A brave new stumper
Deep Dasgupta was initially picked for the one-day squad that played in the triangular series in South Africa as the team's only specialist wicket-keeper. The team management did not rate Dasgupta highly at all, and he had to make way for Rahul Dravid before the series was over.
The selectors wanting to give him more time with the Indian team, Dasgupta found himself as the understudy to Sameer Dighe. But the young keeper, who almost flew back from South Africa, found himself rushing to grab his equipment on the morning of the first Test at Bloemfontein; Dighe pulled up with a back strain and Dasgupta had to play.
The youngster did not let the opportunity slip this time around. Batting first, India was spurred on by sparkling hundreds from Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. Dasgupta chipped in with a well-made 34 off 71 balls, with five boundaries; not a bad effort from the gloveman to make the third-highest score of the innings. Dasgupta proved that he was equally capable behind the stumps too, snapping up two catches. He fought bravely in the second essay, trying to hold the innings together by making just four runs off 31 balls. India lost the first Test by nine wickets, but Dasgupta was one of the few Indians to do well in the match.
The second Test at Port Elizabeth will go down in history for all the controversy it generated. The cricket on show, though, was of the highest quality. South Africa batted for almost a day and half to score 362 runs. Dasgupta picked up a catch behind the stumps, and his keeping was blemishless, not letting any byes slip through.
There was a surprise in store for the youngster when he was asked to open the innings with Shiv Sunder Das. Rahul Dravid, who had bravely volunteered to open the innings and failed spectacularly in the first Test, did not want to jeopardise his career further. The team management, therefore, did not look at other senior players to lead the way; if you are playing in only your second Test, you are the most likely candidate for such experiments.
Dasgupta found out that opening the Test innings was a lot like playing with fire; the South African speedsters were at his neck from the outset. But he displayed a lot of resolve and guts to be the fourth man to be dismissed in the innings. Dasgupta dug deep in to play for 60 balls and make 13 runs before falling to Makhaya Ntini. Not a bad maiden effort for a part-timer.
India were asked to make 395 runs in the fourth innings to win; better put, they were asked to save the match against a rampant pace attack. India finished the last day on 28/1, with Dasgupta on 22 and Dravid on three. It was that evening that some Indian players. including Dasgupta, were faced with the disciplinary actions of Mike Denness.
Dasgupta and Dravid walked out to bat with a resolve not seen in the recent past. With a helping hand from the rain, the match was saved by the end of the final day's play. The two batsmen added 171 runs for the second wicket. Dravid made a gritty 87 and Dasgupta batted courageiously to make 63 off 281 balls. The Test was saved, and Dasgupta cemented his place in the national team.
In the final match played the SuperSport Park, Centurion, which has been termed an unofficial Test, Dasgupta lost the opening slot to specialist Connor Williams. Batting at number six, Dasgupta had scores of 36 and 27, not a poor show in a match that was lost by an innings and 73 runs. If any player deserves the top billing for sheer commitment and consistency, it has to be Dasgupta.
Dasgupta promises to fight it out for India place: [More]
Second-wicket stand saves India in Second Test: [More]
Dasgupta's debut Test: [Scorecard]