Friday, February 01, 2008

Gil Christ Superstar!

A lot of commentators have made the very valid point about Adam Gilchrist, in that he revolutionised the way test sides now view their wicketkeeping position.

It's no longer good enough to be a very capable keeper who keeps byes down to an absolute minimum and catches everything within reach whilst making the odd useful score. Keepers now have to be true all-rounders, averaging around 40 with the bat. And if they can score their runs at a rate of over 70 per hundred balls, all the better.

In theory, there's nothing wrong in having high expectations for the players in the team you are selecting - but wanting all keepers to be able to keep and bat like Gilchrist is like wanting all spinners to bowl like Warne, or all opening batsmen to mix aggression and solidity like Hayden. The insistance on the 'Gilchrist standard' is skewing the judgment of selectors. The importance of being able to score plenty of runs, and score them quickly means that flaws in keeping technique are being overlooked - to the detriment of the fielding, and bowling side of the team.

A good keeper becomes the fulcrum of the fielding side. Everything should revolve around his performance behind the stumps. Of course, the encouragement they give fielders and bowlers, and the pressure they exert on batsmen through their constant commentary has it's place, but it seems that gobbiness and attitude is being promoted over general competence with the gloves. (In his latest book, Duncan Fletcher admits that Jones was selected ahead of Read in Australia on this criteria) This overlooks the simple fact that there's nothing more dispiriting for a fielding side to see a keeper drop straightforward chances, or let through byes and wide balls he should normally reach.

What makes it worse is when the let-off batsman profits from his fortune. No one has ever done any deep analysis of how much dropped catches cost fielding sides, but it would be a fascinating study - and give a real indication of how important a safe keeper is to a side.

Players like Gilchrist him come along once in a generation. Like the persistent England search for an all-rounder to replace Botham, the quest for a second Gilchrist is surely doomed to failure. Phil Mustard's inane comment about being 'the next Gilchrist' was particularly ill-advised. Perhaps the 'Colonel', should start off with becoming the next Bob Taylor (faultless keeping and some handy runs), then, if possible, progress to Alan Knott standard, and start to aim higher when the bowlers have enough confidence in you to know that you aren't going to drop any catches or let through stupid byes.

1 comment:

Uncle J rod said...

remember when you could say keeper batsman and not feel a little silly.

now batsman keeper seems the more apt description.