To classify bowlers as slow because the keepers stood up to them is the most ridiculous argument one has ever heard. here on CW, one has heard the running down of the old keeping greats standing up to the stumps with the argument that the latter day practice of standing back was a more sensible thing to do because there was more 'percentage' in it. On the face of it this is not a line of thinking to be brushed aside for there is some merit in it although the older wicket keepers and the bowlers they stood up to will claim there is more to standing up by way of pressure on the batsman, restricting the movements of some out of the crease as some great batsmen did even to the quicker stuff but the argument that the chances of a snick being held are greater if a keeper is standing back than on the stumps is not one that can be easily brushed away.
So the great line of keepers who made standing up to the stumps to everyone, except the fastest, like Blackham, Oldfield and Strudwick needed to be admired for their quick reflexes for they not just brought up some great stumpings but also took snicks standing up which would be impossible without impeccable technique and awesome reflexes. However, if they had stood back, whether they would have had more or fewer victims is a point of debate.
No one ever argued that they stood up because the bowlers were not quick enough. This one is new :o). Blackham stood up to everybowler except Earnest Jones and, on a few occasions when Spofforth specifically told him he was going to unleash some really express stuff. Otherwise he stood up to Spofforth as well. No one, ever, has claimed that Spofforth was anything but fast medium most of the time.
Keeping and protection for keepers kept improving and greats like Oldfield and Strudwick were pastmasters at taking quick bowlers standing up. Look up the stumpings off the bowling of Kelleway (AUS - RAFM - 1 stumping), Douglas (ENG - RAFM - 2), John Ryder (AUS - RAFM - 2), Stork Hendry (AUS - RAFM - 1), Barnes (ENG - RAMF - 4), Bill Voce (ENG - LAF - 1) and Stan McCabe (AUS - RAM - 1) and you find that all barring two of these are the handiwork of Strudwick and Oldfield.
These are not a lot of stumpings compared to the number of wickets taken by the bowlers mentioned here. About 1 in 50 of the wickets of these bowlers came from stumpings. It is not like what Oldfield managed off the leg-spinners Mailey and Grimmett for example. One fourth of all wickets these bowlers took came from stumpings. That is the figure of a leg spinner as we understand the term not a bowler who moves the ball, off the wicket from leg to off at medium fast to fast medium pace.
The fact that there waer keepers in those times who stood up to quicker stuff is about the evolution/change in wicket keeping rather than a commentary on the speed of the bowlers. I have absolutely no doubt that, Oldfield would have insisted on standing up to someone like McGrath and who knows where his current record of 52 stumpings from 54 Test matches would have stood if he was a contemporary of our 'pigeon' !
Let me end by quoting from the book The Rattle of the Stumps by Bert Oldfield, the last of the great keepers after which standing back to anything except the slow stuff seemed to become the norm. He writes . . .
It has become the modern practice to stand back from the wicket when keeping to all bowlers slightly over medium pace, this enables the batsman to enjoy greater liberty in using his footwork to turn good length balls into half-volleys.
It is the keeper's place to remain at the wicket to all types of bowling except "express" or fast bowling. It will be seen that it is far easier to take a catch standing close to the stumps as the angle of deflection increases as the ball continues on its way.
I am quoting this not to start another argument on which keepers are better, those who stand up or those who stay back. I am mentioning this just to highlight the fact that great keepers stood up to bowlers who were just short of express pace - all the time. It is not a reflection of the speed of the bowlers but of a trend in keeping (of staying back) which was not prevalent amongst the best stumpers. Oldfield, by the way, was Bradman's contemporary. I hope we are not of the opinion that all bowlers except those who bowled after the WW II were of doubtful speeds . . .
By the way, Spofforth's three stumped victims out of his 98 overall are a larger proportion that Barnes' 4 out of 189. I wonder if we should start catergorising the 'Demon' amongst the slow to slow medium 'spinners' as well