Monday, 13 August 2007

The Campaign for Real Wicket-Keepers

I was lucky enough to spend a rather entertaining day at the Oval on Friday, with Dhoni scoring a wonderful 92 and Kumble getting a well deserved ton. However as the day went on, I became more interested in "what might have been" if two fairly regulation chances had been taken by Matt Prior to dismiss Tendulkar and Laxman.

I have written about my thoughts on wicket-keepers before. Chris Read, to my mind, has been shoddily treated by England despite probably being the best keeper in workld cricket today. A player with that amount of tatent in a single discipline should be viewed as a strength, in the same way that Monty Panesar has been embraced. And lets' get things into perspective. While Monty clearly works hard on his fielding and batting, he is still not a natural fielder and Read's batting is far superior to that of Monty.


However, this isn't about Chris Read. James Foster is another whose wicket-keeping skills have been conveniently forgotten about in the search for the new Alec Stewart. And it is this realistation that we are looking for a new Alec Stewart that worries me.

While we were in the pub after the game on Friday, I ended up at the toilet alongside Derek Pringle, which got me thinking. As worthy a county player as Pringle was, his career will always be associated with the search for the new Botham. And his isn't the only career to have suffered such high expectations. Chris Lewis, Phil DeFreitas, David Capel, Craig White, Dominic Cork, Ronnie Irani, Alex Tudor, Ben and Adam Hollioake and even Darren Gough all the way to Andrew Flintoff have to varying levels of success been touted as a new Botham.

Rather than concentrating on the basics and accepting the bonus when a genuine all-rounder came along, lesser players have been given an opportunity over specialists in the hope that bits and pieces will get the job done. Was Derek Pringle ever one of the best four bowlers in the country? I very much doubt it. Likewise, was David Capel ever worthy of his place in the England team as either a batsman or bowler? Absolutely not. Nowadays we seem to have jumped that hurdle with the batting bowling allrounder. Andrew Flintoff would make it into the England team purely on his bowling ability. Paul Collingwood is in for his batting - his bowling is a bonus.

We need to make the same jump with wicket-keepers. Is Matt Prior the best wicket-keeper in England? Of course he isn't. Was Geraint Jones ever an International standard wicket-keeper?These players should either have been in the team as a batsman or not at all. It's time England stopped looking for a "new Alec Stewart". We haven't got one at the moment (although Steve Davies looks promising for the future). Let's play the best we've got, and make sure our players do the job they are there to do. We now have real batsmen and real bowlers, rather than the bits and pieces players listed above. We need a real wicket-keeper.

8 comments:

Whinging Pom said...

I completley agree - Read is the best wicket-keeper we've got and we're not playing him. You don't see Murali (the best spinner about) being left out because of his weak arm or poor rabbit like batting. Prior and Jones could cost us 150-200 runs id they both drop vital catches like Prior did the other day, and they ain't going to make that up with the bat. We need to play a wicket-keeper who can bat; not a batsmen who can wicket-keep. Read fits the bill perfect I think and it's a shame how badly the selectors and management treat him.

Tim said...

I agree that having a keeper who can take everything (and keeps the byes down) will be worth more runs than a better batsman (though remember how important Jones' 85 was?) but there is certainly a balance to be struck.

However, we have to be pragmatic, and cannot have a poor number seven followed by four players as limited with the bat as now; batting ability must be taken into consideration. I doubt Flintoff can be part of a four-man attack, even with Colly's bowling attack, so with Flintoff 6, the w/k 7 and four bowlers, we need all the batting we can get, but without compromising specialist skills; it's a very fine balance. So, while I don't want Prior, I'd be tempted to look at Ambrose (I've heard he's a very good keeper too) unless I was convinced that Read had improved his batting.

Ram said...

the list of international wicket keepers doesn't make great reading.

SL - Sangakarra
Pakistan - Akmal
India - Dhoni
Australia - Gilchrist
NZ - McCullum
WI - Ramdin
England - Prior
S Africa - Boucher

I think from the list it is clear that most sides are opting for batting over keeping. I think McCullum and Boucher are the best. But my point is that on wicket keeping skills it doesn't take much to get to international standard wicket keeping.

Nick Gammons said...

I was never in favour of Prior, mainly because of his poor keeping and arrogance. Both have been clear this summer and I would drop him now, before the rot sets in.

I suggested Davies, though I concede he is still very young and raw, or Ambrose, who has great batting ability and can keep.

It would be a tragedy indeed if Prior continues and gets the nod on a tough tour like Sri Lanka.

Read has never been good enough with the bat and his keeping was no more than tidy last summer. It seems his name always comes up as if he is the reincarnation of Bob Taylor, except that he is only as good with the bat as Taylor was, not the gloves.

Anonymous said...

Read is averaging 60 in the county championship this year. Not bad for someone who can't bat.

Nick Gammons said...

The second division of the county championship is hardly proof of his batting ability. In the Test arena Read has shown he is not good enough.

Ruth N. said...

I agree that the England selectors do need to at least try using a different set of criteria to find a new wicket-keeper. Prior was disappointing this summer, so now seems like a good time for a change, and there are certainly many arguments for picking the best specialist for once.
As an aside regarding Derek Pringle, he certainly did suffer from people having unrealistic expectations of him after he was touted as the "next Botham" - a tag that is, after all, almost impossible to live up to! He was however a far better bowler than many people realise - he may not have topped the bowling averages, but in 1989 he was the leading first-class wicket taker in that English season, nabbing 94 wickets at a very respectable average of 18.64 - figures that surely justified his being considered for a team place on his merits as a genuine specialist bowler alone?

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