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BJ Watling's match behind the stumps at Lord's came to an early end with a knee injury, but he had enjoyed an excellent outing with the gloves on a ground that has caught out many a keeper. Over the last 12 months he has become a central part of New Zealand's Test line up with bat and gloves, but he won't be shouting about it from the rooftops as Andrew Alderson explains in the New Zealand Herald
Watling doesn't publicly trumpet his achievements. Even on the field he could best be observed as buoyant or chirpy rather than extrovert. He appears reticent as far as keepers go, preferring to hear the thud of ball swallowed by gloves than his own voice. Besides, his statistics are doing the talking.
S Ram Mahesh, writing in the Sportstar, explores the phenomenon whereby the preference is for wicketkeepers who can contribute with the bat over those who are better at their primary role. A batting average of 32 for wicketkeepers after 2000 is significantly higher than that of 24 in the preceding 123 years, and it tells a story.
It was long known that the pure glovesman had disappeared, taking with him the mutton-chop whiskers he cultivated on his cheeks and the patchwork gloves into which, to better protect his palms, he slipped steaks of meat. But it's now clear that even the 'keeper-batsman who raised the level of his craft while swinging a subversive bat (Alan Knott, Rod Marsh, Jeff Dujon, Wasim Bari, Syed Kirmani, Ian Healy, Jack Russell, Adam Parore and Mark Boucher, for example) is facing obsolescence.
The reasons for teams to choose the better batsman over the better 'keeper -- indeed sometimes even convince a batsman to take up 'keeping -- aren't difficult to understand. Teams are forever chasing balance. And with the scarcity of genuine all-rounders, it is the wicketkeeper's spot that captains and coaches eye. Apparently it's easier to develop a 'keeper who can get by than a bowler who can take wickets or control runs.