Published on March 1st, 2013 | by Siddharth Chhaya1
People who keep wickets (Part -1)
“The position of a wicket-keeper was still non glamorous and not glorified till Flower and Gilly arrived. You could see the wicket-keeper only clapping around and encouraging his own team mate or jeering or teasing his opposition mates sometimes behind the stumps and taking catches by diving around but still they were not taken seriously.” Writes Siddharth Chhaya
I am aware that I am not supposed to write an article on soccer and my duty is to write about cricket, still because this website also talks about soccer at the same length of what it says about cricket, I am taking liberty to quote a scene from a famous Hindi movie called ‘Saheb’ here. In that movie the hero was a goalkeeper for his club team and his father never valued his position, thinking that goal keepers have to do nothing during the entire period of time the game lasts, they just stand at goal post and do nothing and hence his son is doing a useless job.
I feel in cricket, before the last decade and half same was the feeling for wicket keepers as well. Yes there were examples like Allan Knott and Rod Marsh before us, but until Andy Flower and Adam Gilchrist happened, cricket fans never took wicket keepers seriously. Well, this may be my personal opinion, but that is what I feel, true. The position of a wicket-keeper was still non glamorous and not glorified till Flower and Gilly arrived. You could see the wicket-keeper only clapping around and encouraging his own team mate or jeering or teasing his opposition mates sometimes behind the stumps and taking catches by diving around but still they were not taken seriously. Even when they used to take crease for batting no one used to expect them to score big, yes if they score big, by chance, then it was fine, but a wicket-keeper in a test team who has an average just around mid twenties was ok with most of the fans across the cricket playing countries, during those days.
As I have mentioned two big names from the 70s and early 80s, Knott and Marsh attracted many people by their sheer talent, but still no one used to take them seriously. In my country, there were hardly any popular keepers before one Sayed Mujtaba Kirmani came into the scene in the mid 70s. He made is name by standing with Kapil Dev for more than 40 odd overs in that famous game against Zimbabwe during the 1983 world cup when India were, at one stage, reduced to 17/5. He also added a feather when he scored a century as a ‘night watchman’ against Australia at Bombay in 1979. Do take note of his position, ‘night watchman’! This only means, wicket-keeper was used as a shield for better batsmen in those days, poor fellas!!
After Kirmani, India saw Kiran More and Nayan Mongia, who lasted long for their respective careers but were in the same tune with their predecessors, averaging in the mid 20s. Yes their wicket-keeping was slick but nothing new in that, they are supposed to do that only right?
In neighboring Pakistan, Wasim Bari is the only name one can have from the old days and then came one flamboyant wicket-keeper called Moin Khan. Rashid Latif too had his share of good time in Pakistani team. But for me Andy Flower was the first wicket-keeper who gave the position what it really deserved and was deprived till now. May be being a player from a minnow country helped him to get all the attention. Because of his sheer talent, he took his team on his shoulders along with another of his talented brother Grant. Andy who became the nemesis of Indian team for years, had an average of 51.54 in tests, which I feel attracted many people towards the importance of someone who is a wicket keeper, especially for their batting. Many captains and coaches around the world by now might have thought that if a wicket-keeper from a minnow side can bat like this, we got this huge pool or players, why can’t we have fewer?
In England after Allan Knott, it was Alec Stewart who made this position popular. He was not only a wicket-keeper batsman, but he even opened for England in the ODIs and even captained his national team in both forms of the game. When South Africa returned to international cricket they got a fantastic wicket keeper-batsman in Dave Richardson. He was not only one of the best wicket keepers but also used to bat very well in the middle and lower order for South Africa, both in ODIs and Tests. One has a specific image of a wicket-keeper who always chirps a lot or claps a lot or motivating his teammates all the time. Since the stump microphones are invented and used, this image of a wicket-keeper is fixed in every one’s mind, but Dave Richardson was one of those and perhaps the only wicket-keeper I know, who will not utter a single word during entire innings or during the entire length of a test match. I have seldom heard his voice before he could give a post match interview, if he was chosen as a man of the match. He was replaced ably by Mark Boucher after few keepers were changed by the Proteas. Boucher played for South Africa for not less than 15 years!! He even helped his team many times from the doldrums.
The West Indies used to have some great wicket-keepers, but none greater than Jeffrey Dujon. But once he left the scene in 1991, West Indies has not found his able replacement till today, same like their once world beating team. By now people have started thinking that wicket keepers must give their best in batting too, but if they fail, it was still fine, since they have to keep the wickets too. So all in all the position started to get noticed by the likes of Flower, Stewart, Richardson, Moin and Boucher but still the glamour part was missing by a huge margin. A big thank you to one Arjuna Ranatunga for bringing the glamour to the position called ‘Wicket-keeping!!’
How? Well, we will talk about it next week. Till then it’s good bye.
Image credit: zimbio.com
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