If one were to look at great captains over the history of the game, one need not look very far. Clive Lloyd of the West Indies, winner of the 1975 and 1979 Cricket World Cups; Ricky Ponting who led a dominant Australian team in the early 2000’s and a little closer to home Graeme Smith who has the most test wins as a captain (53). What many people fail to realize, is that wicket keepers who are effective leaders, can make an impact that most people aren’t even aware of.
All too often wicket keepers can be boxed into just being the man behind the stumps who catches each delivery and shouts “keeper” during a run out opportunity. The impact that a good wicket keeper has in a team’s bowling innings is often missed by the untrained eye. The energy and leadership that they bring to the field, is a massive contributor to batting collapses or teams struggling to score or appearing to be stagnating and the possible orchestrator of a large partnership being broken.
There are numerous instances of teams misreading conditions and spending the day with their head in hands. A clear example can be seen in 2006 when SA played Sri Lanka, they elected to bat, were dismissed for 169, in reply Sri Lanka put the South Africans to the sword amassing a mammoth 756/5. The ability to accurately assess the conditions underfoot, overhead as well of the ball is invaluable. Wicket keepers have the best seat in the house and should have as their number 1 skill on their “CV”, ability to read the conditions.
Another aspect to add is a wicket keepers ability to read the game and amend team plans with the tools at his disposal. Teams will spend hours preparing game plans all for them to go ary in the first hour, leadership from the wicket keeper can be sorely missed if he is too young, inexperienced or just out of his element. On the other hand, an experienced keeper who is able to assess and act on how the game is evolving, is worth his weight in gold.
These combination of qualities and skills may be appear as the stuff of Christmas wish lists, but there are wicket keepers who lead their teams from behind the stumps working in tandem with their skippers. Think of Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting of Australia, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena of Sri Lanka and Mark Boucher and Graeme Smith of SA. Their partnerships in the field, were probably in the top 5 on the list of reasons why they succeeded.
Written by Coach David Midgley and Coach Thando Bula