Kieswetter eyes Prior example
From being England's first-choice one-day wicketkeeper, Craig Kieswetter now faces a summer on the county circuit trying to force his way back into international contention. But he is refusing to dwell on the disappointments of the India tour and is using the example of a fellow England gloveman as inspiration in his attempts to return.
Matt Prior rounded off his winter with a match-saving hundred in Auckland to cap a tour, following on from an impressive series in India, that elevated him to the position of being arguably the finest wicketkeeper-batsman in Test cricket. However, Prior, as Kieswetter is experiencing now, went through a period where people questioned his credentials at the top level when he was dropped after the Sri Lanka tour in 2007.
It was Prior's glovework that was the key reason for his demotion - he was averaging 40.14 when he was left out but had dropped a raft a chances - whereas for Kieswetter the axe came because of a lack of runs in the middle order. Yet while the situations differ somewhat, Prior's return to the Test scene, and subsequent rise in standing among his associates, shows what can be achieved.
"Matt Prior changed his game completely and made himself into the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world, that in itself is an inspiration," Kieswetter told ESPNcricinfo. "It's great to see a player who has gone through a patch like that and come out of the other side where the grass is so much greener."
Not that Kieswetter has suddenly been forgotten by England - that does not happen in the current set up. He was named in the 30-man performance squad for the summer then the 30-man preliminary squad for the Champions Trophy and while neither have much meaning in the bigger picture, the England set-up do not just toss players aside. Kieswetter continues to work with Bruce French, the England wicketkeeping coach, someone he says he has great "trust" with.
The disappointment of being dropped lingered with Kieswetter for a little while - it would be a surprise if it hadn't - but the rapidly approaching county season allowed him to quickly switch his focus back to cricket in an environment at Somerset where he feels extremely secure and well supported. He made 72 in the opening match against Durham batting at No. 3 before moving down the order following Alvrio Petersen's arrival.
"Any time a player gets dropped they have got to get over that," he said. "But I've got a club to be around who can provide the structure I felt I needed. It's been a good start to the summer and hopefully that can bear some fruit towards the end."
There is, however, a tricky dynamic that has development at Somerset; a challenge for Dave Nosworthy, the new director of cricket, to confront. Kieswetter's replacement in the England side was Jos Buttler, his Somerset team-mate, and now both men have begun the season eager to take the gloves - for obvious reasons. Ashley Giles, the England limited-overs coach, has been in contact with the county but has said he will not interfere.
Kieswetter has started with the gloves in the Championship, but it remains to be seen who does the role when the Yorkshire Bank 40, and later the Twenty20, begins. It seems likely that Buttler will be first choice in coloured clothes with Kieswetter having to bide his time until the former is on international duty for his chance.
"It's going fine at the moment," he said. "We have a policy and a game plan at the club and that's something we are dealing with in house. We are pretty confident and comfortable with the situation.
"It's good to have a few keepers around the side, we can work together and feed off each other," he added. "When you have training days it's great to work together, share ideas, and we are all good friends. I think that's really important not just for improving your game but also building your character. At times keeping can be a lonely place, a bit like a goalkeeper I guess, but it's a very rewarding job and one that I love doing."
Chance to Shine ambassador Craig Kieswetter was helping to promote the 'play hard, play fair' message of MCC Spirit of Cricket. Chance to Shine has brought cricket to over 1.8 million state schoolchildren. The programme costs £5million, or £15 per child, to run each year. To make a donation visit www.chancetoshine.org
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo