Back in the day, the Indian cricket team never had a wicketkeeper who could be touted as an attacking batsman. Though the squad experienced vanilla moments through the batting of Budhi Kunderan (1960-67) and Farokh Engineer (1961-75), it didn’t quite create a stir. Kiran More and Nayan Mongia, despite being luminous stumpers, couldn’t rob a stare with their willow act in the ’90s too.

Cut to 2017, there is a deluge of wicketkeeper/batsmen leading to a stiff competition for the national berth. When MS Dhoni – India’s star in this genre – called it a day in Tests, Wriddhiman Saha became the automatic choice for his skills. Who could be the next superstar with the gloves and bat for India in future? Former India wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta – who slammed a Test ton against England (100) in his early days (2001) – picks his favourites and deconstructs their game.

Excerpts from an interview:

The current crop comprises Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Naman Ojha and Ishan Kishan. What are your thoughts on their game?

You even had a golden generation before them in Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel and now, Wriddhiman Saha. I would say that the competition for the slot is healthy now. I will keep Pant a bit ahead as Sanju has been around for a while. He doesn’t even keep that much in the longer format of domestic cricket whereas, Pant is an out and out keeper/batsman. Kishan is also talented and his journey will be interesting to watch but Pant already got a start for his recent heroics in IPL.

During your playing days, how much was the pressure to deliver as a batsman?

I didn’t feel any pressure to be honest. It depends how you balance. As an all-rounder, you always have the advantage to contribute in any form – be it with the glovework or the bat. I looked at it from that perspective. You want to keep wickets because you want to be a part of the game throughout. It was an advantage.

What are the changes that you think is contributing to the growth of these youngsters as batsmen?

The difference is massive on the mental side. Before my first Test, I had barely played against or kept to the team’s top bowlers like a Javagal Srinath or an Anil Kumble. I probably faced them in a game or two at the domestic level. Leave alone international bowlers, I didn’t even play against the best in India. These kids are sharing dressing room and playing with them. It is a natural progression. In our times, the jump from domestic to international was huge.

Who do you think set the trend?

MS Dhoni, there is no doubt about that. Many keepers turned batsmen following him. Earlier, the Indian team was dominated by batsmen and hence, there was a plethora of batting talent.

The ton against England was for a winning cause, what’s your best memory from that rubber?

In the second innings, I remember opening with Iqbal Siddiqui (the fast bowler who made his debut in the Test). We had to score five runs to win and he hit the winning runs. Those two minutes were enjoyable.

Pant scored 366 runs in 14 outings, involving two half-centuries, in the last IPL. Samson scored 386 runs in as many matches comprising a hundred (102) and two half-centuries. Kishan slammed his miaden IPL fifty and scored 277 runs in 11 games.