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August 15, 2007
Ian Chappell, the former Australian captain, has delivered a withering verdict on the standard of English wicketkeeping, and believes that England will never regain the Ashes so long as men of the standard of Matt Prior and Geraint Jones are selected in the Test side.
Prior endured a desperate match in the series decider at The Oval, dropping both Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman in the course of India's first innings of 664, and speaking to Cricinfo at the end of the match, Chappell was scathing about his abilities.
"I cannot see how England are going to win against decent sides with a wicketkeeper who is woeful," said Chappell. "An old skipper of mine, Les Favell, said that once a wicketkeeper starts costing you games, he's got to go, Matthew Prior is in that category for me."
For Prior, it is a far cry from the acclaim he received at the start of the summer, when he scored a flamboyant debut century against West Indies and was being seen in some quarters as the answer to England's prayers. Chappell, however, did not pretend to be one of his admirers.
"It's alright for some ex-players and scribes to say anyone can have a bad match, but you've got to see something there for the future, and I think Prior is so far off being an international wicketkeeper at Test level. One-day matches, he'll probably be terrific and that's fine, but Tests? Forget it."
Chappell, who played alongside one of the game's greats in Rod Marsh, was particularly critical of Prior's footwork as a wicketkeeper, and felt that it reflected badly on England's new coach, Peter Moores, who was Prior's mentor at Sussex. "I'm told [ Moores] has had Prior since the Under-13s and if that's the footwork from that coach from U-13 to now, they've got a problem.
"England have got to seriously look at how they judge wicketkeepers, because they are making huge mistakes," said Chappell. "What we've seen lately with Jones and Prior just isn't going to work. They got very lucky in the Ashes in 2005, and got away with that, but they've got to revisit the way they select wicketkeepers.
"No way in the world are they going to win against Australia with a wicketkeeper that like. He's going to let somebody off - Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke - and boy, you're going to pay heavily for that."
India's own wicketkeeper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, entered this series with some question-marks about his ability at the highest level, but Chappell believes he's left his English counterpart trailing in his wake.
"Dhoni is rough and ready but I see the basis there for some improvement," said Chappell. "He's pretty good standing up to [Anil] Kumble and does a decent job. The difference is I see a future in what Dhoni is doing. I don't see any future as a Test-match wicketkeeper in what Prior is doing."
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