Wicketkeepers October 16, 2008

Test wicketkeepers - an analysis

The toughest job in Test cricket is that of the wicketkeeper

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.


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.


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.


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