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Thread: Keeping the Faith

  1. #1
    Cricket Web Moderator Neil Pickup's Avatar
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    Keeping the Faith

    Feature Article I just wrote... it's not a giant piece, it's just summarising some thoughts that have crossed my mind over the last few weeks.

    Keeping the Faith

    I don't know when it first struck me. Perhaps it was standing in the car park, asking forlornly who the team's wicketkeeper was. Or lying on the grass at Thorverton, screaming fruitlessly at fine leg to go and fetch the ball that had just been slashed out of my reach through the slips. Possibly it was seeing Geraint Jones clumsily fumbling half the stumping chances that came his way, or asking which of the Under 11s at the district trial would keep - only to witness a sea of faces blankly looking at one another. Where have all the wicketkeepers gone?

    Maybe it's just me, but I never remember there being a shortage of glovemen. Throughout the 1980s, England accumulated a great list of wicketkeepers. Taylor, Downton, Bairstow, French, Russell - then the unflappable Alec Stewart and now... Geraint Jones.

    Granted, there are better wicketkeepers in the shires, and it's just all part of the evolution of the world game that a 'keeper ought to be able to tell the splice from the toe of the bat, but has anyone stopped and taken stock for a second to consider where playing for the present is taking us?

    It's no coincidence that today's crop of Indian fast bowlers are so removed from the Eknath Solkars and the Abid Alis of years ago. The character and performance of Kapil Dev, followed by his lieutenants Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad, inspired legions of young Indians to hurl the ball as fast as they could, rather than copying the twirlers of Venkat, Prasanna, Bedi and Chandrasekhar. Witness Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan and Lakshmi Balaji - competition for places in the seam battery undreamt of two decades before.

    No English child with the slightest passion for our great game could have missed out on this summer's Ashes spectacular - and none could have missed out on all of Geraint Jones' seven glove-related aberrations. Ask any of these children what they think of the Papua New Guinean-Welsh-Australian's keeping and you'll get a quizzical look and a smile before an unkind - but usually accurate - summary. Generally something along the lines of "not very good".

    I appreciate that it's difficult - now more so than ever, having spent the best part of 100 overs behind the timber this summer as the inexplicable University 'keeper shortage hit hard (12,000 students, three wicketkeepers). Yet how's a nine-year-old meant to be inspired to pull on a pair of gloves when all he sees on television are bowlers holding in (or letting out) the expletives and keepers shame-facedly mouthing apologies or studiously examining the turf?

    It's not just in the UK, either. Brendon McCullum's never been the safest pair of gloves, we're all well aware that Kumar Sangakkara isn't the best keeper in Sri Lanka and the less said about the glovework of the Indian triumvirate of Dhoni, Karthik and Patel the better. England and New Zealand have even experimented with giving Marcus Trescothick, Lou Vincent and Chris Nevin the gloves, whilst Pakistan have turned to Younis Khan. Cricinfo's recent investigation held only Rashid Latif's conversion rate of chances to dismissals as above 90%, with Parthiv's plummeting below 70.

    In time, we all reap what we sow, and the more I see of local cricket, the more I fear for the future of the wicketkeeper. I shouldn't have to explain the basics of footwork during a district trial, and I shouldn't be left stepping into the 'keeping breach as nobody else will. I hope I'm wrong, but I see troubled times ahead for the art of the gloveman - they can be so much more than first slips with gloves, but as things stand they may not be for much longer.
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  2. #2
    International Coach archie mac's Avatar
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    I agree with all that Neil, well written.

    I was taken to task for daring to select Tallon over Gilchrist in a best Aust. 11. I felt sorry for 'Chuck' Berry the best keeper in Australia for a long time, but unable to even play a single Test match because of his batting.
    You know it makes sense.

  3. #3
    Hall of Fame Member Smudge's Avatar
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    How's this for spooky? "Keeping the Faith" by Billy Joel was playing when I spotted this thread.

  4. #4
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    This is highly concerning indeed. Adam Gilchrist replacing Ian Healy will be looked at as a landmark selection move. A move which looked cold hearted as it denied Healy a record but Gilchrist proved his value in no time in the longer version. Players have played that role before too but that move was specially on the face as Healy is one of the finer keepers of the generation.

    There was an article in Wisden years back worrying about the dilemna of a specialist keeper or a good keeper who can bat.

    Where will the great keepers come?

    How did Shane Warne come about when no one expected some one like him to turn up?

    In test matches, the keeper can find a place if he can bat a bit. He does not have to be a great batsman. In one day cricket the role of the keeper is becoming more and redundant. This aspect is visible in test cricket as well but to a lower degree.

    A keeper to inspire people to take up keeping seriously is tough to come by though if we look at it mechanically. But cricket has shown the greats prop up without much mechanism. Shane Warne as mentioned, Wasim Akram and the ilk.

    We can only hope.


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    Cricket Web Staff Member luckyeddie's Avatar
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    It may well be that it needs a series to be dropped by a keeper in order to concentrate the minds of the selectors.

    Over the last couple of years, England (and Geraint Jones) have 'got away with it' on more than one occasion - yet when the far superior Jack Russell was twice discarded for Alec Stewart (the first time, Stewart was far from reliable but did eventually grow into the part), the same arguments raged then. The difference was, Stewart was a test standard batsman when he didn't sport the gauntlets - Geraint is 'useful'.
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    International Captain thierry henry's Avatar
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    Chris Nevin has always been a 'keeper afaik. Not a very good one, but he wasn't an experimental selection. His opening the batting was the experiment, prior to that he was a regular 'keeper who batted down the order.

    My opinion is that the modern trend is more effective than the old one. I disagree with the article if it is suggesting that it is generally more efficacious to pick a player who is a substantially lesser 'keeper and a substantially better bat. I think the modern trend has disproved an old fallacy. Of course this can be argued either way because it's near impossible to find statistics which really make the winner in this debate clear.

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    International Captain masterblaster's Avatar
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    Nice article Neil, raises some important points and is well written as always. However, I do agree that Patel was pretty poor, I'd say Dhoni and Karthik have shown potential for improvement with regards to their glovework.
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    Cricket Web: All-Time Legend honestbharani's Avatar
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    I actually think Kaarthick is a better keeper than some of the other guys going around. It is his batting which seems to be the problem. It is the classic Read Vs Jones argument, only the names are different.
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    In the end, I think it's so utterly, incomprehensibly boring. There is so much context behind each innings of cricket that dissecting statistics into these small samples is just worthless. No-one has ever been faced with the same situation in which they come out to bat as someone else. Ever.
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    Cricket Web Moderator Neil Pickup's Avatar
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    I'm not arguing either - as it stands I'm pro-Geraint as England gloveman. It's just an attempt at ringing warning bells ten years down the line.

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    State Vice-Captain Armadillo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil Pickup
    I'm not arguing either - as it stands I'm pro-Geraint as England gloveman. It's just an attempt at ringing warning bells ten years down the line.
    10 years down the line???? Armadillo for England keeper!!
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    rather mad Norwegian Magrat Garlick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Armadillo
    10 years down the line???? Armadillo for England keeper!!
    *spots sig*

    *feels KP situation coming on*
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    Hall of Fame Member Jamee999's Avatar
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    I know KP has strange hair, but calling him an Armadillo isn't very nice Hakon
    Or something.

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    Cricket, Lovely Cricket Pratters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamee999
    I know KP has strange hair, but calling him an Armadillo isn't very nice Hakon
    That thing on KP's head is NOT hair.

  14. #14
    International Vice-Captain open365's Avatar
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    i agree with the lack of wicket keepers in club cricket now a days,especialy at junior level.

    around liverpool,i have only seen 1 very decent keeper and i play a lot.None of the teams i play for(i play for 6)have a specialist wicket keeper.

    we have people who are great at keeping,but they are great at bowling aswell,so they don't keep.

  15. #15
    International Coach Barney Rubble's Avatar
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    Good article Neil, some very good points and I completely agree with the sentiment. Let's hope it's only a phase and that the art of wicketkeeping doesn't die out.

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