India's legendary stumper Syed Kirmani on Saturday found fault with Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's wicketkeeping skills, saying the Jharkhand boy lacked the "copybook basics".
"He is improving with every match, though he is not technically sound behind the wicket. He doesn't have the copybook basics of a wicketkeeper," Kirmani said on the sidelines of the screening of "Hum Sab Ek Hai", a documentary on cricket in India produced by the ministry of external affairs.
Asked to be more specific about his startling observations, Kirmani said: "Dhoni does not have the natural instincts of an athlete, which is very important for a wicketkeeper."
Regarded as one of India's best wicketkeepers, Kirmani expressed his apprehension about Dhoni's future as stumper at the highest level of the game after four years.
"No player remains the same after four years. The agility and reflex of a player diminishes with age. The body and muscles start wearing out. And Dhoni is playing all three forms of the game round the year," said Kirmani, who played 88 Test matches taking 160 catches besides effecting 38 stumpings.
Making his debut in 1976, Kirmani - affectionately called 'Kiri' - played with great distinction as a wicketkeeper batsman notching up 2,759 runs till he was dropped in 1985-86.
Kirmani felt with the Indian cricket team on a song, Dhoni's wicketkeeping flaws were escaping the notice of the cricket fans. "Now with India winning at a stretch, some dropped catches or some byes conceded are not making headlines. But once the team's performance graph dips, even one blemish will lead to a lot of criticism."
Asked whether he would offer tips to Dhoni, Kirmani said: "My only advice to him is to keep going. Now it is too late to modify, to inculcate a copybook technique. These things have to be done at the grassroot level. Not only Dhoni, I can't change the technique of a Parthiv Patel or a Dinesh Karthik."
Kirmani, however, praised Dhoni's captaincy. "He is providing good leadership. He is literally leading from the front. He is providing inspiration to the youngsters."
The former keeper said that whether India can become the top side in the world would become clear after the New Zealand tour.
"Let's see how they perform against the Kiwis. Then I can tell you. But now there can be no second opinion that the Indian side is performing superbly. I hope this lasts till the 2011 World Cup. But there is a big but.
"Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. And the present consistent showing cannot be maintained. The Indian team is now in a good luck cycle, which will end sooner or later," he added.