Friday, 31 August 2007

How does Prior stack up?

There is a worrying trend throughout world cricket of trying to find the next Adam Gilchrist, or the wicket keeper who can bat at three like Kumar Sangakkara. This is often to the detriment of keeping standards, but even more worrying, to the development of promising careers. People are constantly searching for instant successes. When Adam Gilchrist debuted for Australia in 1996/1997 he averaged 24.16 in One Day Internationals from his first 8 innings. He didn’t go on to make his Test debut for another three years. That was hardly indicative of what was to come. Yet he was afforded time to develop his obvious talent and became the leading Wicket Keeper of all time according to most, as indicated by the poll currently being run on this website. In England we are constantly searching for the next Gilchrist, ever comparing the current incumbent’s performances to those of the great man. Since the beginning of 2006 England have shifted from Geraint Jones to Chris Read, back to Geraint Jones, back to Chris Read, to Paul Nixon and finally to Matt Prior and yet still the masses want more change. The next instant success on the county trail is quickly talked up to insurmountable heights, prepped for their fall. There surely is a lesson to be learnt. Look at England’s patchy record during that time and inconsistency does most certainly not breed success in any form of the game. At this point it is worth considering the records of the Wicket Keepers from the ten major cricketing nations:

Adam Gilchrist – Australia

Tests 90 129 19 5353 204* 48.66 6505 82.29 17 24 652 97 344 37
ODIs 268 261 10 9038 172 36.00 9351 96.65 15 50 1099 136 388 51

Kumar Sangakkara – Sri Lanka

Tests 67 110 9 5492 287 54.37 9865 55.67 14 22 735 18 147 20
ODIs 203 187 23 5866 138* 35.76 7882 74.42 6 40 585 27 183 52

Mark Boucher – South Africa


Tests 102 145 18 3844 125 30.26 7540 50.98 4 25 481 14 376 16
ODIs 250 183 44 3980 147* 28.63 4694 84.78 1 25 304 72 351 18

Brendon McCullum – New Zealand

Tests 25 39 3 1157 143 32.13 1839 62.91 2 6 145 10 64 6
ODIs 114 90 19 1636 86* 23.04 1978 82.70 0 6 126 40 134 11

Mahendra Singh Dhoni – India

Tests 20 32 4 1019 148 36.39 1397 72.94 1 6 130 23 53 10
ODIs 81 72 19 2368 183* 44.67 2447 96.77 3 13 196 70 75 20

Kamran Akmal – Pakistan

Tests 33 55 4 1521 154 29.82 2444 62.23 4 5 227 2 108 18
ODIs 68 59 9 1253 124 25.06 1519 82.48 3 2 147 8 60 11

Dinesh Ramdin - West Indies

Tests 19 34 5 704 71 24.27 1537 45.80 0 5 95 1 49 2
ODIs 37 28 8 444 74* 22.20 553 80.28 0 2 44 1 51 2

Mushfiqur Rahim – Bangladesh

Tests 4 8 1 125 80 17.85 344 36.33 0 1 15 1 1 0
ODIs 25 19 5 346 57 24.71 644 53.72 0 2 23 3 18 6

Tatenda Taibu – Zimbabwe

Tests 24 46 3 1273 153 29.60 3110 40.93 1 9 154 5 48 4
ODIs 87 74 16 1582 107* 27.27 2452 64.51 1 7 111 18 79 8

Matthew Prior – England

Tests 7 12 2 397 126* 39.70 612 64.86 1 2 50 4 20 0
ODIs 19 19 0 417 52 21.94 586 71.16 0 1 53 2 19 1


Prior currently has a lopsided record favouring Test Match performances. If his ODI performances since his instalment as England’s wicket keeper are looked at separately, discounting when he was played as a batsman only in Zimbabwe in 2004 and on the subcontinent in 2005/2006, then his current ODI average as wicket keeper is 25.28. People will doubtless mock that figure and it is not fantastic. However, it is worth comparing that figure to others. All of a sudden the realisation sets in that Prior is holding his own in the One Day game compared to the likes of Mark Boucher, Brendon McCullum, Kamran Akmal, Dinesh Ramdin, Mushfiqur Rahim and Tatenda Taibu. Only the special talents of Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara and the One Day specialist that is Mahendra Singh Dhoni are far ahead of Prior and one would find it hard to argue that Dhoni is a better wicket keeper than Prior. So at the start of his ODI career as England’s keeper, Prior is far from spectacular, but hardly abysmal, in comparison to 6 of the other 9 International wicket keepers.

Moving on to his Test record and that stacks up very well in comparison. Only the phenomenal Adam Gilchrist and Kumar Sangakkara are ahead of Prior. He outdoes the likes of Mark Boucher and Brendon McCullum currently by quite a distance and is even ahead of the famed Dhoni. Of course McCullum and Boucher are better keepers, probably the best in the world and the second best. However, there is no reason why Prior can not better their achievements with the bat in International cricket and perform to an acceptable standard with the gloves, especially if his ODI keeping performances can be transferred back into the Test arena. If Prior is not to succeed in the role of England’s Wicket Keeper, then in the future it will be worth considering the records of the World’s other International Wicket Keepers before expecting so much of yet another newcomer to International cricket. Gilchrist and Sangakkara are exceptional Wicket Keeper Batsmen, who will never in all likelihood be matched. We should instead be looking for our own Boucher or McCullum and Matt Prior could still be he.

Chris Pallett

3 comments:

Tim said...

Very interesting post Chris, although the runs Prior scored against a poor West Indies side at home prove very little to me. Of course, other keepers have no doubt suffered from run inflation, particularly against Bangladesh.

Anyway, while agreeing we should stop looking for a Gilchrist, I believe we should shift the balance slightly away from 'batsman' and towards 'keeper'.

Chrispy said...

I would have had no qualms with Foster coming back into the mix in April. However I was at that time and still am of the opinion that whoever got/has the job should be given a long time to grow in it. So far Prior hasn't been bad enough to be dropped, but not good enough to be assured of a place. It could go either way, but we should at least give him the chance to fail if that makes sense. And I hope he succeeds. If not, like you say, we need to have less expectation. We won't find a Gilchrist, but a McCullum will do.

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