Bob Taylor: 'Pick a wicketkeeper for his ability to keep'
Bob Taylor, the former England wicketkeeper, has criticised the modern tendency of picking batsman-wicketkeepers and blamed the trend for the poor quality of wicketkeeping during the England-India Test series.
"You pick a wicketkeeper for his wicketkeeping ability," Taylor said in an interview to Cricinfo. "When you've got somebody like Adam Gilchrist who can bat and keep wicket then you are very lucky, but if the decision is marginal I'll always go for a wicketkeeper-batsman rather than a batsman-wicketkeeper."
The England-India Tests have been marred by poor keeping from both sides, especially by Matt Prior, the England keeper. "An inferior wicketkeeper is always found out," Taylor said, "and there can be a costly miss, like Prior's drop of Tendulkar in the first innings at The Oval last week."
Prior's poor run with the bat against India probably had a part to play in his problems behind the stumps, Taylor said. "That is definitely playing on his mind."
Taylor pointed out that it came as a bit of a surprise that Prior struggled in English conditions. "If it is an overseas wicketkeeper, like Dhoni, who hasn't had a lot of experience keeping in England, then you can understand it because the ball definitely deviates off the seam and through the air more in England than it does abroad, due to the atmospheric conditions."
Prior's lack of footwork has been among his biggest problems, Taylor said. "When you stand back to seam bowlers, you've got to move your feet and get your body behind the line of the ball."
Prior was particularly exposed when it came to collecting balls that went down the leg side. Taylor believed this was due to a late response to the line of the ball. "As soon as you see the line of the ball going down the leg side, start to move," he advised. "Don't wait for it to go past the batsman, otherwise that's too late."
"Duncan Fletcher thought it was easier to make Geraint Jones into a Test wicketkeeper than it was to make Chris Read, who Jones took over from, into a Test batsman," Taylor said, criticising the tendency of captains and coaches to pick batsmen-wicketkeepers.
"Why was Geraint Jones dropped? Because of poor batting form. Ironically his wicketkeeping improved somewhat but he wasn't getting runs, so obviously the press boys criticised him as they are doing Prior now."
Taylor also blamed the influence of one-day cricket for the vulnerability displayed by many modern wicketkeepers while keeping to spin bowlers. "A lot of wicketkeepers stand back because the captains are bowling quick bowlers all the time, so they don't get much chance to stand up to the stumps."
Wicketkeepers keeping up a constant stream of chatter from behind the stumps also came in for criticism from Taylor. "It's a load of rubbish, because while you are doing that you are not concentrating on your job. It is totally out of order in my book and not part of the game."