Sameer Dighe: 8 interesting things to know about the former Indian stumper

Sameer Dighe, born October 8, 1968, is a former wicketkeeper-batsman who was briefly India’s first-choice stumper in both formats in the early 2000s. On his 47th birthday, here are 8 interesting things about the former Indian ‘keeper.

1.    Impressive on Ranji debut: Dighe made his First-Class debut for Mumbai (then Bombay) against Gujarat during the 1990-91 Ranji Trophy season. Opening the batting, he hit 107 on debut as Bombay amassed 608 and eventually won by an innings. Dighe was the specialist wicketkeeper in that match. He impressed in his next outing as well, this time against Saurashtra. Once again opening, he hit his highest First-Class score of 153. Chandrakant Pandit kept wickets this time, so Dighe played as a batsman. He ended the season with 440 runs in six innings at a terrific average of 73.33 with one half-century and two hundreds.

2.    Mumbai veteran: In all, Dighe played 58 matches for Mumbai/ Bombay, scoring 3,054 runs. He took 176 catches and affected 23 stumpings. He was better with the bat in the initial part of his career; while playing for ‘Bombay’ he scored 2,047 runs at 46.52, but for ‘Mumbai’ he made 1,007 runs at 33.56.

3.    Ranji-winning captain: Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy under Dighe’s leadership in the 1999-2000 season, beating Mohammad Azharuddin’s Hyderabad. It was Dighe’s first and only win as captain, and Mumbai’s first victory since Sanjay Manjrekar led them to the title in 1996-97. It would be three seasons before they won it again, this time under Paras Mhambrey in 2002-03.

4.    Surprise call-up: By the age of 30, with no hope for national selection (or so he thought), Dighe was considering going overseas for further education. He was wrong; India’s terrible performance Down Under led to an One-Day International (ODI) call-up in 1999-2000. This was followed by a Test debut in 2001.

5.    Match-winning Test debut: Dighe played his first Test against Australia during the iconic 2001 Border-Gavaskar series. It was in the third and final Test that he was given a game. Matthew Hayden’s 203 powered Australia to 391 in the first innings. India responded with 501, thanks to Sachin Tendulkar’s 126 and half-centuries from SS Das, Sadagoppan Ramesh, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid. Dighe could make just 4. Harbhajan Singh then ripped through Australia with 8 for 84 to go with his seven-wicket haul in the first innings. India needed a mere 155 to win. At 101 for 2, it looked like India would breeze through. But this was the all-conquering Australia; they were not going to give up without a serious fight. Jason Gillespie and Colin Miller struck repeated blows, reducing India to 122 for 5 when Dighe came in. They were soon 135 for 7 and 151 for 8, but Dighe scored a resolute unbeaten 22 and saw India home by two wickets.

6.    Near-miracle chase against West Indies: Though Dighe played a mere 23 ODIs, he managed to go down in history with the (then) highest score by an Indian wicketkeeper in ODIs. He achieved this feat in a near miracle run-chase. It was the final of the Coca-Cola Cup in Zimbabwe. West Indies batted first and scored 290 thanks to fifties from Daren Ganga, Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. In reply, India were 80 for 5 before Dighe came out to join Reetinder Sodhi. The duo added an invaluable 101 before Sodhi’s dismissal for 67. Dighe and Harbhajan Singh then put on 28 but Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan were dismissed off successive deliveries. Dighe kept battling though, and got good support from Debasis Mohanty. India did not lose any more wickets, but fell an agonising 16 runs short. Dighe was unbeaten on 94 off 96 balls. His record for highest individual score by an Indian wicketkeeper in ODIs was broken only by Dravid, and subsequently by MS Dhoni. Even now, Dhoni and Dravid are the only Indian wicketkeepers with higher individual scores than Dighe.

7.    Indian wicketkeeper scramble: Dighe was a part of India’s wicketkeeper scramble in the early 2000s, as India kept going through ‘keepers’. The likes of Ajay Ratra, Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Karthik and Dhoni were all tried out before Dhoni made the post his own.

8.    Post-playing days: Dighe took up coaching after retiring from all forms of the game at a relatively young age of 33. He had a coaching stint in Hong Kong before coaching Tripura for two years. He also coached India A and India Blues. He was named fielding coach of Mumbai Indians during IPL 2008 before being replaced by Jonty Rhodes. He was also one of the selectors in the Sunil Gavaskar-led Cricket Improvement Committee of the MCA.