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India vs West Indies: Specialist on field, West Indies put greenhorn gloveman under harsh spotlight 


West Indies’ wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich is carried off the field after an injury during the second day’s play in Hyderabad. (AP Photo)

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WHILE THE rest of his teammates quietly strode off the field at close of play, Jahmar Hamilton stood around waiting for Shannon Gabriel. A couple of his teammates walked past offering him high-fives. And Hamilton held out his right hand as Gabriel got closer. But not only did the fast bowler refuse to acknowledge the wicket-keeper’s outstretched hand, he didn’t even acknowledge his presence, looking the other way and stomping away. Poor Hamilton did get some solace from Devendra Bishoo who put his around the 28-year-old Anguillan.

Gabriel of course had every reason to be peeved at Hamilton. The substitute had dropped a rather straightforward chance off his bowling at a crucial juncture of the match. It’d been a tough day for Gabriel till that point. Prithvi Shaw had hit him out of the attack and though he did get Cheteshwar Pujara, he’d been off-colour overall. Till the time he got one to jump at Rishabh Pant and get his outside-edge, only for Hamilton to let it slip through his gloves. And clearly, Gabriel wasn’t ready yet for a patch-up or any consolation at the end of the day.

Hamilton had of course never kept wickets in an international match before Saturday. He’d been part of a few West Indies A tours, and is if anything here more as a reserve batsman, who can keep wickets. He’d spent most of the first two days, and the Rajkot Test, running out drinks for his teammates. And then from nowhere, he had to put on his wicket-keeping garb and stride out to the middle of the Uppal Stadium. Shane Dowrich had been struck a painful blow on the knee while attempting to stop a Gabriel delivery that pitched just short of him and bounced up awkwardly. It was a debilitating blow, which left Dowrich in considerable pain. He eventually had to be carried off the field.

Imagine being Hamilton for a second. You’re resting up in the dressing-room, your mind completely off the game, perhaps thinking about the flight back home in a few days’ time. And from nowhere you’re in the heat of the battle with Gabriel running in at full tilt. Unfortunately for the diminutive Anguillan, his unlikely stint behind the wickets didn’t start too well. He wasn’t quick enough to stop a length delivery down the leg-side from Jason Holder from rushing away for four byes. Then a wider leg-side delivery sped past his outstretched left-hand as he put in the dive. Within the first 10 balls of him appearing on the field during a Test match, Hamilton had conceded 8 byes.

There was one bright spot though as he took a smart, low catch to get rid of Pujara, off Gabriel’s bowling. That effort got him into a unique list. Barbados all-rounder Antonio Mayers had once caught Graham Thorpe in a Test during the early 2000s despite never coming close to playing a Test. More interestingly, Winston Herbert, who was renowned for his fielding across the islands, caught India’s present coach Ravi Shastri in a Test in 1989, despite never having played a single first-class game.

Twice isn’t nice

Hamilton was decently safe against the spinners and inconspicuous really, which is a good way to be behind the stumps. If only he hadn’t been as rushed as he was when the Pant edge came flying in his direction around above his left shoulder and held on. It was interesting that the visitors opted for the choice — which came into being only last April allowing substitutes to keep wickets — by bringing in Hamilton cold rather than giving the gloves to Shai Hope, who keeps wickets for them in 50-over cricket. Perhaps it was a case of them not wanting to add the burden on Hope, who will be a key batsman in the second innings where they will be playing catch-up. Unlike Gabriel, Roston Chase was slightly more sympathetic towards Hamilton’s predicament.

“Not being in the game, being on the sidelines, just bringing drinks, he was not really accustomed to the pace of the game. So being rushed to come out there, I guess he wasn’t really prepared mentally to come out at that stage. It just probably gave him a quick jump. But I know Jahmar, he is a good keeper. I know he will pick up the slack and turn it his way,” he said.

The mixed results with the forced experiment with Hamilton weren’t symptomatic of the West Indians’ display however. They came out with better plans than in Rajkot, and on a flat pitch they did make the Indians work for their runs.

It’s not certain whether Hamilton’s “Test” foray will continue on Sunday with team officials revealing that the scan reports for Dowrich showed no damage. But if he does, he will hope that Gabriel finds the edge again and also that he hangs on to the catch this time around. And then perhaps, also for Gabriel to finally give him a high-five.

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