A very well-used phrase in cricket is “A wicket-keeper is the key element of a team.” Undoubtedly, wicket-keeping is a job that demands a lot. Along with the skill sets, a WK is also rated for the knowledge he/she shares with the bowlers and how he/she adjusts the fielders. The much-needed energy for the team passes from the WK. On the whole, it is the primary job of a WK to keep their team afloat.
“One needs to be shrewd enough to be a wicket-keeper; otherwise, the wicket-keeping role will change one to be shrewd enough.”
How is Wicket-keeping in T20s differ from Test and ODIs?
In Tests and ODIs, a WK’s job relies on how he/she reacts to the rare nicks that come with surprise and the tough stumping chances that should be used.
But T20s have propelled WKs to hone their methods. The need for focus and intent gets higher for a wicket-keeper than ODIs.
When playing under captains like Virat Kohli and Du Plessis, who prefer to be boundary line fielders, the responsibility of the wicket-keeper gets doubled as they had to adjust fielders for their skippers.
Being good with the bat has become the basic requirement of a WK in this modern era. Rishabh Pant, Mathew Wade, Mohammed Rizwan, Quinton De Kock, Jonny Bairstow, Nicholas Pooran, Jos Buttler, Trisha Chetty, and Alyssa Healy are the present-day stellar. Most of them are a mix of power-hitters and technicians with the blade. Their observation from behind the stumps helps their batting too.
A WK gets to watch every nook of the technique used by the opponent batters, helping them to ascertain the pitch of the ball a little earlier and how it will bounce after pitching.
Unlike other fielders, by getting involved in every ball of the innings, a WK can effectively read the game with much ease. They can identify the flow of the game and decide what is required of what.
Challenges posed by new-age bowlers
For fulfilling the multi-dimensional needs of T20, a WK needs to be strong with his basics too. The glove work must be sharpened and the quick movement behind the stumps must be molded.
Left-arm spinners have become more common in the T20s. Their arm ball needs to be identified along with the ones that turn. Leg spinners always create trouble by holding a wide range of varieties. In addition, the mystery bowlers make keeping more challenging for WKs. Above all, the speed the spinners get to bowl has increased in the T20s. To be in this busy business, one needs to be updated with all these programs.
Watching the release of the spin bowler is the first and foremost duty of a wicket-keeper. Nowadays, the release of a fast bowler has also become crucial. The Slowers are the toughest to gather for any wicket-keeper; the ball’s velocity after pitching is always unknown. In the T20s, almost 30 percent of the fast bowlers’ deliveries are Slowers. Like the batters, the wicket-keepers are also put into a heavy, demanding job of gathering those mysteries.
Stamina is another important factor in being a successful WK. A prime example would be the energy Quinton De Kock showed when he smashed an unbelievable 140 against Kolkata Knight Riders in a recent IPL game on a humid night, which was something beyond understanding. His wicket-keeping in the second innings was so alive during KKR’s chase. The match that went till the last ball of the over saw De Kock never feeling his adrenaline rush slow down until the last minute. He took a stunning catch and made a brilliant stumping to take his troops home.
It is common in cricket when there will be days when nothing goes right with the bowling side’s plan. A good partnership can hurt the bowlers to a no-hope situation. In those situations, one brilliant catch, stumping, or runout by a wicket-keeper can pull the rabbit out of the hat. Also, the motivation and energy from a WK to the bowlers play a great role. It can change the game upside down.
On the whole, wicket-keeping is an art that has been underrated so far in Tests and ODI games. Hundreds and Hundreds of balls would have been gathered well by the wicket-keepers, but the one or two drops question their ability. Thankfully, the T20s are now establishing the in-depths of wicket-keeping to the spectators. Meanwhile, the benchmarks are effectively made every day by the current WKs.