Wicket-keeper

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A wicket-keeper in characteristic position, ready to face a delivery. This keeper is "standing up" close to the wicket, for a slow pace bowler or spin bowler
A pair of wicket-keeping gloves. The webbing which helps the keeper to catch the ball can be seen between the thumb and index fingers.

The wicket-keeper in the sport of cricket is the player on the fielding side who stands behind the wicket or stumps being guarded by the batsman currently on strike. The wicket-keeper is the only member of the fielding side permitted to wear gloves and external leg guards.[1] The wicket-keeper may also wear a helmet with a mesh face guard to help protect from injury.[2]

It is essentially a specialist role although a keeper is occasionally called upon to bowl, in which case another member of the fielding side temporarily keeps wicket. The role of the keeper is governed by Law 40 of the Laws of Cricket.[1]

Matt Prior of England standing up to the stumps against Sri Lanka in 2011.

Purposes[edit]

The keeper's major function is to stop deliveries that pass the batsman (in order to prevent runs being scored as 'byes'), but he can also attempt to dismiss the batsman in various ways:

  • The most common dismissal effected by the keeper is for him to catch a ball that has nicked the batsman's bat, called an edge, before it bounces. Sometimes the keeper is also in the best position to catch a ball which has been hit high in the air. More catches are taken by wicket-keepers than by any other fielding position.
  • The keeper can stump the batsman by using the ball to remove the bails from the stumps, if the batsman has come out of his crease during a delivery.
  • When the ball is hit into the outfield, the keeper moves close to the stumps to catch the return throw from a fielder and, if possible, to run out a batsman.

A keeper's position depends on the bowler: for fast bowling he will crouch some distance from the stumps, in order to have time to react to edges from the batsman, while for slower bowling, he will come much nearer to the stumps (known as "standing up"), to pressure the batsman into remaining within the crease or risk being stumped. The more skilled the keeper, the faster the bowling to which he is able to "stand up", for instance Godfrey Evans often stood up to Alec Bedser. [1]

Wicket-keeping is a specialist discipline and it requires training consistent with the level expected of a specialist batsman or bowler. However, the modern-day keeper is also expected to possess reasonable batting skill, suiting him for the middle order at least. Wicket-keepers who are also capable of batting at the top of the order are known informally as keeper/batsmen.

Since there is only room for one keeper in a cricket side, selectors (especially at the international level) are often faced with a difficult choice between two or more skilled keepers. Often, one of the two keepers is an exceptional keeper, but only an average batsman, whereas the other is a keeper/batsman who is clearly better at batting, but not quite as good a keeper as his rival. One such selection dilemma was that faced by England selectors in the 1990s between Jack Russell (the pure keeper) and Alec Stewart (the keeper/batsman). They were never able to consistently choose between the two until 1998, when Russell began to fade: prior to that, they had regularly swapped the role, often with Stewart maintaining his place when not wicket-keeping thanks to his batting skill.

The keeper may also have a captaincy role. Uniquely, they are usually involved in every delivery of an innings, and may be in a position to see things that the captain misses. They can frequently be heard encouraging the bowler, and may also indulge in the practice (not meant to be overheard) of "sledging" the batsman with well timed comments about their skill, appearance or personal habits.

The keeper is the only fielder allowed to touch the ball with protective equipment, typically large padded gloves with webbing between the index finger and thumb, but no other webbing. The protection offered by the gloves is not always adequate. The England keeper Alan Knott sometimes placed steaks inside his gloves for added cushioning. Wicket-keepers also tend to wear leg pads and a box to protect the groin area.

Wicket-keepers are allowed to take off their pads and bowl, though this rarely happens but is not uncommon when matches are drifting to draws or a bowling team is desperate for a wicket. Two keepers have removed their pads and taken hat-tricks in first-class cricket: Probir Sen for Bengal v Orissa at Cuttack in 1954–55 and A.C. (Alan) Smith for Warwickshire v Essex at Clacton in 1965; Smith was a most unusual player in that he was primarily a wicket-keeper, but was sometimes selected as a frontline bowler.

Legal specifications of wicket-keeping gloves[edit]

Wicket keeping gloves along with the inner gloves

Law 40.2, which deals with the specifications for wicketkeepers' gloves, states that: If,.... the wicket-keeper wears gloves, they shall have no webbing between the fingers except joining index finger and thumb, where webbing may be inserted as a means of support. If used, the webbing shall be:

(a) a single piece of non-stretch material which, although it may have facing material attached, shall have no reinforcements or tucks.

(b) such that the top edge of the webbing-

(i) does not protrude beyond the straight line joining the top of the index finger to the top of the thumb.

(ii) is taut when a hand wearing the glove has the thumb fully extended. [2]

Substitutes[edit]

According to Law 2 of the Laws of Cricket, a substitute (taking the place of an ill or injured player) may not keep wicket.[3]

This rule is sometimes suspended, by agreement with the captain of the batting side, although Law 2 does not provide for such agreement to be made. For example, during the England—New Zealand Test Match at Lord's in 1986, England's specialist keeper, Bruce French was injured during England's first innings. England then used 4 keepers in New Zealand's first innings: Bill Athey kept for the first two overs; 45-year-old veteran Bob Taylor was pulled out of the sponsor's tent to keep, immaculately, for overs 3 to 76; Bobby Parks, the Hampshire keeper, was called up for overs 77 to 140; and Bruce French kept wicket for the final ball of the innings.[4]

Leading Test match wicket-keepers[edit]

The following top 10 wicket-keepers for dismissals in Test cricket.[5]

Leading Test match wicket-keepers by dismissals1
No Name Country Matches Caught Stumped Total dismissals
1 Mark Boucher  South Africa 147 532 23 555
2 Adam Gilchrist  Australia 96 379 37 416
3 Ian Healy  Australia 119 366 29 395
4 Rod Marsh  Australia 96 343 12 355
5 Jeffrey Dujon  West Indies 81 265 5 270
6 Alan Knott  England 95 250 19 269
7 MS Dhoni2  India 81 219 37 275
8 Alec Stewart  England 133 227 14 241
9 Matt Prior2  England 75 217 13 230
10 Wasim Bari  Pakistan 81 201 27 228

Notes in Table

  1. Statistics are correct as of 30 January 2014
  2. Indicates current player

Leading One day wicket-keepers[edit]

The following wicket-keepers have taken 200 or more dismissals in one day cricket.[6]

Leading one day wicket-keepers by dismissals1
No name Country Matches Caught Stumped Total dismissals
1 Adam Gilchrist  Australia 287 417 55 472
2 Mark Boucher  South Africa 295 402 22 424
3 Kumar Sangakkara2  Sri Lanka 362 337 87 424
4 MS Dhoni2  India 242 224 80 304
5 Moin Khan  Pakistan 219 214 73 287
6 Brendon McCullum2  New Zealand 228 227 15 242
7 Ian Healy  Australia 168 194 39 233
8 Rashid Latif  Pakistan 166 182 38 220
9 Romesh Kaluwitharana  Sri Lanka 189 131 75 206
10 Jeffrey Dujon  West Indies 169 183 21 204

Notes in Table

  1. Statistics are correct as of 30 January 2014
  2. Indicates current player

Leading T20I wicket-keepers[edit]

The following top 10 wicket-keepers for dismissals in Twenty20 International cricket.[7]

Leading T20I wicket-keepers by dismissals1
No Name Country Matches Caught Stumped Total dismissals
1 Kamran Akmal2  Pakistan 50 24 30 54
2 Kumar Sangakkara2  Sri Lanka 48 23 19 42
3 Denesh Ramdin2  West Indies 36 27 8 35
4 Brendan McCullum2  New Zealand 64 24 8 32
5 MS Dhoni2  India 43 22 8 30
6 Mushfiqur Rahim2  Bangladesh 30 12 16 28
7 AB De Villiers2  South Africa 51 20 6 26
8 Craig Kieswetter  England 25 17 3 20
9 Mark Boucher  South Africa 25 18 1 19
10 Niall O'Brien2  Ireland 21 10 8 18

Notes in Table

  1. Statistics are correct as of 30 January 2014
  2. Indicates current player

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]