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Cricketers reflect on their lives and times

Ian Healy

'Keeping is a bit lonely'

The former Australian keeper on what attracted him to the gloves, giving up weekends for his kids, getting stared at by David Boon, and more

Interview by Nagraj Gollapudi

March 18, 2012

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

Ian Healy, January 1, 2006
"Cricket is such a small part of my life. I hope I will be remembered for more than cricket" © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Players/Officials: Ian Healy
Teams: Australia

I don't miss wicketkeeping. I miss the practice for the feeling of fitness that it gives you.

The way not to make a mistake is to think properly and put your fear aside. The good players are able to do that, to just turn the fear into a little bit of anxiety.

Cricket gave me the chance to travel and become more worldly.

With wicketkeeping you need to repeat the fundamentals every ball: being in a good body position and watching the ball. Not the bat, just watch the ball and react to the ball. You'll react to anything that's gonna happen if you're in a good body position.

I grew up in a little town, Biloela, in the centre of Queensland which didn't have too many outside influences.

Wicketkeeping is a bit thankless and a bit lonely: if you're doing badly, you have to work it out yourself a lot of the time.

Sledging is not a positive thing; you can't condone it. But I also don't mind seeing it happen at times - just isolated outbursts, because that tells me that international cricket is still very important to people.

I was nine years old, watching another kid during practice for a team we were trying out for, and something clicked. I liked what I saw: might've been the extra attention he was getting or the extra catching he was getting. I took up wicketkeeping from then onwards.

You get what you deserve. You don't get what you want.

The crouched position is not very important in wicketkeeping; it's the one where you come out of the crouch that's important. That's hard to maintain for long periods because you need leg strength and you need to make sure you're not putting too much stress on your back.

It's tradition that sportsmen are role models, and also a little unfair. I'll have no problems with a cricketer saying, "Listen, kids, don't follow my lead. I want you to watch my cricket, but I am not a role model to follow." Something like Dennis Rodman in basketball.

The bowler I liked keeping to best was Shane Warne. There was always something happening.

My parents just gave up their weekends, basically, for our cricket, and I have only realised that, having become a parent - how hard it is to give up your weekends, to give up your life for your kids. They did it every weekend, winter and summer, for cricket and football.

I didn't take defeat too badly. If you can compete and prepare very well and play even pretty well and come close to doing your job, well then, I've got no problems if we lose.

Wicketkeeping is unknown and that's why it can be perceived as underrated.

My definition of Australianism: prepare very well, play really hard, and commiserate and celebrate very well.

When I started my career David Boon used to stand at short leg and just stare at me and the batsman. And I thought, "Oh, I don't think Boonie likes me." He didn't say much at all and it distracted me. He could bluff the opposition with his body language.

Directness is a virtue of mine.

It's great to have some defeats that you can remember, and things that hurt because it makes the good times sweeter.

Once Dad took us to a game in which Keith Stackpole scored a double-hundred. I ran out on the field and patted him on the back and was trampled on my way back. That was fun.

Money has to be secondary otherwise you won't last long in the game.

Discipline in minor things is extremely important. Things like punctuality, wearing the right uniform as a team, making the bus on time and making it to meetings on time are really important. Make sure everyone is on the same page so that when the team comes under pressure, they'll be together.

Merv Hughes was a very effective larrikin. He had the ability to create noise and relax the whole dressing room.

Young cricketers today are more dependent on coaches than they were earlier. I just hope we don't form a dependence on coaches because one thing that has fallen by the wayside is good captains.

Cricket is such a small part of my life; I hope I will be remembered for more than cricket.

If you have fun, you have half a chance of being successful.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

This interview was first published in the print version of the Cricinfo Magazine

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by ygkd on (March 21, 2012, 10:36 GMT)

The question was asked by Busie1979 about what is done today that is not as good as it was? Well, I'd point to the hoover technique - spreading your gloves like a Japanese fan in order to stop the ball. The fielder who used to stop the ball was called a backstop. Keepers are suposed to take it. They used cupped hands partly because with old-style gloves you'd be more likely to break your fingers with the fan technique and partly because it is a surefire way of lacking the necessary softness of hands and allowing the ball to bobble around or pop out, at least if over-used. The best overseas keepers only partly use such a technique, but some in Oz seem to know no other way. So that and poor footwork are the two things, oh and poor rising from a squat to make it three, I'd say have changed since "keepers couldn't bat". Except when was that? The 1st ever Test 200 - made by a batsman who would have kept but for an exceptional alternative. Then there was Les Ames, Clyde Walcott....

Posted by Riders2966 on (March 20, 2012, 11:24 GMT)

@ youngkeepersdad - my memory is fading, and I don't have any materials where I am (they may be stored away somewhere else that I can't easily access right now - I'm overseas), but I think it was something like 4 for a stumping, 1 for a catch and -0.1 for a bye ... and we probably averaged a stumping a game together - so not hard to do the maths - all else being equal - and they were very thankful to me when they got their award! But leaving the "leg spin bias" aside, the fact that they had an award was a great encouragement for wicketkeepers to keep at it! I hope, with or without awards, your young bloke gets the support and encouragement he needs - and hey, maybe one day we'll be speaking of him alongside of Healy and Gilchrist!

Posted by ygkd on (March 20, 2012, 11:21 GMT)

Ian Smith was an exceptional keeper who could give the ball a thump when batting. Best Kiwi wk I've ever seen. Early movement was his thing. Too many today chuck themselves around because they never learnt to read the ball well. Smith reads keepers as well as he read the ball, that's why he says interesting things. I'd be interested in his opinion on whether or not keeping standards have declined. I certainly reckon they took a thumping from all the limited overs stuff and may take a second one later this decade, in Oz at least. Mind you, the Oz selectors could help more. Why is Hartley not in the Windies?

Posted by Meety on (March 20, 2012, 2:33 GMT)

@Busie1979 - don't know that it so much about dropping standards, but more about an emphasis on batting skills > keeping skills? Also - as far as commentating, this summer we have had a bit of Ian Smith, & I would say he knows a thing or two about keeping.

Posted by Busie1979 on (March 19, 2012, 23:39 GMT)

There is an assumption that the standard of keeping is not as good as it used to be when keepers couldn't bat. This is an assumption with little hard evidence and many people who make these statements don't point to anything specific or objective. I think it is hard to compare keepers unless one is obviously making a lot of mistakes. If keepers are not as good now, what were they doing 20 years ago that they are not doing today? I would imagine with the emphasis on fielders hitting the stumps rather than throwing the ball to the keeper to take the bails off means that they have less opportunity to use these skills. But then, batsman are more likely to take risky runs so there is probably more run out opportunities. Is it a question of technique? If so, what is wrong with the technique of current keepers? Are keepers dropping more catches? Not getting to catches? Letting through more byes?

Posted by hhillbumper on (March 19, 2012, 19:16 GMT)

best wicket keeper in the world after jack Russell.Some of his stumpings were phenomenal. Shame the standard went down after him.

Posted by   on (March 19, 2012, 15:05 GMT)

The way Healy kept in the 90's to guys like Warne & Bevan was brilliant. In those days Warne had a bigger arsenal of deliveries and really ripped it, whilst Bevan got huge turn but lacked control in both cases making Healy's job tougher than Gilchrist's (not taking anything away from Gilly). The fact that it was Gilchrist that took over from Healy, I believe has meant that Healy's ability has often been overlooked when people talk about the great keepers of the modern era. He was also a very handy batsman who often made his runs when the chips were down.

Posted by stormy16 on (March 19, 2012, 12:44 GMT)

Unfortunately for me Healy is the guy who kept out Gilly till Gilly was over 25 to make his debut for Aus - not that its Healy's fault, he was very good which is why Gilly didnt get a look in but I felt the Australians should have got Gilly in earlier. Healy was a great player and made handy runs in the context of his time where the old fashioned keeper was at best a handy batsman.

Posted by vertical on (March 19, 2012, 11:00 GMT)

Man,keeping is so tough...you really need good strong leg and back muscles to prop up every time and its also the most important position just look at Pakistan's keepers and how many games they have lost because of them.(Sydney test comes to mind)

Posted by ygkd on (March 19, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

cont: The hardest thing for a 15/16yo wk making their way in serious seniors is opening the batting as well. And everyone expects it, post Kalu and Gilchrist. Try 70 overs keeping, then go out and face the best opening bowlers in the league and see them off to stumps... Yeah that deserves an award.

Posted by ygkd on (March 19, 2012, 10:49 GMT)

Riders2966 - I don't know of any league anywhere in our vicinity that treats stumpings higher than catches for awards whether it's juniors or seniors (and I never specified one level or the other in previous post). Reckon they could give double points for stumpings though. Good teenage keepers should be encouraged with handling spinners and playing amongst adults - Gilchrist's senior debut was at 12 which is not too young if you've had a few years of skills development (movement mostly) and don't play every game at first - by 14/15 experienced enough for A-grade (I think Gilchrist was there by then). What I was saying was simply that it is quite possible for a top 15/16 year old to have the best glovework in an A-grade comp and have a bare trophy cabinet. That wouldn't happen with a young batting or bowling "sensation". Just goes with the territory. Don't do it if you need to be noticed! It is the least understood of all cricket skills. Yes, it is lonely, especially for a teen.

Posted by Raghu003 on (March 19, 2012, 10:19 GMT)

Healy is a wonderful wicket keeper... Loved watchinh him behind the stumps... "Money is secondary" to a sportsman... I love this point... 100% true... :)

Posted by Busie1979 on (March 19, 2012, 5:32 GMT)

@kickittome70 - What makes Healy a bad commentator? I think Healy is a great commentator. He is the only commentator who can speak with authority about the wicket-keeping on display. He notices things about keepers that the rest of us (including all the other commentators) don't notice - and therefore provides something different. He is also very even-handed in his comments and doesn't seem to get carried away. For example, he gets on Haddin's case when Haddin isn't keeping well, and praises Haddin when Haddin is keeping well. I find it interesting that while most of us are on the Wade bandwagon, and despite the public having turned on Haddin, he still thinks Wade is not yet at Haddin's level with the gloves at this stage of his development. He is not biased like some commentators - eg. Ian Chappell, who clearly has his favourites and is more than willing to publicly lobby for them while he masquerades as a guy who provides objective "analysis".

Posted by   on (March 19, 2012, 4:07 GMT)

Great player. Set the standard for keeping in the 90's and certainly helped raise the keeping bar! Surprised t osee not many people enjoying Heals as a commentator. I think he is one of the more impartial of the CHannel 9 team! ALso enjoyed his biography called "Hands & Heals". Great read and a good honest reflection of one of the ledgends of the game!

Posted by JesseV on (March 18, 2012, 23:01 GMT)

He looks like he is breathing in, in the photo! haha. Nice article/ interview though.

Posted by dsig3 on (March 18, 2012, 11:30 GMT)

I wish you were still keeping..........so you would not be commentating. Best keeper I ever saw, on any team. People say a good keeper doesn't get noticed, but Healy was that good that he did. Unfortunately, you cant be just a keeper anymore and expect to have an international career, Gilchrist saw to that.

Posted by Riders2966 on (March 18, 2012, 9:17 GMT)

Thanks for the interview - lovely to see this side of our sportspeople - especially when he says "Cricket is such a small part of my life. I hope I will be remembered for more than cricket". To youngkeepersdad, I'm a bit out of touch with current junior cricket, but when I played in the late 70s/early 80s, I was bowling legspin (before Warney popularised it), and our district gave a "Best Wicketkeeper Award" - and in almost every year my Keeper won it primarily because a stumping was given so many more points than a catch or the negative points given for byes. Hopefully with or without awards, there are enough young keepers coming through who want to live by the values of a Healy or Gilchrist.

Posted by RandyOZ on (March 18, 2012, 8:40 GMT)

Great keeper to Warney. Gilly was also very good to Warne with quick reflexes. Then we got Haddin, what a massive fall from grace for Australian keeping!

Posted by Raginggbull on (March 18, 2012, 6:01 GMT)

Ian healy. You're the one of the Best wicket keeper happened to this sport. I still remember the super-reflex-backdiving-catch you hold for Jayasuriya. Amazing scene still fresh in my mind.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2012, 5:45 GMT)

"I didn't take defeat too badly. If you can compete and prepare very well and play even pretty well and come close to doing your job, well then, I've got no problems if we lose." -- that's a great quote and a great philosophy.

Posted by Nadeem1976 on (March 18, 2012, 5:29 GMT)

I grew up watching Ian healy. He was thorough professional and really a hardworking cricketer. He was not as talented as Ghilchrist but he was the best wicket keeper in the world in 90s.

I say thanks to Ian Heally for giving Pakistan a great victory in test series in Karachi in 1993. It was the biggest blooper in test cricket in 90's. It was heavenly way of losing the sight of the ball. Some angel played trick with healy at that time. Thanks again.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2012, 4:51 GMT)

loved it, thank you! Heals was the best keeper I have seen in my 40-odd years of watching cricket and I've also never seen a more determined bat than he.

Posted by kickittome70 on (March 18, 2012, 4:42 GMT)

Healy was a much better keeper than a commentator

Posted by Gizza on (March 18, 2012, 3:48 GMT)

Lovely interview. I definitely agree about the requirement that you need strong leg muscles to be a good wicketkeeper for the crouch position and to spring into another position quickly. Particularly hammies, quads and glutes. The invention of the modern chair style toilet and the decline in the squatting toilet hasn't done any favours but at least there is the gym. Even better just keep on practising on the ground or in the nets. The small reaction time needed to change from squat to full-stretched dive may be the most important skill of a wicketkeeper. That and probably the ability to predict the ball's bounce, swing and spin coming off the pitch.

Posted by 07sanjeewakaru on (March 18, 2012, 3:39 GMT)

"If you have fun, you have half a chance of being successful."That's quote Mr.Healy.Thank you.

Posted by ygkd on (March 18, 2012, 3:33 GMT)

Keeping is a bit lonely. You have to be self-reliant. And not motivated by trophies and awards. Club/league batting trophies and bowling trophies abound, but have you ever seen many wikkie ones? Even the fielding ones tend to exclude keepers. That's partly because it's so hard to define success. Is it minimum byes conceded per 100 overs/100 runs, is it wickets taken, or percentage of your teams' wickets taken, or chances not missed, or stumpings taken? The last one is generally a good guide (provided there are genuine spinners to operate with). Healy was lucky. He had Warne. Warne was also lucky. He had Healy (then Gilchrist). Both were brilliant combinations. Anyway, good article. Gee, yesterday (or perhaps the day before) I heard a broadcast with Ian Smith saying NZ should retain van Wikkie on his form with the gloves and now this about Heals - almost unprecedented exposure for the glove-bearers!

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