September 2, 2012

Test wicketkeepers: Everything you wanted to know about

Anantha Narayanan
Adam Gilchrist holds the record for the most runs and average dismissals per Test for a wicketkeeper  © Getty Images

Test wicketkeepers: inarguably the players with the toughest task in cricket. They have to be on their toes for hours on end, go down and up a million times a day, cannot afford to relax even for a minute, always have an eye on what is happening to the ball and nowadays are expected to bat for hours and/or score runs quickly. And some of these keepers are expected to captain their teams and/or open the batting. Why would anyone take up this tough task? This article is a homage to those tough men.

This is one long article and has taken nearly two weeks. Please take time to peruse all tables and come back with your comments. The effort I have put in would be nullified if readers do not give this the time it deserves. And please, no comments that all this information is available in StatsGuru. All the information is not available, would require many queries to get the information, the information would not be in the form of readable tables, there is no ratings work done and so on.

In order to get a reasonable number into the analysis set, I lowered my initial qualification criterion of 100 dismissals to 75. 48 keepers qualify and this seems to be a fair number. On an average this represents a lower limit of 20-30 Tests, which is a Test career between 3 and 5 years.

1. Total Dismissals (All tables current upto Test 2054 (Ind-Nzl First Test))

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Tests Dismissals
Boucher M.V Saf 1997 2012 147 555
Gilchrist Aus 1999 2008 96 416
Healy I.A Aus 1988 1999 119 395
Marsh R.W Aus 1970 1984 96 355
Dujon P.J.L Win 1981 1991 79 270
Knott A.P.E Eng 1967 1981 95 269
Stewart A.J Eng 1990 2003 81 241
Wasim Bari Pak 1967 1984 80 228
Dhoni M.S Ind 2005 2012 67 220
Evans T.G Eng 1946 1959 91 219
Jacobs R.D Win 1998 2004 65 218
Kamran Akmal Pak 2002 2010 53 206
Parore A.C Nzl 1990 2002 67 200

This is the base table and is ordered on the number of Dismissals. This is not just a longevity based achievement. To play over 100 matches, as a top-flight keeper, is something incredible and has to be recognized. An important fact to be noted is that the number of Tests shown are the Tests in which the players played as wicketkeepers. For two players, Sangakkara and Alec Stewart, this distinction is significant since they have played a number of Tests as batsmen. Andy Flower and Parore have also played a few Tests as batsmen. This table lists the keepers who effected over 200 dismissals.

The table is topped by the peerless South African keeper, Boucher, and then come three top keepers from Australia. Dujon follows next and then Knott and Stewart. The top-10 is rounded off by Bari and Dhoni.

Readers are likely to come in with comments that the misses by keepers are not included. This is true because the data is not available. Cricinfo might have the data for the past few years or so but not for over 75% of the Tests. And I will not make any guess-work. My analysis is based 100% on the available verifiable data.

2. Dismissals per Test

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Tests C-St Dismissals/Test
Gilchrist Aus 1999 2008 96 416 4.33
Browne C.O Win 1995 2005 20 81 4.05
Jones G.O Eng 2004 2006 34 133 3.91
Kamran Akmal Pak 2002 2010 53 206 3.89
Haddin B.J Aus 2008 2012 43 164 3.81
Boucher M.V Saf 1997 2012 147 555 3.78
Langley Aus 1951 1956 26 98 3.77
Richardson Saf 1992 1998 41 152 3.71
Marsh R.W Aus 1970 1984 96 355 3.70
Ames L.E.G Eng 1929 1939 44 95 2.16
Khaled Mashud Bng 2000 2007 44 87 1.98
Engineer Ind 1961 1975 46 82 1.78

This is a performance measure. Dismissals per Test is a very important parameter to measure the keepers' contribution to the team. Only two keepers have effected more than 4 dismissals per Test, which works out an average of 30% of the team dismissals. Readers might argue that the bowlers create the opportunities for dismissals. However that is only partly true. The keepers have to gauge the bounce and stand in the correct position and posture. It is my belief that only one-in-three catches travel straight to the keepers. The other two have to be caught well. Anyhow 4+ dismissals per Test goes a long way in influencing the result in the team's favour. 3.06 is the overall average.

In the top-9 keepers, Langley, with a figure of 3.77 belongs to the 1950s and Marsh, with 3.70, belongs to the 1970s. The others all are current or recently retired. Why I wonder. More opportunities? Better techniques?

At the other end, we have Ames from way back, Khaled Mashud and Engineer. The last two have fewer than 2 dismissals per Test. Why should Engineer's numbers be so low, almost matching the numbers of top slip fielders. Possibly many of the spinners' wickets would have been effected through catches to close fielders, rather than keeper.

3. Dismissals as % of similar team dismissals

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Tests C-St Team CSt Dismissals %
Alexander Win 1957 1961 25 90 201 44.8
Kamran Akmal Pak 2002 2010 53 206 466 44.2
Langley Aus 1951 1956 26 98 239 41.0
Saleem Yousuf Pak 1982 1990 31 104 259 40.2
Browne C.O Win 1995 2005 20 81 206 39.3
Rashid Latif Pak 1992 2003 37 130 335 38.8
Richardson Saf 1992 1998 41 152 397 38.3
Gilchrist Aus 1999 2008 96 416 1115 37.3
Imtiaz Ahmed Pak 1952 1962 38 90 242 37.2
Ames L.E.G Eng 1929 1939 44 95 351 27.1
Kaluwitharana Slk 1992 2004 48 119 450 26.4
Engineer Ind 1961 1975 46 82 388 21.1

This is a nice-to-view table and is not used in any Ratings work. Alexander of West Indies had a hand in 44% of his team's similar dismissals. And look at Kamran Akmal: he has had a hand in over 44% of his team dismissals. That is something. Saleem Yousuf has a similar 40-plus % figure. Gilchrist makes it to the top-10, with an impressive figure of 37.2%. One-third seems to be the overall average.

At the other end, Engineer clocks in with a very low 21.1%, as expected.

4. Byes/Test

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Tests Byes Byes/Test
Downton P.R Eng 1981 1988 30 84 2.8
Richardson Saf 1992 1998 41 143 3.5
Khaled Mashud Bng 2000 2007 44 152 3.5
Smith I.D.S Nzl 1980 1992 63 257 4.1
Parore A.C Nzl 1990 2002 67 291 4.3
Knott A.P.E Eng 1967 1981 95 422 4.4
Flower A Zim 1992 2002 55 250 4.5
Jacobs R.D Win 1998 2004 65 297 4.6
Taylor R.W Eng 1971 1984 57 285 5.0
Murray D.L Win 1963 1980 62 653 10.5
Saleem Yousuf Pak 1982 1990 31 332 10.7
Ames L.E.G Eng 1929 1939 44 470 10.7

The Byes per Test is a measure of the keeping quality. Somewhat indirectly, would it also have a correlation with the chances missed? Downton is somewhere in the stratosphere with an average of only 2.8 byes per Test. Richardson, the current CEO of ICC, also has a very low figure of 3.5, matched by Khaled Mashud. A few other not-so-well-known keepers have low byes/Test figures of around 5.0. 7.0 byes/match seems to be an above average performance level. 6.9 byes/match is the overall average.

The last three have all conceded more than 10 byes per Test. Ames probably has a high figure because of the way England bowled during the 1930s.

5. Stumping %

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Tests C-St Stumpings St %
Oldfield Aus 1920 1937 53 130 52 40.0
Ames L.E.G Eng 1929 1939 44 95 23 24.2
Lilley Eng 1896 1909 35 92 22 23.9
Jayawardene Slk 2000 2012 46 117 27 23.1
Kaluwitharana Slk 1992 2004 48 119 26 21.8
Evans T.G Eng 1946 1959 91 219 46 21.0
Engineer Ind 1961 1975 46 82 16 19.5
Kirmani Ind 1976 1986 88 198 38 19.2
Imtiaz Ahmed Pak 1952 1962 38 90 16 17.8
Ramdin D Win 2005 2012 46 138 3 2.2
Dujon P.J.L Win 1981 1991 79 270 5 1.9
Richardson Saf 1992 1998 41 152 2 1.3

Number of stumpings and the % of total keeper-dismissals is another nice-to-have information. It really has no bearing on evaluation of a keeper performance: rather, reflects the way the bowling attacks were formed. Oldfield, keeping to Grimmett and O'Reilly, has got 40% of his dismissals as stumpings. No surprises there. Same with Ames. Lilley was a pre-WW1 keeper. Note Prasanna Jayawardene's high share of 23%, no doubt due to Muralitharan's presence and recently Herath. Two Indian keepers of old and Imtiaz come in afterwards.

At the other end are couple of West Indian keepers and the CEO of ICC. They probably did not keep to any quality spinner. Less than 2% means stumpings for these keepers were as rare as Haley's (or more aptly, here, Healy's) comet.

6. Total Runs

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Tests BPos Runs scored
Gilchrist Aus 1999 2008 96 6.7 5570
Boucher M.V Saf 1997 2012 147 7.2 5515
Stewart A.J Eng 1990 2003 81 3.6 4542
Flower A Zim 1992 2002 55 5.0 4404
Knott A.P.E Eng 1967 1981 95 6.8 4389
Healy I.A Aus 1988 1999 119 7.1 4356
Marsh R.W Aus 1970 1984 96 6.9 3633
Dhoni M.S Ind 2005 2012 67 6.9 3582
Sangakkara Slk 2000 2012 49 3.0 3281
Dujon P.J.L Win 1981 1991 79 6.6 3146
Prior M.J Eng 2007 2012 58 6.9 3068
McCullum Nzl 2004 2012 50 5.5 2782

Now we come to the batting measures. First the simple measure of Runs scored. Readers should remember that these are only the runs scored when the player played as a keeper. So Sangakkara, Stewart et al will have lower figures. Gilchrist leads with a tally of 5570 runs, but in only 96 Tests. Boucher has a slightly lower figure, but in 51 more Tests. Stewart and Flower, the batsmen-keepers, are next. Knott follows afterwards. Dhoni is likely to accumulate quite a few runs and may very well usurp Gilchrist from the top spot before his career is over. Sangakkara is unlikely to add any runs since he is unlikely to resume wicket-keeping duties in tests. Prior and McCullum could add a few.

The average Batting position is also shown. As expected most keepers have this figure well in excess of 6, other than Stewart, Flower and Sangakkara. This indicates that they batted in positions 7 and higher. One reason why I have not done the compilation of the runs added by the keepers with the lower order. Since they seem to have batted at no.7 and afterwards, most of the runs scored would have been with the late-order batsmen.

7. Runs/Test

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Tests Runs Runs/Test
Flower A Zim 1992 2002 55 4404 80.1
Sangakkara Slk 2000 2012 49 3281 67.0
Gilchrist Aus 1999 2008 96 5570 58.0
Engineer Ind 1961 1975 46 2611 56.8
Stewart A.J Eng 1990 2003 81 4542 56.1
McCullum Nzl 2004 2012 50 2782 55.6
Ames L.E.G Eng 1929 1939 44 2387 54.2
Imtiaz Ahmed Pak 1952 1962 38 2010 52.9
Prior M.J Eng 2007 2012 58 3068 52.9
Grout A.T.W Aus 1957 1966 51 890 17.5
Wasim Bari Pak 1967 1984 80 1366 17.1
Langley Aus 1951 1956 26 374 14.4

This is a great performance measure. I have gone on the less used Runs per Test measure than the Batting average since the latter figure is likely to be inflated seriously with many not outs since the keepers, traditionally, are late order batsmen. How many runs per Test, in addition to the dismissals, is a far more important measure of a wicketkeeper's quality than whether he remained not out. Andy Flower is the runaway leader in this regard, with 80 runs per Test, a figure in excess of many a specialist batsman. Sangakkara follows with 67. Then comes the explosive Gilchrist with 58 runs per Test, often in crunch late-order situations. Engineer, with an otherwise poor set of keeping numbers has a decent 56 runs per Test. The average is 38.7, indicating that any 40 plus figure should be considered above-average.

8. Opening Runs

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Opening Runs
Engineer Ind 1961 1975 1577
Imtiaz Ahmed Pak 1952 1962 979
Mongia N.R Ind 1994 2001 655
Waite J.H.B Saf 1951 1965 606
Stewart A.J Eng 1990 2003 405
Kamran Akmal Pak 2002 2010 322

These are the runs scored by keepers in the opening positions. Engineer is the only keeper with a tally in excess of 1500 runs. No one else has even scored 1000. Imtiaz is the second and Mongia who opened for India in a few Tests, follows next. We have to recognize this facet of Engineer's career, especially as his wicket-keeping returns are below-average.

9. Keepers as Captain

Wicket Keeper Cty From To Tests played Tests captained
Dhoni M.S Ind 2005 2012 68 38
Alexander Win 1957 1961 25 18
Flower A Zim 1992 2002 55 16
Stewart A.J Eng 1990 2003 81 12
Moin Khan Pak 1990 2004 65 12
KhaledMashud Bng 2000 2007 44 12

Dhoni is the leader in this measure, having captained India in well over half the Tests he has played. Alexander was the captain in most of the Tests. Then come Flower and Stewart.

10. Wicketkeeper Ratings

WicketKeeper Cty From To Ratings
     C-St C-St/Test ToW Bye Bat Capt OpBt Total
Gilchrist us 1999 2008 10.4 43.3 2.9 8.7 19.3 0.9 0.0 85.5
Boucher M.V Saf 1997 2012 13.9 37.8 2.4 8.4 12.5 0.6 0.0 75.6
Flower A Zim 1992 2002 3.7 26.9 1.9 10.5 26.7 2.4 0.0 72.0
Kamran Akmal Pak 2002 2010 5.2 38.9 2.6 7.4 16.6 0.0 0.6 71.4
Dhoni M.S Ind 2005 2012 5.5 32.5 2.2 7.1 17.5 5.7 0.0 70.6
Marsh R.W us 1970 1984 8.9 37.0 2.4 8.4 12.6 0.0 0.1 69.4
McCullum Nzl 2004 2012 4.3 34.4 2.1 9.6 18.5 0.0 0.0 69.0
Stewart A.J Eng 1990 2003 6.0 29.8 2.0 9.3 18.7 1.8 0.8 68.3
Haddin B.J us 2008 2012 4.1 38.1 2.5 5.2 17.5 0.0 0.0 67.4
Healy I.A us 1988 1999 9.9 33.2 2.2 8.8 12.2 0.0 0.0 66.3
Evans T.G Eng 1946 1959 5.5 24.1 1.6 7.3 8.9 0.0 0.0 47.3
KhaledMashud Bng 2000 2007 2.2 19.8 1.3 11.5 10.7 1.8 0.0 47.2
Mongia N.R Ind 1994 2001 2.7 24.3 1.7 5.3 10.9 0.0 1.3 46.2
Oldfield us 1920 1937 3.2 24.5 1.5 6.7 9.0 0.0 0.1 45.0
Lilley Eng 1896 1909 2.3 26.3 1.5 4.5 8.6 0.0 0.0 43.2

Finally I have decided to do a Test Wicketkeeper Ratings work. This is fraught with pitfalls and I must be ready for the bouquets and brickbats to come in alternately. But I realize that if I do not venture out, I (and the readers) would not gain anything and here we go. I am sure readers would have their comments. My only request is for readers to note that this is a first attempt and fine tuning is always possible. The measures which would be used in Test WK_Ratings are explained below. These are detailed in the order of importance.

1. Number of Dismissals per Test: This is a pure performance measure and carries the maximum weight. 10 points are given per dismissal per Test. The overall weight is around 50%.
2. Number of Runs per Test: The second most important measure. The batting contributions are second only to the basic dismissals per Test measure. The value to the team, especially as the runs are normally scored in the late order, is undeniable. The points are determined by multiplying the Runs per test measure by 0.3333. The overall weight is around 22%.
3. Number of Byes per Test: This is an important measure since this indicates wicket-keeping quality. The overall weight is around 13%.
4. Number of Dismissals: This is the only longevity-based measure. It is very essential to reward the keepers who have maintained their fitness and skill levels for many years and Tests. The allocation is one Rating point per 40 dismissal so that the maximum is 15 points. The overall weight is around 8% but there are keepers who go above 15%.
5. Number of Top order dismissals per Test: Again a specialized performance measure. There is a clear separation amongst wicketkeepers and this has been included since it means that much more to the team. The overall weight is around 3.5%.
6. Number of Tests captained: The additional responsibility of captaining has to be incorporated in the Ratings. However it must be noted that keepers have captained their teams in around 5% of the Tests played. The final weight is only around 0.7%. But the concerned keepers get allocated much higher level of points: Dhoni gets around 8%.
7. Number of Test runs in opening position: This is to recognize the keepers who, in 10 minutes flat, changed their gloves and pads and started an equally difficult task. However let me add that this measure, like the Captaincy measure, also has an overall low weight of around 0.4%. Fewer than 4% of the runs scored by keepers are in the opening position. But the concerned keepers get allocated much higher level of points: Engineer gets around 6%.

The final ratings results are as expected.

Adam Gilchrist is the undisputed no.1. I am not sure whether anyone could dispute this honour, especially since the scoring rate has not even been factored in. He has achieved this through an outstanding keeping performances and above-average batting performances. Mark Boucher is in the second position. His is more due to the keeping abilities. Andy Flower, a top-flight batsman, very good keeper and a born leader, is in third position. Let us forget the poor Tests he might have had: Kamran Akmal's performances have been outstanding and he fully deserves his no.4 position. Dhoni, assisted strongly by the captaincy duties, completes the top-5. This is a reflection of the overall value to the team. Subjective factors such as quality of keeping, keeping stance, method of catching etc do not (and should not) come in. The legendary Marsh and Healy are in the top-10 positions.

11. A BCG Chart of Test wicketkeepers

BCG chart of wicketkeepers showing runs per Test and dismissals per Test
© Anantha Naryanan

Ah I am back to my favourite BCG charts. This is a perfect set of data elements to do a BCG chart and classify wicketkeepers into keeping-centric or batting-centric roles. The X-axis represents the more important measure: C-St per Test. The Y-axis represents the batting measure: Runs per Test. It can be seen that both are performance measures. Longevity does not come in. To make sure that we get in only players who have had a reasonably long career I have selected only keepers who cross the dual barrier of 100 dismissals and 1000 runs. 35 keepers qualify.

The top right quadrant contains the real top-fliers: those keepers who have done well both as keepers and batsmen. The quadrant is led by Gilchrist, followed by Kamran Akmal, Haddin, McCullum, Dhoni and Prior. All these are modern keepers and are here because they are all top quality batsmen.

The bottom-right quadrant is heavily populated and houses the top keepers who do not have great batting figures. This pack is led by Boucher and has Jones, Richardson amongst the modern players and Marsh, Dujon, Healy amongst the older players. Russell and Murray just about make it.

The top-left quadrant has the players who have batting figures comparable to any top batsmen but lag behind in keeping numbers. Andy Flower leads this group and other prominent players are Sangakkara, Stewart and Knott. The last is a surprise.

The bottom-left has a set of keepers who do not really make the cut. Average keeping returns and average batting returns. Kirmani, More, Oldfield, Evans, Mongia, Smith are in this lot.

Please note that the quadrant division is a subjective one and this graph is only a tool for visual separation. The Wicketkeeper Ratings table is far more in-depth one and incorporates all relevant measures.

12. 12 top innings played by Test wicketkeepers

Gilchrist - 149 (163) Pak 1469 1999 - Huge match-winning/saving stand with
Gilchrist - 144 (212) Bng 1797 2006 - Match saving/winning innings
Gilchrist - 138 (108) Saf 1593 2002 - Match-winning inns in close match
A Flower -  232*(444) Ind 1517 2000 - Possibly the best match-saving innings
in India
A Flower -  199*(470) Saf 1562 2001 - Another defensive classic
(142 in first innings)
Ian Smith - 173 (136) Ind 1139 1990 - Attacking match-saving inns
(from 131/7 to 391)
Rod Marsh - 110 (173) Eng 800 1977 - Priceless match-winning inns in
close centenary Test
K Akmal -   109 (154) Ind 1738 2005 - Match-saving away classic (from 243/6)
J Dujon -   139 (158) Aus 997 1984 - Match-winning first inns (From 186/6)
A Knott -   135 (210) Aus 806 1977 - Match-winning first inns (From 82/5)
N Mongia -  152 (366) Aus 1335 1996 - Match-winner while opening the innings
Imtiaz Ahd- 209 Nzl 414 1955 - All-time classic, coming in at 111/6 and
taking score to 561.

This has been presented in no particular order and based my own, often subjective, perusal of scorecards. I have also used the Hallmark-100 ratings numbers as a guideline. It was indeed tough to leave out Gilchrist's 102 in 59 balls, Engineer's 121, Sangakkara's 230, Healy's 161 et al. But let the readers come out with their suggestions.

13. A combined table of Test and ODI dismissals

WicketkeeperCty Tests  ODIs T20sTotal
Boucher M.VSaf1475553.782954251.4419999
Healy I.AAus1193953.321682331.39 628
Dhoni M.SInd682213.252112651.2618504
Marsh R.WAus963553.70921241.35 479
Dujon P.J.LWin792703.421692041.21 474
Moin KhanPak651472.262192851.30 432
Stewart A.JEng812412.981701741.02 415
Kamran AkmalPak532063.891371611.1845412
Jacobs R.DWin652183.351461871.28 405
Rashid LatifPak371303.511662191.32 349
KaluwitharanaSlk481192.481892071.10 326
Flower AZim551482.692131730.81 321
RichardsonSaf411523.711221651.35 317
Ramdin DWin451332.96941311.3926290
Mongia N.RInd441072.431401541.10 261
Saleem YousufPak311043.35861031.20 207

One day Boucher might be quite happy to have stopped at 999 international dismissals since that is likely to be talked about more than if he had reached 1000, a la 99.94. One is a longevity based achievement and the other is performance-based one. It is unlikely that either achievement would ever be surpassed. Gilchrist follows closely with 900 plus dismissals and this mark is also almost unreachable. Healy follows, after a couple of miles, with 628 dismissals. This clearly shows the gap between the top-two and the rest.

Gilchrist leads both formats in the key CST per match measure. There is no combined CSt per match measure since the scale of the numbers is quite different for different formats.

At the end of this long article, I am as tired as the keepers might have been, after a tough 7-hour day in the office, except that they were baking in the sun. May their tribe flourish.

To download/view the comprehensive Excel sheet containing all the tables related to Test wicketkeepers, please CLICK HERE.

New table added.

Wicket keeper Balls kept analysis

        Balls / Match    
WicketKeeper Cty From To Pace Spin Pace% Spin%
Pace > 70%
Dujon P.J.L Win 1981 1991 788 166 82.6 17.4
Richardson Saf 1992 1998 862 192 81.8 18.2
Murray J.R Win 1993 2002 765 194 79.8 20.2
Boucher M.V Saf 1997 2012 771 205 79.0 21.0
Jones G.O Eng 2004 2006 774 251 75.5 24.5
Stewart A.J Eng 1990 2003 730 241 75.2 24.8
Russell R.C Eng 1988 1998 760 261 74.5 25.5
Browne C.O Win 1995 2005 788 272 74.4 25.6
Smith I.D.S Nzl 1980 1992 722 274 72.5 27.5
Ramdin D Win 2005 2012 719 278 72.1 27.9
Jacobs R.D Win 1998 2004 765 298 71.9 28.1
Marsh R.W Aus 1970 1984 760 318 70.5 29.5
Haddin B.J Aus 2008 2012 717 301 70.4 29.6
Spin > 50%
Engineer Ind 1961 1975 257 914 21.9 78.1
Kirmani Ind 1976 1986 383 660 36.7 63.3
Mongia N.R Ind 1994 2001 427 578 42.5 57.5
More K.S Ind 1986 1993 494 643 43.5 56.5
Sangakkara Slk 2000 2012 442 568 43.8 56.2
Kaluwitharna Slk 1992 2004 483 597 44.7 55.3
Oldfield Aus 1920 1937 599 692 46.4 53.6
Dhoni M.S Ind 2005 2012 504 546 48.0 52.0
Evans T.G Eng 1946 1959 544 550 49.7 50.3

The results are as expected. The West Indian keepers dominate the first part of the table which shows the keepers whose share of pace balls is greater than 70%. And India and Sri Lanka dominate the second half of the table which shows keepers whose share of spin deliveries is greater than 50%.

Based on comments of Biswa, Boll and Raghav, I have modified and posted the Excel sheet with the addl worksheet on a /Inns basis rather than /Test basis. All measures have been done on a per innings basis. Pl download and view the same. There is more churning than what i expected. In summary,

Kamran Akmal, Flower go down and Dhoni, Marsh, Dujon and Healy move up. The revised order is

Kamran Akmal
A Flower.

This, to me, seems a far more acceptable order in the top-10. All the top wicket-keepers are there at the top.

This article will be incomplete without a reference to Dennis Lindsay. He had, during 1966-67, against Australia, almost inarguably, the best series for an all-rounder (in the extended definition).

606 runs at 86.57, 24 dismissals and 6 byes (1.2 byes/Test). Unfortunately he played only 15 Tests. 61 dismissals and 1130 runs at 37+. So he had a truly wonderful series but no more than good otherwise. But a truly amazing byes/match value of 1.33. Many thanks to Gerry for poking me in the ribs about Lindsay.


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

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Keywords: Stats, Wicketkeeping

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Posted by andyva on (December 19, 2012, 19:28 GMT)

gerry the merry must get knotted and stop talking regarding graeme pollock and barry richards. check their respective records considering the short period they were able to ply their trade.

Posted by Taslim on (November 20, 2012, 10:04 GMT)

@Ananth I was surprised not to see the name of AB De villiers in the mentioned record. He is no were in the picture. Is he not included in the list of wicket keeper batsman ? [[ Where was he not mentioned? Anyhow he has kept in 4 matches and how can we judge him against keepers who have kept in over 75 Tests. Ananth: ]] Suppose, if you say that Boucher was keeping till lately, but then AB is the current wicket keeper in all three format is AB. In that case even Sangakkara (when kalu was there), Alec stewart, Brendon Mccullum were also amongst who have not played all their matches as wicket keeper?

Posted by tonyp on (November 18, 2012, 23:54 GMT)

Sorry to be so late to comment here. I wonder if the introduction of neutral umpires and DRS on stumpings has impacted on the frequency of WK dismissals. [[ I do not have clear information on DRS. I think Cricinfo did a piece on that. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Boll on (September 13, 2012, 10:21 GMT)

@Ananth, thanks, good to be back after a month or so somewhere close to the ACT, where internet access is at best unreliable. re.`bloody, bloody good`, pardon the French, but that`s pure bloody Aussie...well spoken sir! [[ I hope you saw that the switch to innings basis certainly caused a few significant changes. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Vikram on (September 13, 2012, 5:06 GMT)

@ Ananth: thanks a lot for the analysis, and as you said a very clear trend. We could check the ratio of averages across decades to similar averages from top 7 batsmen and bowlers. My guess: wicketkeepers would have the highest increase. It also leads to an interesting idea of checking how many players are no longer specialists - batsmen with more than say 20 wickets and bowlers with average above 15. We can't bring fielding into this equation because of lack of stats but the point is that a lack of quality allrounders is leading to sharing of burden across a lot of other roles. South Africa with JK means that it can still afford specialization. [[ I think there is enough stuff in what you say to think of a dedicated article. Over the years, how the roles of the players have changed. Then we could have a complete set of tables and discussions would naturally follow. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Ananth on (September 12, 2012, 19:08 GMT)

Vikram Given below is the wicket-keeper batting average table. It is quite clear that upto 1970, the wicket-keeper averages have been on the lower side. Now these are very good and almost match the overall batting averages. There was an unexplained dip during the 1980s.

Wicket keeper batting averages across periods
Period     BatAvg W-Inns W-Nos W-Runs W-Avge
1877-1914   23.06   440    85    5836  16.44
1920-1939   31.40   429    81    8202  23.57
1946-1959   28.81   635    86   11653  21.23
1960-1969   30.82   588    73   12150  23.59
1970-1979   30.77   624    83   14764  27.29
1980-1989   30.46   773   109   15696  23.64
1990-1999   29.46  1086   135   25952  27.29
2000-2009   32.02  1490   180   41809  31.92
2010-2012   32.30   357    41    9754  30.87
   All      30.18  6422   873  145816  26.28

Posted by Vikram on (September 12, 2012, 13:42 GMT)

@Ananth, while this has to be one of your top-nothc analyses, the fact remains that the results at the top were very clear - gilchrist and boucher are way ahead of others on most statistcial parameters. There can be some debate about the best innings but there is not much to debate here or to excite (apart from Akmal). Unfortunate, as it really was informative. One thing that clearly stands out is the revised role of the wicketkeeper, from a specialist to an all rounder. I believe it would be interesting to see the ratio of avg scores by wicket keepers by decade vs. the ratio of avg scores of specialist bowlers by decade. I guess CS Martin is the only remaining specialist in the WK/bowler category. [[ Good point when you see the difference in batting stats between Grout/Langley/Evans/Tamhane and Gilchrist/Boucher/Dhoni/Akmal. Will do at least the wicket-keeper averages across the decades and post the sumamry table. Ananth: ]]

Posted by milpand on (September 12, 2012, 10:55 GMT)

Vous parlez très bien français. [[ Beatles being my all-time favourite gpoup, I knew that "très bien ensemble" meant "put together very nicely" or something to that effect. "Vous parlaiz" means you speak. So I think you mean "You speak French very nicely". Merci, Milind. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Gerry_the_Merry on (September 12, 2012, 5:02 GMT)

Ananth, thanks a ton! This clears up a number of things. I would suggest considering % instead of absolute delta for IInd inn, so that the Ist inn total becomes an input. Similarly, the 3rd Inn of 250 would generally represent a challenging target, but perhaps the Ist, IInd inn can be considered as input. In any case, perhaps you will open up a full blooded discussion on this later. So let me not pull this away from the topic. [[ The advantage with an absolute number instead of % is that it works well almost always: whether the first batting team scored 100 or 400. I am assuming that the second batting team would, in most cases, go for a win. A defensive attitude must come only if the target becomes wholloy unrealistic, in other words, facing 500+. In fact I have middle situations where the target is nothing more or less than the first innings score itself: in other words, to just match. I also feel that whether the 1st and 2nd innings scores are 100 & 100 or 400 & 400, the target in third innings must be 250. 100 & 100 should not set too low a target. If we ignore a match like Test # 9 (63, 101, 122 and 77), in almost all situations 250 is a very good winnable target. Nor should 400 & 400, require a high target, in view of the time lapsed. 400 & 400 might take 3 days in which case 400 is a defensive drawish move. 250 is a competitive win-seeking move. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Gerry_the_Merry on (September 11, 2012, 17:00 GMT)

Ananth, to emphasize winning matches is correct. I myself fully support this approach. But like all approaches, this is not perfect either. 1) In Ist innings, the batsman has no target, and two identical innings may lead to different results for the team. The same thing can happen in the IInd inn also, but the smaller length of time remaining means such divergence will be theoretically subdued. [[ I work with clear targets in all innings. The first innings target is notional, say 400. It is the duty of batsmen to reach/or exceed the target. The extent to which they help their teams do it will determine the value. The fact that a team could score 153 and win the match does not and should come in at this stage. The second innings target is clear. It is set at a number between "first innings score - 200" to "first innings score + 200". The basis is obvious. It is silly to set a target of 1103 at Oval in 1938. The third innings target is very clear. It is to set a lead of 250. The fourth innings target is outstandingly clear. It is the difference + 1. While some of these may be notional these help define the innings. Ananth: ]] 2) Against teams like West Indies, the opposition was lucky just to take the odd test off them. By the results criteria, since teams always lost to them, most good innings would be filtered out. [[ Possible. But these good innings will come through if they are that good. If Fed has a 90% winning record at Wimbledon, it is that much more difficult to win against Fed there and the winners woould be recognized. Ananth: ]] Perhaps a refinement could be to weight the winning results points in an innings rating according to the opposition quality, since that analysis by you is complete. [[ It is already built in. There is a "win bonus" point which is determined based on the difference in quality between the two teams and the location. Finally, whatever I do, truly great losing cause efforts ALWAYS come through. In my current Ratings table, hopefully will see the daylight before the end of the year, it is impossible to take Astle's 222 off the top-10 or Laxman's 167 off the top-100. But the innings have to be, pardon my french, bloody bloody good. Ananth: ]]

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Anantha Narayanan
Anantha spent the first half of his four-decade working career with corporates like IBM, Shaw Wallace, NCR, Sime Darby and the Spinneys group in IT-related positions. In the second half, he has worked on cricket simulation, ratings, data mining, analysis and writing, amongst other things. He was the creator of the Wisden 100 lists, released in 2001. He has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket, and worked extensively with Maruti Motors, Idea Cellular and Castrol on their performance ratings-related systems. He is an armchair connoisseur of most sports. His other passion is tennis, and he thinks Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman to have walked on earth.

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