups. And it has to be in them. Nowadays, they are looking for anybody who’s a batsman who can keep and stop the ball.“
He believes that a wicketkeeper, irrespective of the format, has a major role to play in the game.
“It depends on the role given to him. If he is an opening batsman as well, he has to give a good start. If he is a middle order batsman, he has to finish matches.”
In all this, the actual act of keeping wickets is something which is very crucial and should be taken very seriously.
“If you drop a catch, or miss a stumping, and the batsman scores 30 more runs, your team will go off track.”
And this, Sadiq believes, is not restricted to just the shortest format.
The ability to analyse the game and adapt to different formats stems from the guidance he received as a kid. The impact of the elder Kirmani is evident.
“He is there for me. 24X7. He explains to me how things are done, and I can’t ask for more. Whatever I am is because of him. He has shaped me for the future.”
That said, there is always the added, albeit uncalled for, pressure on the younger one to match the deeds of his esteemed father.
“It is very difficult to fill his shoes. He has set a standard. It is difficult to explain to people that my father is different and I am different. All five fingers are not the same. I can’t keep like him, and he can’t keep like me. People say all the time, ‘Oh, why can’t he keep like his father’. They don’t understand that I am a different person. Sometimes it plays on my mind. And there is pressure, to be honest.”
To hone his skills as a keeper, and to gain the extra edge (no pun intended!) over his counterparts, Sadiq has a few unique techniques up his sleeve.
“I do drills with cones, to practise edges and snicks. I use a broom as well. So, anything from a baseball bat to a broom that would give me a deviation, I use it”.
This, he believes, helps him mimic the kind of nicks that he encounters in real-match situations.
While the world goes ga-ga over one legendary wicket-keeper’s biopic, another young one is quietly going about his job, waiting for the right opportunity to land in his gloves.