Wicketkeepers October 16, 2008

Test wicketkeepers - an analysis

The toughest job in Test cricket is that of the wicketkeeper
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A consolidated response to comments:

There were a number of useful responses. I must say that I seem to have emphasized the wrong points in my analysis. The readers' responses have clarified this. A good analyst has to react to the pulse of the readers. Based on these responses, I will do a follow-up piece, some time in the future, incorporating the following tweaks.

1.Take away both "batsman quality" parameters.
2.Strengthen the Byes measure, possibly incorporating outstanding individual innings performances. Also relate it to the team score.
3.As Daniel has suggested, possibly changing the inclusion criteria to 25 wicket-keeping tests rather than 100 dismissals.
4.Incorporate % of Team wickets measure, to take care of a.keeper playing in a weak team, b.playing surface (sub-continent), c.type of bowlers et al.
5.Look at the possible impact the bowler's quality has on the wicket-keeper performance.
6.Possibly consider dismissals per innings rather than per test.
I must thank John/Jeff/Kartik/David/Vidhya/Daniel/Marcus/Mparker et al for their useful comments.
Pl keep on sending your comments.

The toughest job in Test cricket is that of the wicketkeeper. One needs to concentrate right through the opposing team's innings and possibly open the batting or if lucky, occupy a late-order batting slot. For a few, there's the responsibility of captaincy as well. It is difficult to think of a more demanding position.

In this article I am going to look at Test wicketkeepers. The emphasis will be on their keeping abilities. I will also look at their batting abilities in a secondary manner and finally a composite look, not in an allrounder capacity but as a wicketkeeper-batsman.

The following factors are considered and are explained later.

  1. WK- Career dismissals.
  2. WK- Dismissals per match.
  3. WK- Stumpings effected per match.
  4. WK- Byes conceded per match.
  5. WK- Top-order dismissals per match.
  6. WK- Quality of batsmen dismissed.
  7. WK- Match performances - 5 dismissals and above
  8. BAT- Match performances - 100 runs and above
  9. BAT- Runs scored
  10. BAT- Batting Average
  11. BAT- % of Team Runs

The wicketkeeping measures have a weighting of 40 points and batting measures have a weighting of 20 points. Thus the wicketkeeping measures have a weighting twice that of the batting measures.

I have not included two measures normally associated with wicketkeepers. The first is "run-outs effected". Unfortunately this information is available, in a reliable form, only for the past 18-20 years or so and it would be unfair to the olden-day keepers if this is included. The other factor is "missed catches/stumpings". This is available, in a proprietary form (not available to anyone), for the past ten years or so and the same rationale applies.

The criteria for selecting the group of wicketkeepers is that they should have a minimum of 100 dismissals. That is all. There are no batting criteria. This is a fair enough criteria requiring a career of over 25 Tests. Thirty-two wicketkeepers qualify. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has to effect another 16 dismissals to qualify for this group.

A major adjustment has been done in case of players such as Alec Stewart, Kumar Sangakkara et al, who have played a number of matches as non-wicketkeepers. Only the matches they have played as wicketkeepers have been included. This has been done to be fair to them and others. It cuts both ways with someone like Sangakkara. He will benefit since his dismissals per match will become higher while his batting average will come down since his batting performance hit the stratosphere after he shed his keeping gloves. But this is a correct methodology and is fair to all.

The following parameters have been used with the allotted weightings.


WICKETKEEPING:

1. WK - Dismissals effected (10.0 points):

This list is led by Mark Boucher with 449 dismissals, followed by Adam Gilchrist with 416 dismissals.

2. WK - Dismissals effected per match (10.0 points):

This is the most important of the wicketkeeper measures. This single measure defines the contribution of the keeper to the team. This ranges from Gilchrist (4.33) to Syed Kirmani (2.25). Gilchrist is over 10% ahead of the next keeper, who, surprisingly, happens to be England's Geraint Jones. It is one of the great travesties of natural justice that Chris Read, one of the classiest of keepers, was kept out for a number of matches in favour of Jones who, it must be conceded, might even have challenged Gilchrist if he had not missed quite a few chances.

3. WK - Stumpings effected per match (2.0 points):

This looks at stumpings, an important wicketkeeping skill, as a per-match measure. This list is led by Bert Oldfield with 0.98 stumpings per match right up to Jeff Dujon, who had a stumping every 16 matches. This is understandable because of the absence of spinners for many years in the West Indian line-up.

4. WK - Top-order Dismissals effected per match (3.0 points):

These are the dismissals of batsmen Nos 1-6, irrespective of the team or the batsman's quality. This measure has been included since it is essential to capture top-order wickets irrespective of which team is the opponent. The range is from Gilchrist (2.88) to Moin Khan (1.9). There is no doubt that this is also a measure of the bowling quality. But one cannot deny the keepers the reward for quality work they put in. Nearly half of the top-order batsmen have been dismissed by Gilchrist.

5. WK - Byes conceded per match (5.0 points):

Byes are an important aspect of wicketkeeping and this is recognised as an independent measure. The range is from Dave Richardson (3.7) to Saleem Yousuf (10.7). To get these in perspective look at the following numbers. Richardson kept wicket in 70 innings. Out of these 70, in 36 innings (over 50%) he did not concede a bye while conceding 10 or more byes in only two innings. On the other hand, Saleem Yousuf kept wicket in 58 innings. Out of these 58, he had a clean slate in only 10 innings (below 20%) while conceding 10 or more byes in 11 innings.

6. WK - Quality of Batsmen dismissed (5.0 points):

This is done in a way different to the one implemented in the allrounder analysis. The keeper will get credit for the difference between the batsman's average and the score at which he was dismissed, subject to a minimum of 0.0. An example from the Bangalore Test will suffice.

Hayden c Dhoni b Zaheer Khan  0
Katich c Dhoni b Sharma      63
Clarke c Dhoni b Zaheer Khan 11
		(Okay he was out lbw, but modified to demonstrate the concept.)

Dhoni will get a credit of 53.53 (the average of Hayden) for dismissing Hayden. He will get a credit of 0.0 for dismissing Katich, whose batting average is 39.47. And finally he will get a credit of 36.07 for dismissing Clarke at 11, who has a batting average of 47.07. Contrast this with the allrounder measure where the dismissed batsman's batting average was also added.

Initially I had included all batsmen. Subsequently I raised the ante and included only batsmen with an average of 20 and above. The reason is that dismissing a batsman with an average of 50 at 40 is a lot more valuable than dismissing a batsman with an average of 10 at 0. The better batsman is likely to score a lot more.

The compiled total is divided by the number of dismissals. The range is from Dujon (13.6) to Jack Russell (3.7).

7. WK - Individual match performances (5.0 points):

These are the matches in which the wicketkeeper has dismissed five batsmen or more. This represents a successful match for the keeper. Gilchrist leads with 29 such performances and, at the other end, Andy Flower, not so surprisingly, has not achieved this even once.

Based on these calculations the top wicketkeepers' list is given below.

Table of top wicketkeepers

No Player Cty WK 40

01.Gilchrist A.C Aus 30.99 02.Boucher M.V Saf 29.18 03.Marsh R.W Aus 27.41 04.Healy I.A Aus 25.90 05.Dujon P.J.L Win 23.17 06.Knott A.P.E Eng 22.00 07.Richardson D.J Saf 21.86 08.Jacobs R.D Win 21.50 09.Taylor R.W Eng 20.77 10.Grout A.T.W Aus 20.77

Gilchrist is at the top, not just by the number of victims, but due to the high performance factors such as dismissals per match, match performances, low byes conceded, high number of top-order dismissals and the quality of batsmen dismissed. Boucher is a deserving second with a similar performance criteria as Gilchrist and Rodney Marsh is in third. What is heartening is that old timers such as Alan Knott, Bob Taylor and Wally Grout find their place in the top 10.


BATTING:

7. BAT - Runs scored (5.0 points):

The range is from Gilchrist, with 5570 runs to Junior Murray with 853 runs. It should be noted that even though Alex Stewart has a career aggregate of 8243 runs, only 4542 of these have been scored while playing as a keeper. Similarly Sangakkara has scored only 3281 out of the 6356 runs as a keeper.

8. BAT - Batting Average (10 points):

The range is from Andy Flower (53.71) to Grout (15.08). Even though Sangakkara has an outstanding career batting average of 54.79, his average while playing as a keeper was only 42.12.

9. BAT - Individual match performances (2.5 points):

An outstanding performance is defined as a total of 100 runs in a Test match. Note this is not a century but a match aggregate of 100 runs. Gilchrist leads this list with 19 such performances; four keepers have not achieved this even once.

10. BAT - % of Team runs scored (2.5 points):

The range is from Flower (15.7%) to Wasim Bari (4.1%). No wonder since Flower was the leading batsman for Zimbabwe.

Table of top batsmen among wicketkeepers

No Player Cty Bat 20

01.Flower A Zim 15.72 02.Gilchrist A.C Aus 15.38 03.Sangakkara K.C Slk 11.74 04.Stewart A.J Eng 11.12 05.Knott A.P.E Eng 11.01 06.Healy I.A Aus 9.69 07.Boucher M.V Saf 9.56 08.Dujon P.J.L Win 9.44 09.Waite J.H.B Saf 8.59 10.Kamran Akmal Pak 8.52 Flower leads the batting table, slightly ahead of Gilchrist. Then come the two keepers, Sangakkara and Stewart, who have played a number of Tests as batsmen. Then comes Knott.

WICKETKEEPER-BATSMEN:

Table of top wicketkeeper-batsmen

No Player Cty WK Bat Total 40 20 60

01.Gilchrist A.C Aus 30.99 15.38 46.37 02.Boucher M.V Saf 29.18 9.56 38.74 03.Marsh R.W Aus 27.41 8.20 35.61 04.Healy I.A Aus 25.90 9.69 35.59 05.Flower A Zim 17.93 15.72 33.65 06.Knott A.P.E Eng 22.00 11.01 33.01 07.Dujon P.J.L Win 23.17 9.44 32.61 08.Stewart A.J Eng 20.14 11.12 31.27 09.Jacobs R.D Win 21.50 8.15 29.65 10.Sangakkara K.C Slk 16.73 11.74 28.47

This is the composite table combining the batting and wicketkeeping points. Gilchrist is on top by a big margin over Boucher, Marsh, Ian Healy and Flower. The quality and class of these five keepers is beyond question. As keepers, there is no doubt Knott and Dujon would be way ahead of Flower. However this is a composite table.

Because of the tough nature of the wicketkeeping duties, longevity has to be recognised here. It is not easy for a keeper to play 100 Tests: only two keepers have done that. I have given a weighting of 25% for longevity measures; it should possibly be even higher. The remaining 75% weighting is performance-related. There is nothing to prevent a keeper with 150 dismissals or so to qualify for the top five or so. Dave Richardson is in the seventh position in the wicketkeeper table despite effecting only 152 dismissals.

To view the complete list please click here.

Note on "Quality of batsmen dismissed"

Many comments have come in on this parameter. I have answered many individually. This is a common answer.

The purpose was not to determine the quality of keeping or catch. Overall the purpose is to determine which players contributed most to their team through their on-field performances. This parameter should be viewed as such.

Everyone has to agree that a wicket-keeper who has co-operated with the bowler to dismiss a top player at a lower score has contributed more to his team, with this dismissal, than a dismissal of the top player at a high score or a lower player. He himself might have taken all.

The catch might be a straigh-forward nick, taken easily or a one-in-million catch off a slash in front of third slip. THAT DOES NOT MATTER. What we are looking at is "who was dismissed" and "At what score". May not appeal to the purists. But in terms of contribution to the team cause, there is no better measure.

There is no information on "Chances missed". It is nice to speak of an analysis including this measure. But nothing is gained by talking about a measure which does not exist.

I certainly do not agree that a wicket-keeper who dismisses Ponting at 100 with a beautiful well-planned stumping is a better keeper than the one who takes a simple catch off Lee at 10. It might appeal to the aesthetic sense more. But not much to the team cause.

There will be no more individual responses on this topic. This, I feel, is a comprehensive common response. Readers, please talk about the byes, for a change !!!

Finally please remember that the "Quality of batsmen" carries only 5 points out of a maximum 40.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • V.J.Raghunath on June 24, 2009, 10:40 GMT

    very interesting analysis as has been pointed out,the major points that will count are 1)how well he kept to spinners,2)how consistent was he-what did he miss?,3)how many byes did he concede,4)the quality of batsman dismissed seems irrelevant to me-an easy catch from Tendulkar is greater than an inner/under edge standing up off a No.11?No way-more valuable for the fielding side but not an index for keeping profficiency by my reckoning,the top ones are Knott,Oldfield,Tallon,Taylor,Bari,Kirmani,Healy,Boucher,Evans Indian and Pak keepers kept to spinners and had very few catches off fast bowlers in sub-continental wickets-does that make them inferior to WI keepers who kept to Holding,Marshall,Garner and Walsh-I am afraid not

  • Brian on February 22, 2009, 21:39 GMT

    The list is flawed as the list is based on the quality of your bowlers vs the quality of the keeping. Byes are mistakes made by the keeper and this is what you need to check to determine how good a keeper is. So I wouldn't check how much catches or stumpings they performed but what was the percentage they missed.

  • Brian on February 22, 2009, 21:19 GMT

    I am trying to get a test rating of wicketkeepers on pure wicketkeeping ability for 2009. Can anyone help ?

  • shafiq on October 21, 2008, 3:52 GMT

    Thanks alot Annath---i appreciate your professionailsm

  • Jeetu on October 20, 2008, 20:58 GMT

    Clyde Walcott (on the thre W's of West Indies in 1950's) He was referared as a wicketkeeper. His batting average was 56.68. Why he was into consideration as Wicketkeeper batsman? What was his record in the test matches when kept wicket [[ Ananth: Walcott kept wickets in hos first 15 matches, scored 888 runs and had 38 c/sts. ]]

  • MJ on October 19, 2008, 7:03 GMT

    You have misunderstood my post. I agree, not all catches are pocketing, but the rating of a batsman's scalp is due to the bowler's skill, not the keeper's.

  • Marcus on October 19, 2008, 3:20 GMT

    Ananth

    Re. Les Ames. I suspect that part of the reason for his low ranking is his high "byes" %, which would have been impacted by the fact that when he was the 'keeper for a Test, a record no. of byes got past. But I'm pretty sure that he wasn't 'keeping in that particular innings, and that Maurice Leyland filled in for him. I could be wrong, but I do recall hearing a story like that and I'm almost positive it was about Ames.

  • David Barry on October 19, 2008, 1:21 GMT

    But before Healy, Australia had a jumble of keepers - Dyer, Zoehrer, Phillips - none of whom played 20 Tests. With such short careers you wouldn't get too much reliable information abotu dismissal percentages. (Assuming an average ct-behind proportion for a bowler of 0.2, and 4 wickets per Test, then 1 standard deviation of ct-behind proportion over 20 Tests is 0.045 - so random chance could easily change the relative rates of ct-behinds by over 20%.)

    By the time you get to Rod Marsh, there's almost no bowlers in common with Healy - Lawson played a couple of Tests with Healy, Greg Matthews (only a part-timer) played a couple of Tests under Marsh.

  • David Barry on October 19, 2008, 1:12 GMT

    DVC makes a lot of sense when he says that better bowlers will create proportionally more chances for the keeper, and it must be true for bowlers of the same type. But you can't work it out from averages - I was surprised to find that there is, if anything, a hint of a positive correlation between bowling average and proportion of ct-behinds amongst pace bowlers. ie, the worse the bowler, the greater the proportion of ct-behinds. (The trend is much more evident amongst spinners - presumably because if you're a bad spinner, your best hope is for the batsman to charge wildly and get stumped.)

    So that leaves us with DVC's suggestion of using the bowler's dismissal type percentage. This should work to some extent, but there'd be problems, since bowlers may only bowl to one or two keepers in their career.

    So with Warne and McGrath you could compare Gilchrist to Healy. But it gets hard if you want to go backwards. contd.

  • Ananth on October 18, 2008, 2:47 GMT

    [[ This is in response to Richard Mackey's query. I included Les Ames in the analysis. As I had mentioned earlier, Les Ames finishes 19th, a reasonable place. He gets 13.16 wk points and 11.98 batting points, totalling 25.14 points. He s very low on keeping points. ]]

  • V.J.Raghunath on June 24, 2009, 10:40 GMT

    very interesting analysis as has been pointed out,the major points that will count are 1)how well he kept to spinners,2)how consistent was he-what did he miss?,3)how many byes did he concede,4)the quality of batsman dismissed seems irrelevant to me-an easy catch from Tendulkar is greater than an inner/under edge standing up off a No.11?No way-more valuable for the fielding side but not an index for keeping profficiency by my reckoning,the top ones are Knott,Oldfield,Tallon,Taylor,Bari,Kirmani,Healy,Boucher,Evans Indian and Pak keepers kept to spinners and had very few catches off fast bowlers in sub-continental wickets-does that make them inferior to WI keepers who kept to Holding,Marshall,Garner and Walsh-I am afraid not

  • Brian on February 22, 2009, 21:39 GMT

    The list is flawed as the list is based on the quality of your bowlers vs the quality of the keeping. Byes are mistakes made by the keeper and this is what you need to check to determine how good a keeper is. So I wouldn't check how much catches or stumpings they performed but what was the percentage they missed.

  • Brian on February 22, 2009, 21:19 GMT

    I am trying to get a test rating of wicketkeepers on pure wicketkeeping ability for 2009. Can anyone help ?

  • shafiq on October 21, 2008, 3:52 GMT

    Thanks alot Annath---i appreciate your professionailsm

  • Jeetu on October 20, 2008, 20:58 GMT

    Clyde Walcott (on the thre W's of West Indies in 1950's) He was referared as a wicketkeeper. His batting average was 56.68. Why he was into consideration as Wicketkeeper batsman? What was his record in the test matches when kept wicket [[ Ananth: Walcott kept wickets in hos first 15 matches, scored 888 runs and had 38 c/sts. ]]

  • MJ on October 19, 2008, 7:03 GMT

    You have misunderstood my post. I agree, not all catches are pocketing, but the rating of a batsman's scalp is due to the bowler's skill, not the keeper's.

  • Marcus on October 19, 2008, 3:20 GMT

    Ananth

    Re. Les Ames. I suspect that part of the reason for his low ranking is his high "byes" %, which would have been impacted by the fact that when he was the 'keeper for a Test, a record no. of byes got past. But I'm pretty sure that he wasn't 'keeping in that particular innings, and that Maurice Leyland filled in for him. I could be wrong, but I do recall hearing a story like that and I'm almost positive it was about Ames.

  • David Barry on October 19, 2008, 1:21 GMT

    But before Healy, Australia had a jumble of keepers - Dyer, Zoehrer, Phillips - none of whom played 20 Tests. With such short careers you wouldn't get too much reliable information abotu dismissal percentages. (Assuming an average ct-behind proportion for a bowler of 0.2, and 4 wickets per Test, then 1 standard deviation of ct-behind proportion over 20 Tests is 0.045 - so random chance could easily change the relative rates of ct-behinds by over 20%.)

    By the time you get to Rod Marsh, there's almost no bowlers in common with Healy - Lawson played a couple of Tests with Healy, Greg Matthews (only a part-timer) played a couple of Tests under Marsh.

  • David Barry on October 19, 2008, 1:12 GMT

    DVC makes a lot of sense when he says that better bowlers will create proportionally more chances for the keeper, and it must be true for bowlers of the same type. But you can't work it out from averages - I was surprised to find that there is, if anything, a hint of a positive correlation between bowling average and proportion of ct-behinds amongst pace bowlers. ie, the worse the bowler, the greater the proportion of ct-behinds. (The trend is much more evident amongst spinners - presumably because if you're a bad spinner, your best hope is for the batsman to charge wildly and get stumped.)

    So that leaves us with DVC's suggestion of using the bowler's dismissal type percentage. This should work to some extent, but there'd be problems, since bowlers may only bowl to one or two keepers in their career.

    So with Warne and McGrath you could compare Gilchrist to Healy. But it gets hard if you want to go backwards. contd.

  • Ananth on October 18, 2008, 2:47 GMT

    [[ This is in response to Richard Mackey's query. I included Les Ames in the analysis. As I had mentioned earlier, Les Ames finishes 19th, a reasonable place. He gets 13.16 wk points and 11.98 batting points, totalling 25.14 points. He s very low on keeping points. ]]

  • David Barry on October 18, 2008, 0:52 GMT

    If you're going to use proportion of dismissals by keeper, then you'll have to control for pace/spin. If you list bowlers in order of proportion of wickets effected by the keeper, the top of the list is overwhelmingly pace bowlers, and the bottom overwhelmingly spinners.

    But even then, there is the problem that different pace bowlers have different styles. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis have tremendously high rates of LBW's and bowleds, and very low (for pacemen) proportions of caught-behinds.

  • D.V.C. on October 17, 2008, 23:16 GMT

    Just to add to my previous post: If you could do this, take account of the bowler's dismissal type percentage, you would also be able to equalise modern keepers with the pre-war ones, and take account of there being more spinners in subcontinent teams, etc.

    I was thinking about the longevity issue. I think a fairer option would be to include the percentage of possible games played by a keeper. You would do this by looking at how many tests a keeper played as a percentage of how many their country played between their ages 18 and 45.

    This would help the pre-war players who played relatively few Tests but played over a long period etc. It also takes into account a players ability to force themselves into a team. It means we don't have a huge bias against players like Taibu too, who happen to be playing for teams who are given less opportunities.

    Of course, it is easier to force one's way into the Zim team than the Aus team, so perhaps a combination of this and what you already have?

  • D.V.C. on October 17, 2008, 23:07 GMT

    I also like Jeff's idea but I'd like to add a caveat. Let's say Australia is playing Zimbabwe, we can be fairly certain the Australians will win and pick up many more wickets. Hence we also expect the Australian keeper to pick up more wickets. So far, so good the percentage of the team's total wickets and comparison to the opposition works well. But the Zimbabwe keeper is still at a disadvantage: the Australian fast bowling attack is better, and will create _proportionally_ more chances for the keeper. A higher _proportion_ of Australian batsman will be out holing out or throwing their wicket away. The Zimbabwean attack simply isn't likely to be good enough to create good chances for the wicket keeper and a higher proportion of their wickets will come in other ways.

    This is why previously I suggested looking at the bowling attack. Specifically what percentage of a bowler's wickets come in caught behinds or stumpings, how does that compare to their pairing with this keeper?

  • Richard Mackey on October 17, 2008, 21:46 GMT

    [[ Ananth: I included Les Ames in the analysis. As I had mentioned earlier, Les Ames finishes 19th, a reasonable place. He gets 13.16 wk points and 11.98 batting points, totalling 25.14 points. He s very low on keeping points. ]]

    One name I was surprised to see missing from the article was Les Ames. He holds the record for most first-class stumpings (by a long way), is the only keeper who managed to score a hundred hundreds and averaged over 43 in tests whilst keeping wicket. He also had the reputation of being a very attacking batsman and once scored a century before lunch in a test match.

    All this might remind people of a certain Australian who played 70 years later...

    I know he didn't quite achieve 100 dismissals, but where would he rank if he was included in the group? [[ Ananth: Probably in the first half. Ames played 44 matches, scored 2387 runs at not a great average, conceded 470 byes (above 10/m) and captured 95 dismissals. He had only one 5d+ performance. I will do Ames' fogures and let you know with a comment of my own. ]]

  • Kartik on October 17, 2008, 19:27 GMT

    The 'opportunity for dismissals' concept is important, but very difficult to quantify.

    Dujon only ever made 5 stumpings, for obvious reasons. Pakistani wicket keepers in the Wasim/Waqar era were in a setting where 50% of all dismissals were bowled or lbw.

    Runs saved by a 'keeper is also a major factor in the team's fortunes, but cannot be quantified.

    Also, there are too many people (like Gaurav Kapoor and others) who are confusing one-day stats with Tests. This is a list for Tests, period.

    Dhoni is already one of the greatest ever 'keepers in ODIs. He is bound to end up as #2, or even maybe #1, someday. In Tests, he is far from approaching the Top-10 list. Similarly, Knott and Marsh were in an era where ODIs were still scarce.

  • mondy on October 17, 2008, 18:44 GMT

    if anything i would suppose unorthodox shots from tailenders would get unorthodox nicks, maybe MORE difficult for keepers to catch instead of easier? (easier for the bowler to get a n.9 out, but waht's the difference for a keeper?) whereas stumpings of tailenders would probably be easier?

  • Gaurav Kapoor on October 17, 2008, 16:16 GMT

    Your whole approach needs to be changed. After the ball has taken the edge of the bat, its all the same for Kirmani or Gilchrist. Had Kiran More been behind stumps keeping to McGrath, he would have had most dismissals.

    Ability needs to be defined on factors like variety of bowlers kept to, variety of pitches, reflexes, stumpings, byes and catches dropped.

    Consider Moin Khan who kept to Akram (left arm), Waqar (right arm), Saqlain (offspin) and Mushtaq Ahmed (leg spin). ALL MOVING balls. A simple straight arrow ball is easy to predict and keep. However, moving balls fool batsmen as well as keepers.

    You have ignored these stats.

    Anyone would agree Healy was better than Gilchrist and just to let you know the fact - Kiran more was best keeper in two World Cups!!

  • Jeff on October 17, 2008, 15:55 GMT

    I've also looked at Rod Marsh & Alan Knott.

    2 contemporaries, both regarded among the best keepers of their generation.

    They played a similar number of matches (96 for Marsh, 95 for Knott) but Marsh made many more dismissals than Knott (3.7 per game vs 2.8)

    However, when you dig deeper, you come up with the following:

    In Australia, Marsh played 56 matches (ave 4.1 dimissals per game) Knott only played 13 matches there but averaged 3.9 dismissals per match - very similar to Marsh

    In England, Knott played 56 matches (ave 3.0) and Marsh played 21 (ave 3.4) - much lower than his career rate.

    And in matches they played together (29), they both made 90 dismissals (ave 3.1)

    On the sub-continent, Knott played 16 matches at average 2.3 dismissals per match.

    Marsh only played there 6 times, and only made 9 dismissals.

    So conditions do seem to make a big difference (and no wonder Indian & Pakistani keepers rank so low in the list)

  • Austen on October 17, 2008, 13:31 GMT

    Interesting multi-factor analysis and its right that Gilchrist is at the top. But its also interesting how it has produced quite a bit of bias. Keepers who support a good quick bowling attack do well with nicks. All the better if they also keep to a mystery spinner. This creates a serious bias. One of the keepers to suffer most as a result in Andy Flower who intuitively one would say is the only competitor to Gilchrist as a high quality bat/quality keeper. Sanga's batting seriously drops off when keeping but if you were playing a one off world series he would still be right up their as a choice.

  • MJ on October 17, 2008, 12:42 GMT

    Interesting figures you have, nice read. I disagree with using the skill of the batsman as a rating point. The keeper played no part in the skill of the bowler vs the skill of the batsmen vs the type of pitch and status of the game. He just pocketed it behind the stumps. It really comes down to the skill of the take - which is not recorded. Thus you should exclude that skill altogether.

    It is very hard to rate him on anything, even byes, as all of these rely a little on the bowlers. Can one presume that simply because one team has no bowlers beating the bat that the keeper has no skill? [[ Ananth: Not all catches are "pocketing". Surely you and I have seen, say once in five attempts, a way-out, in-front-of-third-slip catch !!! ]]

  • Jeff on October 17, 2008, 12:26 GMT

    Just had a quick look at Gilchrist vs Boucher

    They played 12 matches against each other.

    Gilchrist made 44 dismissals and Boucher made 43 in those 12 matches.

    However, the Aussies took a total of 225 SA wickets (they only failed to bowl SA out 3 times in 24 inns) whereas SA only took a total of 173 Aussie wkts. This clearly reflects the Aussie dominance - they won 10 of the 12 tests, with SA winning one.

    However, it also shows that Boucher had a hand (or hands ;-)in 25% of all wickets that his team took.

    Glichrist only had a hand in 20%.

    I guess it doesn't necessary show that Boucher is/was the better keeper, but it does clearly show that he didn't have the opportunity that Gilchrist had to make dismissals. [[ Ananth: Excellent example. Has opened my blinkered eyes a bit. ]]

  • Roshana on October 17, 2008, 12:13 GMT

    Well although every keeper mentioned above are quality ones i'd like to say that Sangakkara of Sri lanka deserves a more better place than the 10 th place ????????????? [[ Ananth: Roshan, Sangakkara is the world's best batsman once he shed the wicket-keeping gloves. Unfortunately his average was nowhere his post-wk figure while he kept wicket. Hence he is around no,.10 which is not too bad. ]]

  • Jeff on October 17, 2008, 11:58 GMT

    Following on from John Clark's comment, could it not be refined further?

    Taking Gilchrist as an example, he made 22.9% of all dismissals in matches he played.

    Compare this to the % of dismissals taken by the opposition keepers in those matches.

    Either divide one by the other to get a ratio or subtract to get a difference.

    The keeper with the highest ratio or difference between himself and his opposite numbers would be ranked first (in this measure.)

    This would remove not only the bias caused by the stregth of the team but also the conditions relevent to the countries & the eras that each player performed in. [[ Ananth: Jeff, I think John's suggestion and your refinements are two of thr best inputs I have received. Let me look at it carefully and at a later date come out with a more improved wicket-keeper analysis incorporating these and the other sensible suggestions. Thanks. ]]

  • Jeff on October 17, 2008, 8:08 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Firstly let me commend you on your bravery in attempting this - I think you've done about as much as can be done (maybe a bit too much) to try and find the best keeper.

    My own opinion is that stats (at least the ones that are available) can't even come close to evaluating the best keeper.

    Most of my comments have been made by others, eg. Aussie/SA pitches produce more caught behinds, older keepers penalised through different conditions then, absence of data on missed opportunities.

    This is one area where baseball (a similar sport and one that I also follow) is streets ahead of cricket.

    For example, baseball stats capture "errors" made by fielders - if only cricket had been doing this from the start - then we'd get an idea of who was the best keeper (or fielder.)

    I feel there's a real opportunity to upgrade cricket stats that are collected - if not for tests then definitely for 20:20 matches. [[ Ananth: I agree with you. When I was in USA a few years back, I followed Baseball and was amazed to see the depth of statistics. Unfortunately Cricket is still far behind. It is a pity that we can seriously do it for 20-20, which I consider a distant third form of cricket. ]]

  • John Clark on October 17, 2008, 7:42 GMT

    I think that you would have to allow for the bowling strength of the wicket-keeper's team, and the state of the pitch. For example, Kirmani is disadvantaged by having to play on so many batsman-friendly pitches, where the chances simply did not come. Therefore, I think you should add 'dismissals as a percentage of total wickets which fell' as one of the variables in the calculation.

    Gilchrist made 416 dismissals in 96 tests, at an average of 4.33 per test. In these matches, Australia took 1813 wickets, meaning that Gilchrist had a hand in 22.9 per cent of wickets.

    Kirmani made 198 dismissals in 88 tests, at an average of 2.25 per test. In these matches, India took 1204 wickets, meaning that Kirmani had a hand in 16.4 per cent of wickets.

    So, on dismissals per test, Gilchrist is 93 per cent ahead of Kirmani, but only 39 per cent ahead in terms of percentage of wickets.

    That is worth allowing for in the calculation. [[ Ananth: John, you have made two points. One is well-made and the other not a valid suggestion. This is a good point and one of the few real options offered for me to consider seriously. Let me look at it seriously. Many thanks. ]]

  • manmeet singh grover on October 17, 2008, 6:37 GMT

    I dont knw why u havnt included the criteria where pitch should have been consider To keep against spinners is much more tough than to keep against fast bowlers u ought to give credit to mongia and healy who kept so well against lights of Kumble and Warne.. till datwe kumble believe mongia was best behind Stumps for him.. Specially u need see mongias performance

  • Shafiq on October 17, 2008, 4:37 GMT

    where are Rashid latif---my favourite WK and Mr. Wasim Bari? [[ Ananth: Rashid Latif is 14th and Wasim bari is 24th. Pl see detailed list which is available by clicking on the link at the end. ]]

  • (fly-slip.blogspot.com) on October 17, 2008, 2:29 GMT

    i dont see the relation between the quality of the batsmen either. isnt that a variable that affects the bowlers? does a keeper care if its the openers of 9,10 and jack ?

  • Craig on October 17, 2008, 2:10 GMT

    A number of comments here about sub-continent wicketkeepers faring worse. I wonder how much of that is due to the differing types of bowlers and how much is due to the differing pitches. One way to consider that would be to compare, for example, the wickets per test for Gilchrist and Boucher in the sub-continent, as opposed to at home. If there is a significant difference, that might tend to suggest that it is the pitches, rather than just the bowlers, which make the difference. If there is a substantial difference, then if might be fair to include a factor for percentage of tests played in sub-continent versus elsewhere. [[ Ananth: It is impossible to do any valid sub-continent factor. I also feel there is no validity in such claims. If that is the case the spinners should induce more of spin-related dismissals, both catches and stumpings, in the sub-continent. I remember when Hadlee and McGrath came to India for the first time, the sceptics said they would be ineffective. They took respectively 18 and 17 wickets in 3 tests. So the great bowlers/keepers/batsmen should do well wherever they play. I think this talk about flat sub-continent pitches are valid only for those dreary 1960s to 1980s. ]]

  • v prabhu on October 17, 2008, 1:31 GMT

    Dear Ananth, People criticizing your research are missing the point. There is no theoretical model to measure wicket-keeper greatness. Hence, you choose some weights and analyze. By creating a simple model, you get only one part of the input for decision-making. For example, we have batting average for Tendulkar and Lara, still the opinion is so divided among who is the best batsman. Your analysis is great, because it gives an objective criterion to compare individual careers. No way are you suggesting that these results imply the wicket-keeper with the best score is the absolute best. But you are implying that he is one of the best. Purists and those who have actually watched Gilchrist and Boucher can testify who was the better entertainer. Having said that, we all wonder how Boucher would had kept to Warne in top form on a crumbling wicket.

  • Lokesh on October 17, 2008, 0:06 GMT

    I dont think the quality of the batsmen should be included in this analysis. It is incorrect to say that the quality of wicketkeeping changes with the quality of the batsmen. Ananth, what do you think?

  • Kartik on October 17, 2008, 0:05 GMT

    I always felt Ridley Jacobs was underrated and this proves it. To play your first test at age 31, and still end up as the 9th greatest wicket-keeper of all time is something.

    If you exclude batting and count wicket-keeping only, he is the 7th greatest of all time.

  • D.V.C. on October 16, 2008, 23:53 GMT

    What everyone has been saying about the quality of the wicket taken is that the keeper has _no control_ over it. The bowler creates the chance, the keeper just takes it. Whether is is a good or bad batsman who edges from the keeper's perspective is pure luck. And so all you are doing here is adding a random factor to the analysis.

    The stated aim was to find the best keeper not the luckiest one.

    While Ponting might be thrilled if Haddin catches Sehwag on 30 off Johnson, he will congratulate the bowler by turning him into the nucleus of a group hug, Haddin would probably only get a high 5. On the other hand if Haddin were to stump Sehwag on 30, he would get substantially more praise. Ponting knows Haddin can only take the catching opportunities the bowler creates, Johnson has to defeat Sehwag for Haddin to get a look in, but a crafty keeper can turn nothing into a stumping.

  • tim on October 16, 2008, 23:45 GMT

    a very interesting article. No doubt who is the best and No doubt that there is none better to date. Gilly,top of the WOZ. O man isn't he missed. I too was happy to see that Marsh, Taylor, Knot and Grout are in top ten keepers. "thank you"

  • D.V.C. on October 16, 2008, 23:44 GMT

    I personally feel that a much better analysis of wicket keepers was done (just for England's recent keepers) in the cricinfo article 'Stumped for an answer' (http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/362436.html).

    Of course we don't have stats for runs conceded through missed chances for most keepers, and the analysis doesn't take dismissals into account.

    I'd replace the runs conceded through missed chances by considering every keeping dismissal in Test cricket as a n.o. and working out the mean batting average. The difference between this and the actual mean batting average would be credited to the keeper for every dismissal they make.

    Of course, I would also include leg byes conceded. I think if you look at the number of leg byes per keeping dismissal you will find a correlation with what we subjectively consider the best keeper. You have the resources to do this, could you please as I don't. (Unless you can tell me how I get my hands on the cricinfo database?)

  • subramanian on October 16, 2008, 23:19 GMT

    I am sorry to say but your analyses are getting way too complicated and consequently or equivalently boring, wrong and non-sensical.There are so many flaws in the above that I couldn't even bother to read the whole thing, let alone point them out.Please try to keep your parameters simple-that is the best way to analyse these things. If you want to rigorously analyse, then actually use some mathematical tools like statistics.Your way is neither here nor there and therefore neither accurate, nor interesting.

  • Amit on October 16, 2008, 22:46 GMT

    Ananth,

    Agreed that several things are difficult to quantify - so who decides? The guy posing the question and analysing the stuff. Now, If quality of batsmen can be quantified (irrespective of their form in those matches etc etc), then what is the difficulty in finding mathematical soultions to quality of bowlers?

    Hey, look up quality of life measures, and several other psychometric stuff and you might find some wonderful examples of how to quantify these things. The point is that just because something is difficult, is not enough reason to ignore it! Cheers!

  • Olly Horne on October 16, 2008, 22:13 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Judging keepers on their stats is certainly much tougher than for bowlers or batsmen and the amount of criticism your worthy attempt has garnered is indicative of this.

    IMO the only real way of comparing keeping skills from stats is to use % of chances taken - seeing as this info is only available for modern matches perhaps you could attempt a comparison of keepers whose careers have been recorded in this way?

    I agree that longevity and career 'returns' should count towards rankings - as it does for bowlers and batsmen. Consistency of form and fitness and the settled selection policy they allow are of great value to a team.

    Perhaps batting position could be worked into the formula as having a keeper batting up the order allows an extra bowler to be selected?

  • abhijeet on October 16, 2008, 22:07 GMT

    I am a great fan of this column but I don't think this is a very good topic. Unlike batsman or allrounder, there is no data for the most important factor of wicketkeeper's performance like dropped catches & misfields. I remember during some match a commentator said something like "a good fielder is not the one who takes a lot of catches but the one who takes all which come his way". I don't think keeper is any different. At the risk of repeating what other posters have said, the current parameters are too dependent on the bowlers' performance. Also I think strike rate should still be cosidered in batting though with a less weightage as compared with ODIs.

    Regards, Abhijeet

  • AyazN on October 16, 2008, 21:55 GMT

    Interesting analysis of an impossible task, i.e., statiscally avaluating wicket keepers when cricket statistics don't include the most important data needed to analyze wicket keepers. That data is the number of missed catches/stumping/runout chances by the wicket keeper. This article points to the need to include that data in top level cricket.

  • nash on October 16, 2008, 18:43 GMT

    May I suggest a technique called Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) in place of subjectively weighted averages?

  • Chris MIller on October 16, 2008, 17:29 GMT

    another good analysis though i'm not sure that you should use quality of batsman dismissed and also i think that the keeping still deserves more weight than batting and that the no of dismissals should at least have a measure to take into account career length and the top order batsman rating should be gotten rid of as it is more important to keepers to take the catches not who it was they got out

  • Venkat on October 16, 2008, 17:23 GMT

    Ananth, I cannot quite understand the quality of batsman part when it comes to a wicketkeeper. A bowler is directly involved in the decision that a batsman takes for a particular delivery. The quality of a batsman also comes in to the picture here,whereas the same need not apply to a keeper who has the same probability of getting a dismissal chance irrespective of who the batsman is and how many he has scored. In other words, he is as likely to drop or catch a hayden as he is to a panesar ot muralidharan.The quality of the batsman does not make a catch simpler or difficult. So every dismissal should carry the same weightage irrespective of who the batsman is and how many he has scored.

  • david h on October 16, 2008, 17:14 GMT

    This is interesting but not definitive, stats never tell the whole story. Those os us who saw them can tell you that Knott was a better keeper than Gilchrist or than Deryck Murray was a much better keeper than Dujon. Analyses like this don't measure reliability nor external factors such as conditions, bowling attacks, frequency of types of dismissals not involving keepers etc. This type of analysis is a good way to pass an afternoon though...

  • Mohammad Shahab on October 16, 2008, 17:10 GMT

    I do not see how the quality of a batsman dismissed effects the quality of the wicketkeeper. A keeper in a poor team (Taibu) will struggle because his bowlers are just unable to dismiss top order players, to no fault of the keeper. And it may be that a catch of a lower order batsman is more difficult then a top order batsman, even though the easier catch is more valuable, it does not mean the keeper is better. [[ Ananth: After having answered this in any which way I could, let me try a different route. Let me say that the wicket-keeper's dismissal of a quality player contributes that much more to his team's fortunes. It is true that the bowler must bowl well to induce the nick or bring the batsman forward. However the keeper still has to catch or take off the bails. We are not comparing the keeper and bowler here. We are only comparing keepers w.r.t. the contributions to their respective teams. ]]

  • prabhakar on October 16, 2008, 17:06 GMT

    Interesting analysis. If we were to compare the current wicket keepers in international cricket, Dhoni is the best without any doubt , as far as his wicketkeeping skills go. That he largely goes 'unnoticed' for his keeping is a compliment to how he has improved by leaps and bounds. He is the best wicketkeeper in the world, without an iota of doubt. [[ Ananth: I agree Dhoni is better than Ambrose, Haddin, Ramdin, McCullum, Rahim, Akmal. However I am not sure you can say with certainty that Dhoni is better than Boucher or P.Jayawardene (a classical quality keeper). ]]

  • karthik on October 16, 2008, 16:24 GMT

    the following is the comment by a person called amit "One of the very important criteria for Wicket keeper's ability was never included - the difficulty of keeping against a bowler. For example, keeping against fast bowlers is one thing, but keeping against Chandrashekhar on a spinning track requires 10-times the skills. "

    for which ananth replied

    " Very subjective. What is the difficulty level. Why is it 10 times, not 5 times or 20 times. These are nice things to discuss but difficult to quantify. How do we define this characteristic of Chandrasekhar, Do we say that he is difficult to keep. Then what about Kumble. Is he easy to keep. Who decides on these. "

    Now wat really irks me is that ananth says these stuff but quantatively uses points like 10.0 /5.0/2.5 to rate the statistical parameters/factors of the keepers. Now, let me ask you the same question, ananth .. WHO DECIDES ON THESE ?? I guess you have the ultimate power to be the decider .. i mean seriously gimme a break ! [[ Ananth: Certainly I start an article by assigning values based on my own knowledge. And modify these when enlightened readers such as yourself point out. I am ready to correct and tweak any number of times. If you have followed the blog you would know. It is obvious that you have missed the point completely. When a reader said keeping wicket to Chandrasekhar is 10 times more difficult, I questioned that very subjective statement. Here you are linking that to my assigning 10 points for one measure, 5 for another one and so on. These are relative measures and carry their relevance in their relative values. And I suggest you remember that the points are applied to all the players across the board in the same manner. ]]

  • Aravind on October 16, 2008, 16:11 GMT

    why isnt the WK being given a negative credit when the batsman has scored more than his average..??..taking ur example...katich avgs arnd 39...and scored 63...so the credit score should be -24....i mean if hayden at 0 can get a credit score of 54.....scoring more than the avg should have negative credit...!!!..i think..!!! if the logic is that the WK has no control over the bowlers performance...then scores lower than avg...are also pointless....cause the keeper didnt do anything to induce the mistake he just made full use of it...!!! so i request u work out a negative credit score....and mail it to me..if possible....or mail me the work sheet...and i will do the working on my own..!!! [[ Ananth: This is an argument made for the sake of argument. It is silly to say that if Lara scored 400 runs, Jones should be penalized 350 runs. I can understand a valid counter. But this takes the cake. ]]

  • Chintan on October 16, 2008, 15:51 GMT

    I find some of the parameters used to be totally illogical..seems more like a curve fitting solution to me...no offence but this is just my opinion.

  • David Thomson on October 16, 2008, 15:40 GMT

    An interesting analysis, but I have just one over-arching problem that destroys all merit this piece may have had. Why are you taking into account total dismissals as a statistic in its own right. If a wicket-keeper from a bygone era only got to play 50 tests against Gilchrist's 100+ of course Gilchrist should take more dismissals and score more runs. I am sorry but too much of your analysis is skewed towards players of this era who have simply turning up to a match, put in a performance, and this cumulaltive effect of many performances skews the results towards modern players. Also, I note this question has been asked before, and unsatisfactorily answered. [[ Ananth: You have forgotten that only two measures are totally longevity-based. The others are performance measures. The other keepers who have played fewer matches can capture top order wickets, concede fewer byes, effect more stumpings per game, score a higher % of runs et al. One thing everybody forgets. If Gilchrist has played 96 matches and has still maintained a high average of dismissals per match (the highest) it is very creditable. What was to prevent some one like, say, Rashid Latif, who played 37 matches, from capturing 5 dismissals per match or concede an average 4 byes per match. ]]

  • Neil on October 16, 2008, 15:25 GMT

    ...Continued from below

    I accept that dismissing Ricky ponting for 0 would be more valuable to a team than Dismissing Chris Martin for 0, which your measure of Quality does effectively. But I do not believe that this is likely to have anything to do with a 'keeper. It would be a breakthrough attributable to the bowler putting the ball in the right places early on or the batsman struggling to get his eye in. If anything, the keeper has a greater role the longer his innings progresses.

    [[ Ananth: Points are very well made. First thing, I give credit only to reasonable quality batsmen, with average exceeding 20. So Martin does not come in and is never likely to. Let us change your example to Lee at 10 and Ponting at 100. Even then by dismissing Lee at 10, there is a saving of 11.54 while Ponting has been dismissed for almost double the average. But I aceept that it is the Batsman Quality which has raised the maximum comments and probably needs a re-look. That is what readers' comments are for. ]]

  • Neil on October 16, 2008, 15:15 GMT

    Excellent article, well presented (and well followed up with replys to comments). However I must echo some of the other posts.

    I think your insistance on including measures of the quality of batsmen dismissed is misguided, both through wieighting towards top order batsmen dismissed and your "Quality" criteria. You acknowledge that you cannot fairly include information about dropped catches, which is fair enough, but you then seem to decide that a catch off a better player is likely to be harder thus more noteworthy. I would argue that a chance is a chance the moment that it exists, and whether it gets taken or not very rarely depends on the quality of the batsman (the pressure of a skier off a world-class batsman being the only notable exception). Moreover, the score of a batsman relative to his average is entirely redundant. Even with a "better batsman = harder catch" mentality, your measure gives greater weight to catching Chris Martin for 0, than stumping Ricky Ponting on 100...

  • Tushar on October 16, 2008, 15:05 GMT

    Adam Binks made a very sensible comment (at least I think so), that quality of wicketkeeper = (chances taken / chances offered) - (byes / total) + (batting average factored). As chances offered is not available in any statistics, we will crunch the numbers and come up with MOST EFFECTIVE KEEPER and not the BEST keeper. Also, I think catching lower order batsmen is harder than catching top order batsmen as they would give you thick edges, so that should have higher weightage (if you really want to factor that in). Logeivity is again a major factor here, I have my own views about it which I am sure Ananth won't agree on. If the formula stated at the top is not possible, then (dismissals/total wickets) should suffice. nothing more and nothing else.

  • Jaani on October 16, 2008, 14:58 GMT

    Some very deft, fascinating Statistical Work.But Quality Of WK can't always be judged by statistics like Batting, Bowling.One factor not considered is the pitches ( raging turner, uneven bounce etc ) kept on, then freak bowlers like Chandra, Mendis. Also modern keepers have an advantage, 3rd upmire referal, that adds to their dismissals,especially stumpings.Also most will agree keeping to spinners on turners is the real test.I will say effecting a stumping at end of day shd carry more weightage, when no wkts have fallen for long time, such little naunces which make WK different. Also the minimum # of chances missed can be factor.To add another dimesion to the current list is have each member evaluated by each other against whom they have played, and also to get inputs from their main spin & pace bowlers and captains.A bowler and captain willknow how valuable the WK was.So a msileading statistical weightage will be counter balanced.Also batting shd be how useful the runs made was. [[ Ananth: These are statistical analysis based on data mining of numbers.It is impractical to bring in players into this type of evaluation. ]]

  • Faisal Sami Qadir on October 16, 2008, 14:50 GMT

    Well, I tend to disagree with the analysis, as u would see, it is largely dominated by the Australians and South Africans, just because their pitches are a lot more bouncier and they play most of their cricket on these grounds, there's a fair chances u'll get more catches there than in the subcontinent as the bounce in subcontinent is low and the ball often does not carry, I guess keepers like kirmani and moin khan arent treated fairly in this one [[ Ananth: Probably true judging by the number of direct dismissals (bowled/lbw) Wasim and Waqar effected. I was also surprised by the lower rating of almost all Asian keepers. Your point is well made. ]]

  • Dips Naik on October 16, 2008, 12:54 GMT

    Vidhya I have read your comments; and I must say let go - your argument is pointless.

    Good article, enjoyed reading it thoroughly.

    Next, maybe you should do stats for finding the best all rounder including fielding!! (unless I have missed this?)

  • Jaaved (Sweden) on October 16, 2008, 12:51 GMT

    I love these kind of analysis. and I know u are very good at it. I want to bring your attention to another topic. like on statistic you can make best test teams of India and Pakistan. I mean full 11 players including wicket keepers, two openers, fast bowlers and spinners. and my suggestion regarding captain is; select the captain from the selected 11(Don't include a player on the basis of captaincy). one suggestion more, like in India you can give no. 3 position to an opener(like it will be difficult to choose from Sachin, Gavasker ....and others). if u want to include two spinner you can select a team of 12 players.

  • izac on October 16, 2008, 12:45 GMT

    7 and 8 you said the range is from gilly to ..., implying he was the best, 9 you said gilly leads, 10 you said flower leads.

    how does flower lead in 2? which 2?

    [[ Ananth: It was my mistake in the body of the article. Andy Flower's Batting Average is higher than Gilchrist. I missed that and have since corrected the article. However note that the point allocation was correct. Only the text was wrong. Thanks for pointing it out. ]]

  • vignesh on October 16, 2008, 12:22 GMT

    Hi Ananth ... 1st of all i got to thank u for devising a decent method to rank Wk's , i bet no one's tried it before & i got to agree with u & your calculations tat Adam Gilchrist is the best WK Batsman

  • Vidhya on October 16, 2008, 11:37 GMT

    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree and wind up this discussion. My last comment :

    What I mean is not that the wickets of SRT and ARK have the same value, but the quality of the batsman is *irrelevant* when you try to rate/compare the wicket-keepers, and therefore, this aspect should be left out while rating the WKs.

    A bowler who frequently dismisses top-order batman can be considered a better bowler than one who takes mostly tailend wickets, everything else being equal.

    But taking the catches of top-order batsmen frequently does not necessarily make a 'keeper better than one whose victims are predominantly tailenders, everything (total number of catches, catches/match etc) being equal.

  • Adam Binks on October 16, 2008, 11:29 GMT

    Unfortunately this is an impossible question to answer as stats don't exist accurately. The simple way to solve the question would be to take an equation involving chances offered versus chances taken as a percentage and to add this to batting average minus byes per game. I also saw an interesting article factoring in the cost of chances missed i.e a batter dropped on 10 who went on to make 100 would cost 90 runs. On this formula I believe Matt Prior was somewhere around the minus 1.1 Million mark!!!!

  • Duncan on October 16, 2008, 10:58 GMT

    "I agree that Knott/Oldfield were better pure keepers. But you cannot deny Gilchrist's numbers."

    So you agree that this is a pretty meaningless number crunching exercise, which in no way gives an indication as to which wicketkeeper is best. [[ Ananth: If you put it like that, I will go on to say that ANY number-crunching exercise is meaningless. For every case where a players A's numbers are better than B, there will be hundreds who will say that B is better than A, if nothing else, in esoteric and aesthetic sense. Again I will ask a question. Most of us, other than a few 100 year olds would not have seen Oldfield. On what basis do we conclude Oldfield as the better keeper. On written articles, passed to all of us over the period of time. Let me also say this thing. Lot of subjective opinion has been passed on. Wonderful to read, but still subjective. To classify everything as meaningless is going to the extreme. What has been done is to analyze the available numbers. It may not fit in with your own ideas. I agree that Knott might have been a better keeper. But look at what Gilchrist has contributed to his team, both in keeping and batting departments. No one can say that Dhoni is either a classical keeper or batsman. But his value to the team in terms of his contributions in both areas is going to be immeasurable. There exists not a single objective measure to say that a keeper was the best. So we have to make to do with what is available. Thank you for your comments. ]]

  • Amit on October 16, 2008, 10:57 GMT

    One of the very important criteria for Wicket keeper's ability was never included - the difficulty of keeping against a bowler. For example, keeping against fast bowlers is one thing, but keeping against Chandrashekhar on a spinning track requires 10-times the skills. [[ Ananth: Very subjective. What is the difficulty level. Why is it 10 times, not 5 times or 20 times. These are nice things to discuss but difficult to quantify. How do we define this characteristic of Chandrasekhar, Do we say that he is difficult to keep. Then what about Kumble. Is he easy to keep. Who decides on these. ]]

  • izac on October 16, 2008, 10:43 GMT

    How can flower lead batting if gilly is on top in 3 out of 4 criteria, (out of 17.5) compared to flower 1 (out of 2.5) [[ Ananth: Flower is ahead of Gilchrist in 2 out of the 4 criteria. ]]

  • archmage on October 16, 2008, 10:41 GMT

    Ananth another brilliant article keep them coming! This article confirms what I had long suspected based purely on number of dismissals per test - that Gilchrist was ahead of the pack on purely keeping grounds. I felt it was selling him short to say he was the best keeper-batsman of all time when best keeper alone was accurate. I seem to remember the view that Healy amongst others was keen to put forward in interviews leading up to Gilchrist's retirement (and which may have possibly brought it forward more rapidly) - that he was not a "natural" keeper and that as his batting was falling away he should bow out to Haddin. It struck me as sounding like sour grapes at the time - Healy's dogged refusal to retire delayed Gilchrist's arrival in the team. None can argue that Gilchrist's presence in the team super-charged Steve Waugh's win record, but few would have expected him to surpass Marsh and then Healy's unreachable records.It was just unfair for someone to be so prodigously talented.

  • Marcus on October 16, 2008, 10:27 GMT

    Interesting analysis that should prove once and for all that Gilchrist's batting ability doesn't detract from his 'keeping ability!

    Just a couple of comments. First of all, I think 50 dismissals is a better measure than 100, simply because the cricket historian in me quails at the thought of Blackham, Lindsay, Cameron and Engineer being excluded from the best 'keeper list.

    Second, I think dismissals/innings is a better measure than dismissals/match, because a lot of 'keepers would suffer from 'keeping primarely to spinners, or in uneven conditions, or in poor teams. Take the example of Engineer, who through 'keeping to India's Big 4 netted only 80-odd dismissals in 50-odd matches, yet was highly regarded as a 'keeper.

    Finally, I don't think batsman quality/position need be considered at all, because as you said how well a 'keeper performs to poor/tailend batsmen can't be quantified, and anything that can't be quantified IMO has no place in a purely statistical column.

  • Kutch on October 16, 2008, 10:18 GMT

    Vijay, I do not see Dhoni being very high on this list. His dismissals per innings is well below the top five rated keepers, and his test batting is is also average at best

  • Peter on October 16, 2008, 9:12 GMT

    Gilchrist's status as a great batsman is without question and it is for this skill he will long remain fond in our memories. What your article shows is that he is an underrated keeper. On keeping alone he held his own with the very best. He did have the advantage of great bowlers to provide fuel for his gloves and the bowlers were assisted by defending big totals to which Gilchrist had usually contributed. Undoubtedly one of the greats.

  • Vidhya on October 16, 2008, 8:32 GMT

    >> Ananth : The same way we rate a bowler's capturing the wicket of Tendulkar as far better than when he captures the wicket of Kumble, I have incorporated factors which indicate the quality of wickets captured et al.

    Sorry Ananth. Can't agree with this argument at all. From a bowler's point of view, the wicket of Tendulkar is three (or whatever) times more valuable than Kumble's, because it is three times as difficult to dismiss Tendulkar as is it to get Kumble out.

    For a WK the quality of the batsman is completely irrelevant. A tough catch is a tough catch, that's all, whether it is Tendulkar or Kumble. [[ Ananth: The support file has been displayed in a better manner now by providing a link to the file in a different location. I think your arguments are not valid. Let us say that Haddin takes a catch to dismiss Tendulkar off Lee and he catches Sharma off Lee. What you (and everyone) agree(s) is that the value to Lee for Tendulkar's wicket is much more than that of Sharma's. But you also say that the values of the two catches are the same as far as Haddin is concerned. Moreover, if Tendulkar's catch was a simple one and Sharma's a difficult one (remember this is not recorded anywhere), does it mean Sharma's dismissal has more value than Tendulkar's dismissal. From an aesthetic view point, yes. But from a team contribution point of view, No way. You must ask Ponting and for that matter Kumble for how they feel about the two dismissals. In the absence of any quantifiable data for wicket-keepers, I have taken the available data and analyzed these. Short of saying that there is no way the keepers can be analyzed, this is the only way. ]]

  • MOCKBA on October 16, 2008, 7:08 GMT

    Judging a wicket keeper is difficult because obviously the keepers that play with better bowlers have more chances of effecting dismissals.

    While most of the measures you include are fine, I would suggest the following metrics get more weighting.

    1. % of wickets effected. - When Australia played with Healy, Marsh and Gilchrist, they had a very strong team and often took close to 20 wickets. When Flower played, there were very few wickets, maybe 10. So, if they were of equal ability, there % of wickets taken should be the same. If Flower was partly the reason for Zimbabwe's lack of wickets, his % would be low.

    2. Byes as a % of runs conceded, not per match.

    I think if you ran these results only and got close to the same results, then your measures are good proxies. I think both of these should be 10 point measures and either dilute or replace other measures. [[ Ananth: Both are very good points and well-made. Will look into these. ]]

  • srini on October 16, 2008, 7:05 GMT

    there is no doubt that gilchrist is THE player to choose as a wicketkeeper. you might give up a few notches when u choose him over marsh or knott or dujon but u make up a lot on pure explosiveness. i dont think there is a single wicketkeeper as good as gilchrist with the bat. andy flower was steady but not the game changer gilchrist is/was. so purely on batting merits gilchrist is the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman of all time.

  • Cameron Hogg on October 16, 2008, 6:58 GMT

    Fantastic, fair and insightful article.

  • Kartik on October 16, 2008, 6:52 GMT

    Clearly, wicket-keeping is a blind spot in the cricket cultures of the subcontinent.

    3 of the top 4 are Australian, and most of the keepers on this list coincided with when their respective teams were their strongest. The West Indies were strongest in Dujon's time. The 5-year period between Marsh and Healy was the only time between 1970 and 2008 when Australia was weak. The retirement of Gilchrist has already resulted in visible weakness for Australia even more than the loss of Waugh, Warne, and McGrath.

    Even Zimbabwe was a serious test team, winning matches against major opponents, in Andy Flower's time.

    So if India or Pakistan ever want to be the best team, they will have to address this present cognitive dissonance. More batsman and better bowlers are only part of the equation. Without a top keeper, India and Pakistan will never take the top slot. A good keeper = 30-50 fewer runs per test (due to catches, saves, run-outs, sledging, etc.). This is the secret sauce.

  • Vidhya on October 16, 2008, 6:18 GMT

    Part 2 : 3. Same comment as above for "quality of batsmen dismissed". The criteria for judging WKs should mainly be the quality of catches taken/missed, and unlike when evaluating the bowlers, it is completely independent of the batsman's ability.

    4. Byes conceded per match. Not sure about this but quality of the WKs being equal, this may be affected the bowlers he kept to (A Dujon would have more byes against his name than Kirmani etc). But I haven't checked the numbers yet and have no strong opinion on this

    Btw, it is very difficult to read off the detailed table. Would be great if you could format it a bit. [[ Ananth: The same way we rate a bowler's capturing the wicket of Tendulkar as far better than when he captures the wicket of Kumble, I have incorporated factors which indicate the quality of wickets captured et al. Quality of catches/stumpings is so subjective that there is no way to measure that. ]]

  • Vidhya on October 16, 2008, 6:18 GMT

    Part 1 : Sorry, but don't understand how several of these criteria reflect the quality of the wicket-keepers

    1. Dismissals effected per match - while this does give some indication of the ability of the wicket keeper, this is hugely dependent on the quality of the team's fast bowling and the wickets that the matches are played on. For eg, Rodney Marsh has 3.7 dismissals/ match, Bob Taylor 3.2, Wasim Bari 2.8 and Kirmani 2.2, and they were contemporaties. Assuming that you have watched them all, don't you think that what the numbers tell is not their relative abilities, but that they are an accurate reflection of the fast bowling of the four teams ?

    2. Top order dismissals per match - again, how is this a reflection of wicket-keeper's ability ? It is not the wicket-keeper who creates the opportunity. There is nothing he can do if the top order batsmen does not edge a few to him.

  • Mehul on October 16, 2008, 6:17 GMT

    I am a big fan of this column, Ananth, as it offers very insightful views into the stats of the sport. But in this particular case, I am afraid, a simple stat has been unnecessarily complicated. For example, a WK who gets only one catch - that of a no 11, is in no way inferior to a WK who gets 15 offerings and snaffles one from a top-order bat; these should be a measure of bowling resources of a team. Its no surprise then, that the top WKs in your list come from teams with strong bowling attacks (Flower is an exception, but he has made it to the top solely on his batting exploits). Agreed, there is no better quantitative method for evaluating WK heroes, but that is no ground for unnecesarily complicated algorithms.

    I'd rate this one of your forgettable analyses. [[ Ananth: The problem is that there is no available measure for judging wicket-keepers. So I have gone into unchartered seas and should expect rough winds. Again as I have replied elsewhere, these keepers have all effected the said dismissals and have pleyed their part in their wins. ]]

  • D.V.C. on October 16, 2008, 6:16 GMT

    When it comes to byes you will have to make sure no one was deputising for the keeper at the time. When this occurs it is often in the match notes.

    I also feel strongly that Leg Byes should have some bearing. I'd say about 1/3 of the rating of Byes as, at a guess, that is the percentage that end up behind the stumps. Leg Byes don't go against the bowler so they must be the domain of the wicket keeper.

    Also, I don't like the qualification of 100 dismissals. Wouldn't 25 (or better still 20) matches as keeper be a better marker for inclusion. That way we find out who the worst keepers were as well as the best ones.

    Finally, I absolutely refuse to believe that Gilchrist was a better keeper (note: NOT keeper-batsman) than Knott or Oldfield or even Stewart. Perhaps you need to take the bowling attack into account, and the type of dismissals they usually get. [[ Ananth: I agree that Knott/Oldfield were better pure keepers. But you cannot deny Gilchrist's numbers. Also no information is available on Wk substitution. 20/25 matches is a good idea. I am not sure whether the keepers can do anything to save Leg-bues, though. Many thanks for your insightful comments. ]]

  • Vijay on October 16, 2008, 6:12 GMT

    It would be interesting to note where Dhoni would fit in this list, even though he has yet to meet the qualification standard of a 100 dismissals.

  • D.V.C. on October 16, 2008, 6:06 GMT

    I have so many concerns with this analysis it is hard to know where to start. I'll begin though by saying that Can we either do an analysis of keeping OR do one of keeping/batting that realistically takes into account the importance of both disciplines. This half-way house doesn't serve either.

    Next complaint. dismissals affected, using the total biases heavily toward the modern players who have played many more tests. Given that you said you weren't including some statistics because they weren't available for earlier players why have a rating for total dismissals?

    Dismissals affected per match is out of 10, but the highest score is 4.33. This only makes sense if you double everyone's score. Similarly Stumpings affected is out of 2 but the highest score is 0.98.

    The quality of the players dismissed has no bearing on the difficulty of a keeping catch. It is harder to stump a top order batsman though. It's not like the edges a top order player gets are always thicker! [[ Ananth: The analysis is done in three parts. You could take only the wicket-keeping one if you want to ignore the batting. In no way am I presenting one final table. It is what you want to take. Because of the concept employed (Avge-Actual score) the bias in favour of dismissing today's high-average batsmen is minimized. Dismissing May (46.77) at a score of 10 carries the same value as dismissing Ponting for, say 20. The Dismissals affected has been calculated based on the actual values. If you read the accompanying table carefully you will notice that it has been correctly done. Same for all other measures. Again how does one define the quality of a catch. ]]

  • Rosh on October 16, 2008, 6:05 GMT

    Good analysis, well to a certain degree. I'm not for putting in the factor "Quality Batsmen" into the picture. Adam Gilchrist had McGrath, Lee, Gillespie and co. to provide "quality" edges and of course Warne to provide "quality" stumpings. Marsh had Lillee, Thompson, Walker for edges and Boucher had Donald, Pollock for edges. But someone like Alan Knott did not have quite that kind of bowlers to get edges or stumping's in the long term, off high quality batsmen. Snow (for a relatively short period), Willis and Botham (only occasionally) and Underwood were his help. The point is, it is very good bowlers who generally lure very good batsmen to get out edging or being stumped. Wicketkeepers' influence is not that significant. [[ Ananth: But he still has to be good enough to take those edges/catches/nicks. These are the only qualitative measures available for analysis. It is impossible to say, that was a great catch, it should be rewarded more than an easy catch. Where is this information available. ]]

  • Dev Zaveri on October 16, 2008, 5:54 GMT

    Hi think it also depends largely on the bowling attack.Australia had one of the best seam bowling attack when gilchirist kept which resulted in many dismissals behind the wicket. Obviously you still have to be good enough to take those catches.For example mark boucher have very few stumpings compared to gilchirist because south africa always lacked a decent spinner in the last decade or so. But there is no doubt that gilchirist is the greatest keeper-batsman ever

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  • Dev Zaveri on October 16, 2008, 5:54 GMT

    Hi think it also depends largely on the bowling attack.Australia had one of the best seam bowling attack when gilchirist kept which resulted in many dismissals behind the wicket. Obviously you still have to be good enough to take those catches.For example mark boucher have very few stumpings compared to gilchirist because south africa always lacked a decent spinner in the last decade or so. But there is no doubt that gilchirist is the greatest keeper-batsman ever

  • Rosh on October 16, 2008, 6:05 GMT

    Good analysis, well to a certain degree. I'm not for putting in the factor "Quality Batsmen" into the picture. Adam Gilchrist had McGrath, Lee, Gillespie and co. to provide "quality" edges and of course Warne to provide "quality" stumpings. Marsh had Lillee, Thompson, Walker for edges and Boucher had Donald, Pollock for edges. But someone like Alan Knott did not have quite that kind of bowlers to get edges or stumping's in the long term, off high quality batsmen. Snow (for a relatively short period), Willis and Botham (only occasionally) and Underwood were his help. The point is, it is very good bowlers who generally lure very good batsmen to get out edging or being stumped. Wicketkeepers' influence is not that significant. [[ Ananth: But he still has to be good enough to take those edges/catches/nicks. These are the only qualitative measures available for analysis. It is impossible to say, that was a great catch, it should be rewarded more than an easy catch. Where is this information available. ]]

  • D.V.C. on October 16, 2008, 6:06 GMT

    I have so many concerns with this analysis it is hard to know where to start. I'll begin though by saying that Can we either do an analysis of keeping OR do one of keeping/batting that realistically takes into account the importance of both disciplines. This half-way house doesn't serve either.

    Next complaint. dismissals affected, using the total biases heavily toward the modern players who have played many more tests. Given that you said you weren't including some statistics because they weren't available for earlier players why have a rating for total dismissals?

    Dismissals affected per match is out of 10, but the highest score is 4.33. This only makes sense if you double everyone's score. Similarly Stumpings affected is out of 2 but the highest score is 0.98.

    The quality of the players dismissed has no bearing on the difficulty of a keeping catch. It is harder to stump a top order batsman though. It's not like the edges a top order player gets are always thicker! [[ Ananth: The analysis is done in three parts. You could take only the wicket-keeping one if you want to ignore the batting. In no way am I presenting one final table. It is what you want to take. Because of the concept employed (Avge-Actual score) the bias in favour of dismissing today's high-average batsmen is minimized. Dismissing May (46.77) at a score of 10 carries the same value as dismissing Ponting for, say 20. The Dismissals affected has been calculated based on the actual values. If you read the accompanying table carefully you will notice that it has been correctly done. Same for all other measures. Again how does one define the quality of a catch. ]]

  • Vijay on October 16, 2008, 6:12 GMT

    It would be interesting to note where Dhoni would fit in this list, even though he has yet to meet the qualification standard of a 100 dismissals.

  • D.V.C. on October 16, 2008, 6:16 GMT

    When it comes to byes you will have to make sure no one was deputising for the keeper at the time. When this occurs it is often in the match notes.

    I also feel strongly that Leg Byes should have some bearing. I'd say about 1/3 of the rating of Byes as, at a guess, that is the percentage that end up behind the stumps. Leg Byes don't go against the bowler so they must be the domain of the wicket keeper.

    Also, I don't like the qualification of 100 dismissals. Wouldn't 25 (or better still 20) matches as keeper be a better marker for inclusion. That way we find out who the worst keepers were as well as the best ones.

    Finally, I absolutely refuse to believe that Gilchrist was a better keeper (note: NOT keeper-batsman) than Knott or Oldfield or even Stewart. Perhaps you need to take the bowling attack into account, and the type of dismissals they usually get. [[ Ananth: I agree that Knott/Oldfield were better pure keepers. But you cannot deny Gilchrist's numbers. Also no information is available on Wk substitution. 20/25 matches is a good idea. I am not sure whether the keepers can do anything to save Leg-bues, though. Many thanks for your insightful comments. ]]

  • Mehul on October 16, 2008, 6:17 GMT

    I am a big fan of this column, Ananth, as it offers very insightful views into the stats of the sport. But in this particular case, I am afraid, a simple stat has been unnecessarily complicated. For example, a WK who gets only one catch - that of a no 11, is in no way inferior to a WK who gets 15 offerings and snaffles one from a top-order bat; these should be a measure of bowling resources of a team. Its no surprise then, that the top WKs in your list come from teams with strong bowling attacks (Flower is an exception, but he has made it to the top solely on his batting exploits). Agreed, there is no better quantitative method for evaluating WK heroes, but that is no ground for unnecesarily complicated algorithms.

    I'd rate this one of your forgettable analyses. [[ Ananth: The problem is that there is no available measure for judging wicket-keepers. So I have gone into unchartered seas and should expect rough winds. Again as I have replied elsewhere, these keepers have all effected the said dismissals and have pleyed their part in their wins. ]]

  • Vidhya on October 16, 2008, 6:18 GMT

    Part 1 : Sorry, but don't understand how several of these criteria reflect the quality of the wicket-keepers

    1. Dismissals effected per match - while this does give some indication of the ability of the wicket keeper, this is hugely dependent on the quality of the team's fast bowling and the wickets that the matches are played on. For eg, Rodney Marsh has 3.7 dismissals/ match, Bob Taylor 3.2, Wasim Bari 2.8 and Kirmani 2.2, and they were contemporaties. Assuming that you have watched them all, don't you think that what the numbers tell is not their relative abilities, but that they are an accurate reflection of the fast bowling of the four teams ?

    2. Top order dismissals per match - again, how is this a reflection of wicket-keeper's ability ? It is not the wicket-keeper who creates the opportunity. There is nothing he can do if the top order batsmen does not edge a few to him.

  • Vidhya on October 16, 2008, 6:18 GMT

    Part 2 : 3. Same comment as above for "quality of batsmen dismissed". The criteria for judging WKs should mainly be the quality of catches taken/missed, and unlike when evaluating the bowlers, it is completely independent of the batsman's ability.

    4. Byes conceded per match. Not sure about this but quality of the WKs being equal, this may be affected the bowlers he kept to (A Dujon would have more byes against his name than Kirmani etc). But I haven't checked the numbers yet and have no strong opinion on this

    Btw, it is very difficult to read off the detailed table. Would be great if you could format it a bit. [[ Ananth: The same way we rate a bowler's capturing the wicket of Tendulkar as far better than when he captures the wicket of Kumble, I have incorporated factors which indicate the quality of wickets captured et al. Quality of catches/stumpings is so subjective that there is no way to measure that. ]]

  • Kartik on October 16, 2008, 6:52 GMT

    Clearly, wicket-keeping is a blind spot in the cricket cultures of the subcontinent.

    3 of the top 4 are Australian, and most of the keepers on this list coincided with when their respective teams were their strongest. The West Indies were strongest in Dujon's time. The 5-year period between Marsh and Healy was the only time between 1970 and 2008 when Australia was weak. The retirement of Gilchrist has already resulted in visible weakness for Australia even more than the loss of Waugh, Warne, and McGrath.

    Even Zimbabwe was a serious test team, winning matches against major opponents, in Andy Flower's time.

    So if India or Pakistan ever want to be the best team, they will have to address this present cognitive dissonance. More batsman and better bowlers are only part of the equation. Without a top keeper, India and Pakistan will never take the top slot. A good keeper = 30-50 fewer runs per test (due to catches, saves, run-outs, sledging, etc.). This is the secret sauce.

  • Cameron Hogg on October 16, 2008, 6:58 GMT

    Fantastic, fair and insightful article.