Wicketkeeper December 4, 2009

Can keep, can score

South Africa's top keepers have all mostly been more than capable with the bat
38

The thoroughly English notion of a wicketkeeper who can't hold a bat doesn't wash in the South African cricket consciousness. If the keeper is a liability as a batsman, he's simply a liability. This is probably because South African innings so often need rescuing, and who better to do so than the team's de facto sergeant-major.

So much so that the five fine glovemen our jury have included in their shortlist could all be considered allrounders. In fact, Denis Lindsay and Johnny Waite were probably better known and more appreciated for their batting feats than for keeping it tidy.

Similarly, Mark Boucher is destined to be remembered as the straight arrow who convinced Herschelle Gibbs to tell the truth about match-fixing to the King Commission, as the young turk who stood tall in only his second Test to share a world record ninth-wicket stand with Pat Symcox, as a champion hoarder of records of every description, as a batsman for the big moment, and as someone who you just don't want to mess with. Keeping? Yeah, he did a bit of that, too.

Nevertheless, South Africa has produced some of the finest stumpers ever to crouch behind the wicket.

Isolation victim Ray Jennings flew through the air with the greatest of ease and came up with the ball more often than not.

Steven Palframan was a world-class acrobat, who will forever be the klutz who dropped Brian Lara early in his superb 111 in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final. Palframan was haunted by the incident for years afterwards, insisting that the ball had bounced and admitting to spending hours in front of his television replaying the catch that might have been.

Wendell Bossenger - rightfully honoured as one of the SA Mutual and Federal Annual's Five Cricketers of the Year in 2009 - coulda, woulda, shoulda made the leap to international level. Alas, he faded from view when Griqualand West found themselves frozen out of the top flight at the dawn of the franchise era.

Nic Pothas looked, walked and talked like the real thing, and put in the hard yards early in a career that, unfortunately for him, coincided with Boucher's. Pothas is now an ersatz Englishman.

Boucher still looms so large on the wicketkeeping landscape in his country that South Africans struggle to see past him. And that despite the fact that he turns 33 on December 3 and no one else's knees have ever had to put up with 126 Test matches as a keeper.

But who will replace him? Thami Tsolekile is a spent force and AB de Villiers is reluctant. The South African selectors signalled their intent this season when they shone their light on Heino Kuhn, a busy young man not short on confidence. Who knows whether he might one day end up on a list like the one below? For now, these are our contenders for the best of South Africa's wicketkeepers.

Mark Boucher
Jut-jawed, big-shouldered, hard-headed and almost maniacally competitive, he is a pit bull made human. Few share his brand of never-say-die spirit, but many will miss it when he calls time on a legendary career.

Johnny Waite
The Humphrey Bogart of glovemen. Lean, urbane, confident, as a nephew of Eric Rowan should be. Kept immaculately on one side of the crease, and batted bravely on the other.

Jock Cameron
Wisden eulogised him as a "very fine personality". For those who knew him less well, his stumpings were akin to a single beat of a hummingbird's wing, and he hit the ball as if it had insulted his mother.

Denis Lindsay
Few men have batted with such obvious enjoyment as Lindsay did, hooking and driving like a 10-year-old in his back garden. Except that he middled the ball rather more often than a novice, and held his catches like a master.

Dave Richardson
Belonged to an era when cricketers still had real jobs - in his case, as a lawyer. Was an utterly dependable fixture behind the stumps for seven years after South Africa's return from isolation. Truly gritty as a batsman.

We'll be publishing an all-time South Africa XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your wicketkeeper click here

Telford Vice made his Test debut as a cricket writer in Barbados in 1992 - the match that marked the end of South Africa's isolation

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ygkd on December 7, 2009, 23:06 GMT

    It is sad to see the decline of true wicketkeeping as an art form. Boucher is called "The Poucher" because he can only really catch. His stumping ability is poor and his performance in the World XI fiasco in Sydney against quality spinners was substandard. Sanga would have done a better job. It is doubly sad as SAf once had quality spinners and keepers. This is a best of team. How would Boucher go with Faulkener or Tayfield? Badly, I suspect. Therefore, Lindsay would be a far better bet. I'm not against keepers being good bats. There's nothing new in that. Les Ames managed both decades ago. But, they should first and foremost be keepers. The true test of a keeper is not just his catching and especially not consistently diving one-handed.

  • HampshireCricketFan on December 6, 2009, 14:15 GMT

    I would say Denis Lindsay. One thing on the South African keeper front that has amazed me is how long Boucher has remained in the current setup. When Richardson vacated the keep position I have never got why Nic Pothas was not selected to replace Richardson. As a regular spectator at Hampshire matches his batting is class, his keeping is tidy and his presence is constant. His career statistics not only match Bouchers but in some aspects far exceed them. Boucher is now way past it.

  • Clodbuster on December 6, 2009, 12:54 GMT

    Denis Lindsay everytime. Originally selected as a middle order BATSMAN (Boucher began at 9) and then pushed Johnny Waite into retirement in an era when keeping ability was more important than batting prowess. His stumping of Colin Cowdrey was incredibly quick and he kept to a battery of fast bowlers. He marmalised the Australian bowling with his batting - not many will do that.

  • Curlybrownitem on December 5, 2009, 20:20 GMT

    I know we're getting slightly off the subject, and that everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but really, Boucher and Gilchrist the best 2 keepers of all time? One could write a long list of better keepers, but let's just mention Alan Knott, Bob Taylor, Wasim Bari and Godfrey Evans. Different class.

  • Go_F.Alonso on December 5, 2009, 19:39 GMT

    MY VOTE GOES TO BOUCHER THE POUCHER - not just for for hitting the winning boundary in that historic chase of 434.

    @atifashrafbaig - you comment on Dhoni with a username like that? You rule yourself out mate.

  • Nipun on December 5, 2009, 14:32 GMT

    Mark Boucher is good,but nowhere near the likes of Gilchrist,Sangakkara,& Dhoni(in this order).Period.

  • manasvi.lingam on December 5, 2009, 4:47 GMT

    Percy Sherwell ought to have definitely been in the shortlist, ahead of Richardson. He averaged pretty much the same (in an era when most keepers averaged around 10-20) and was regarded very highly by his contemporaries.

  • Curlybrownitem on December 4, 2009, 23:20 GMT

    I'm lucky enough to have seen Denis Lindsay - a better keeper and better batsman than Boucher who (like Boucher) got his runs when they were really needed. His batting feats against Australia in 1967 were on a par with Botham's in 1981. Perhaps he didn't keep to spin as much as, say, Waite but, in this team, he probably wouldn't need to. I didn't see Waite but if, as BoundryWarrior says, he was a better keeper than Lindsay, he must have been very good indeed. But my choice has to be Lindsay.

  • Coolmanforlife on December 4, 2009, 22:36 GMT

    MY VOTE GOES TO LINDSEY

  • Ozcricketwriter on December 4, 2009, 22:33 GMT

    Mark Richardson was a great keeper but the era of Boucher/Gilchrist was the most fantastic of all time, where you had the 2 best keepers in history fighting off against each other for records for most dismissals in an innings, most in a match, most average dismissals per match and generally brilliant. While Gilchrist was often hounded by the unfair "batsman/keeper" tag, because of his at times brilliant batting, that led some to pretend that he wasn't a great keeper in his own right, Boucher had no such problems. For Boucher, though, he surprisingly lost his place, seemingly for political reasons. It should not be forgotten that, whilst Boucher was no Gilchrist as a batsman, on his day he could strike very, very well, often batting as high as 6 in test cricket and sometimes opening in ODIs. Richardson is a distant 2nd and Boucher is easily the best.

  • ygkd on December 7, 2009, 23:06 GMT

    It is sad to see the decline of true wicketkeeping as an art form. Boucher is called "The Poucher" because he can only really catch. His stumping ability is poor and his performance in the World XI fiasco in Sydney against quality spinners was substandard. Sanga would have done a better job. It is doubly sad as SAf once had quality spinners and keepers. This is a best of team. How would Boucher go with Faulkener or Tayfield? Badly, I suspect. Therefore, Lindsay would be a far better bet. I'm not against keepers being good bats. There's nothing new in that. Les Ames managed both decades ago. But, they should first and foremost be keepers. The true test of a keeper is not just his catching and especially not consistently diving one-handed.

  • HampshireCricketFan on December 6, 2009, 14:15 GMT

    I would say Denis Lindsay. One thing on the South African keeper front that has amazed me is how long Boucher has remained in the current setup. When Richardson vacated the keep position I have never got why Nic Pothas was not selected to replace Richardson. As a regular spectator at Hampshire matches his batting is class, his keeping is tidy and his presence is constant. His career statistics not only match Bouchers but in some aspects far exceed them. Boucher is now way past it.

  • Clodbuster on December 6, 2009, 12:54 GMT

    Denis Lindsay everytime. Originally selected as a middle order BATSMAN (Boucher began at 9) and then pushed Johnny Waite into retirement in an era when keeping ability was more important than batting prowess. His stumping of Colin Cowdrey was incredibly quick and he kept to a battery of fast bowlers. He marmalised the Australian bowling with his batting - not many will do that.

  • Curlybrownitem on December 5, 2009, 20:20 GMT

    I know we're getting slightly off the subject, and that everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but really, Boucher and Gilchrist the best 2 keepers of all time? One could write a long list of better keepers, but let's just mention Alan Knott, Bob Taylor, Wasim Bari and Godfrey Evans. Different class.

  • Go_F.Alonso on December 5, 2009, 19:39 GMT

    MY VOTE GOES TO BOUCHER THE POUCHER - not just for for hitting the winning boundary in that historic chase of 434.

    @atifashrafbaig - you comment on Dhoni with a username like that? You rule yourself out mate.

  • Nipun on December 5, 2009, 14:32 GMT

    Mark Boucher is good,but nowhere near the likes of Gilchrist,Sangakkara,& Dhoni(in this order).Period.

  • manasvi.lingam on December 5, 2009, 4:47 GMT

    Percy Sherwell ought to have definitely been in the shortlist, ahead of Richardson. He averaged pretty much the same (in an era when most keepers averaged around 10-20) and was regarded very highly by his contemporaries.

  • Curlybrownitem on December 4, 2009, 23:20 GMT

    I'm lucky enough to have seen Denis Lindsay - a better keeper and better batsman than Boucher who (like Boucher) got his runs when they were really needed. His batting feats against Australia in 1967 were on a par with Botham's in 1981. Perhaps he didn't keep to spin as much as, say, Waite but, in this team, he probably wouldn't need to. I didn't see Waite but if, as BoundryWarrior says, he was a better keeper than Lindsay, he must have been very good indeed. But my choice has to be Lindsay.

  • Coolmanforlife on December 4, 2009, 22:36 GMT

    MY VOTE GOES TO LINDSEY

  • Ozcricketwriter on December 4, 2009, 22:33 GMT

    Mark Richardson was a great keeper but the era of Boucher/Gilchrist was the most fantastic of all time, where you had the 2 best keepers in history fighting off against each other for records for most dismissals in an innings, most in a match, most average dismissals per match and generally brilliant. While Gilchrist was often hounded by the unfair "batsman/keeper" tag, because of his at times brilliant batting, that led some to pretend that he wasn't a great keeper in his own right, Boucher had no such problems. For Boucher, though, he surprisingly lost his place, seemingly for political reasons. It should not be forgotten that, whilst Boucher was no Gilchrist as a batsman, on his day he could strike very, very well, often batting as high as 6 in test cricket and sometimes opening in ODIs. Richardson is a distant 2nd and Boucher is easily the best.

  • Maui3 on December 4, 2009, 22:10 GMT

    What nonsense claiming all of these as good batsman. Batting bravely and Grittily and "middled the ball" are all fluff words to hide the true value as a batsman. At the end of the day, only Denis Lindsay has a very good batting credential for a wicketkeeper. Rest of them are just decent. Boucher for his keeping credential over such a long time and Lindsay are the two in contention - IMHO. I'll go for Lindsey.

  • atifashrafbaig on December 4, 2009, 17:51 GMT

    who the hell is dhoni,boucher is the best

  • rson on December 4, 2009, 17:11 GMT

    Would really have no problem with any from among Cameron,Waite,Lindsay and Boucher.Unfortunately most posters tend to discard from consideration most of the non-current players.Boucher certainly has the fighting spirit onewould want but maybe all the others did too.Waite might have been the only one to have kept to a world-class spinner in Tayfield and pacemen in Adcock and Heine but that shouldn't eliminate any of the others.A hard pick but,all things considered,I'd probably go wirh Lindsay.

  • manasvi.lingam on December 4, 2009, 17:09 GMT

    @ patrick. Totally agree with you. There aren't many regular wicket-keepers who did as well as Lindsay in Tests. (ODIs is a different matter, with the likes of Dhoni and Sangakkara) However, as a batsman wicket-keeper, Andy Flower averaged 53.72 in 55 Tests as the designated wicket-keeper. (source: Statsguru) I don't think Richardson ought to be in this list.

  • Engle on December 4, 2009, 16:33 GMT

    The modern day cricketer collects buckets of runs, wickets and victims by virtue of the number of Tests they play. So, I would'nt use Bouchers accumulated aggregates as the deciding factor. What I do like about Lindsay is how he stood out with that 600+ run series against Australia, leading all batsmen IIRC and the highest series aggregate by a 'keeper. As well, with the plethora of all-rounders, I can envision the depth of batting and the tail will really wag with Lindsay in it's midst. So, Lindsay it is for me.

  • BASHGANG on December 4, 2009, 12:44 GMT

    my vote is for BOUCHER since i do not know about others.but in the international arena he has to compete with GILLY and DHONI

  • Patrick_Clarke on December 4, 2009, 12:16 GMT

    Denis Lindsay is head and shoulders above the rest. As a batsman/wicket keeper allrounder he'd only be second to Adam Gilchrist in my view, so that puts him ahead of Knott, Marsh, Healy, Dujon, Dhoni, Ames and the rest. He has my vote every time and would walk into the World XI if he'd been born 40 years later and was playing today - and I say that having just watched Dhoni's spectacular hundred against Sri Lanka today.

  • Nerk on December 4, 2009, 11:55 GMT

    Dave Richardson has to be the man. He is the underdogs underdog, a brilliant keeper and an underrated batter. Boucher is far too obvious a choice. Far too brilliant at batting and keeping. But Richardson, he is a true keeper.

  • lardster on December 4, 2009, 11:31 GMT

    What about Percy Sherwell. Best keeper in the world before the First War as well as captain. Finest hour was deciding to keep his pads on after batting at 11 and seeing his team forced to follow on. Opened the innings and hit a century in 75 minutes. This was in a Test against England in London in 1907.

  • BoundryWarrior on December 4, 2009, 10:58 GMT

    I was privileged to watch Lindsay destroy Australia in 1967 and 1970 and those who watched him could only marvel. A hard man who never took a backward step, as no self respecting keeper would, and took a lot of great catches those seasons. He would get my vote, although Boucher has a very enviable record, albeit that he has played a lot more Tests. I only heard about Johnny Waite who my dad says was a better keeper than Lindsay, but Lindsay would, on the strength of his batting play in my team..

  • MalikAftabAhmedAwan on December 4, 2009, 10:19 GMT

    With all the records in his bag how can we ignore Boucher. I feel sorry for Lindsay because he deserves to be in team but has to compete with Boucher. My vote is for Boucher.

  • shams44 on December 4, 2009, 9:26 GMT

    cant we include AB de Viliers in this list? He is a World class batsman and he is a wicket keeper too.. we have seen him keeping, and by the slip catching it proofs that he is also a good keeper so shouldn't we consider him?

  • KingKallis on December 4, 2009, 9:09 GMT

    Mark Boucher for me - a keeper who rarely missed a chance and holds the World Record for highest dismisscal in test cricket!

  • robheinen on December 4, 2009, 8:53 GMT

    I thought Mark Boucher was the only one who'd ever kept wicket for South Africa.....

  • BellCurve on December 4, 2009, 8:11 GMT

    Boucher holds the world record for the most dismissals in Test cricket. And only Gilchrist has scored more runs as a wicketkeeper. How on earth can you [vinnigefanie/buntyj] compare him to Russell Endean, a man who played just one Test as wicketkeeper? Anyway, I thought it was great article, easily the best so far in the SA AT XI series. Hopefully Boucher will get the vote. He is one of the toughest competitors the game has ever seen. And his list of achievements is five time longer than that of any of the other candidates.

  • ashishkumar36 on December 4, 2009, 7:09 GMT

    Its a very tough choice between Boucher and Lindsay. Lindsay has played less test matches in comparsion of Boucher, but he was very good batsman as well as keeper, Finally I'll go for Boucher.

  • vinnigefanie on December 4, 2009, 6:04 GMT

    Frankly, I am shocked by what I have read of the lists presented. Not only with the wicketkeepers but also the middle order batsmen. No Russell Endean in that list makes me wonder if those in this panel, or the readers know anything genuine about South African cricket. Jock, or Horace Cameron was a remarkable wicketkeeper cut down in his prime yet you get the feeling he is almost overlooked in the plethora of latterday heroes. This is why when making a choice, I was surprised that my suggestion for the middle-order was not representative was dumped because of criticism of the panel, some names who have only a vague notion it seems of the genuine value of what represnts good cricket. If in reading the well researched Brian Bassano book on the 1931/32 tour of Australia, Cameron played and amazing role, despite dropping Bradman. The 2003 edition of South Africa's Cricket Captains adds a little extra. Don't forget too the man had to keep to a bowling attack always under pressure.

  • dave-m on December 4, 2009, 5:56 GMT

    No mention of Lee Irvine ? I would have thought he'd deserve at least a mention if not a spot...

  • sudiptaasi on December 4, 2009, 5:44 GMT

    Its Difficult to judge Keepers one has not seen. But Boutcher has been a modern day stalwart, one of the best match winners of our era. So my vote to him.

  • CricFan78 on December 4, 2009, 5:32 GMT

    Lindsay for me. Almost as good a bat as Gilly and very good keeper

  • vsssarma on December 4, 2009, 5:11 GMT

    My rankings of South African keeper-batsmen in test matches is given below: 1) DT Lindsay (2) JHB Waite (3) Mark Boucher (4) Dave Richardson (5) HB Cameron (6) George Fullerton.

  • sacricketlegend on December 4, 2009, 5:02 GMT

    Agree with you there Wasp. And not only was Lindsay the best keeper of them all, he could bat better than anyone else on this list. Easy pick.

  • MaraudingJ on December 4, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    Compared to the rest of the categories, paring this choice down to two is easy. It's without a doubt between Boucher and Lindsay, who could both potentially walk into an international all-time WK XI. I suppose it's not surprising that their roles in the team were similar, and that they shared the same fiery, never-say-attitude South African fans love so much. I hate being forced to choose -- I don't even have the benefit of comparing their ability to keep to spin, since neither has done so frequently at Test level! -- but since I must, I have to go with Boucher, simply because, along with Jacques Kallis and Allan Donald, he's been South Africa's most consistent match-winner in the post-isolation era. Lindsay played with other thorough-breds; Boucher went through a long period where it was often left to him to pull the mess out of the fire and restore some hope. Boucher it is.

  • waspsting on December 4, 2009, 4:02 GMT

    to me, the test of a great keeper is not how many he catches or stumps but how few chances he misses. a wicketkeeper of the highest calibre is one who very rarely misses a chance - and there's very little to choose between "wicketkeepers of the highest calibre" by that definition. so for the wicketkeeper's slot, I like to go with the best batsman of wicketkeepers of the highest calibre. for example, Clyde Walcott, Andy Flower and Rohan Kanhai are great batsmen, but not wicketkeepers of the highest calibre, while players like Wasim Bari and Kirmanie are great keepers, but there are comparitive keepers who are considerably better bats. judging keepers you've never seen is even harder than batsmen or bowlers, but i know that Lindsay not only holds records for most catches taken in series' (not a big deal - its how few you miss thats the sure sign, and there's no stat for that) - but i believe he also holds records for fewest byes conceded (pretty good sign of quality). h'es my pick then.

  • headshot.harsh on December 4, 2009, 3:49 GMT

    Boucher no doubt for this one.

  • buntyj on December 4, 2009, 3:28 GMT

    pity endean wasnt in the list; picked waite ahead of lindsay as lindsay didnt kep much to spin

  • TMS8137 on December 4, 2009, 2:15 GMT

    WHo to vote for? Boucher or lindsay?

  • pchats_2000 on December 4, 2009, 2:12 GMT

    This is an all time XI, so let us consider only the wicketkeeping part, If the guy bats then it is a bonus. Consider a scenario when this WK drops Bradman early in his innings, then all the runs that he will score is not going to make up anything at all. For our generation Lindsay & Waite are characters from history. Here, most, if not all, votes are likely to to Boucher. But to the experts I would plead, please to justice, do not go by statistics alone.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • pchats_2000 on December 4, 2009, 2:12 GMT

    This is an all time XI, so let us consider only the wicketkeeping part, If the guy bats then it is a bonus. Consider a scenario when this WK drops Bradman early in his innings, then all the runs that he will score is not going to make up anything at all. For our generation Lindsay & Waite are characters from history. Here, most, if not all, votes are likely to to Boucher. But to the experts I would plead, please to justice, do not go by statistics alone.

  • TMS8137 on December 4, 2009, 2:15 GMT

    WHo to vote for? Boucher or lindsay?

  • buntyj on December 4, 2009, 3:28 GMT

    pity endean wasnt in the list; picked waite ahead of lindsay as lindsay didnt kep much to spin

  • headshot.harsh on December 4, 2009, 3:49 GMT

    Boucher no doubt for this one.

  • waspsting on December 4, 2009, 4:02 GMT

    to me, the test of a great keeper is not how many he catches or stumps but how few chances he misses. a wicketkeeper of the highest calibre is one who very rarely misses a chance - and there's very little to choose between "wicketkeepers of the highest calibre" by that definition. so for the wicketkeeper's slot, I like to go with the best batsman of wicketkeepers of the highest calibre. for example, Clyde Walcott, Andy Flower and Rohan Kanhai are great batsmen, but not wicketkeepers of the highest calibre, while players like Wasim Bari and Kirmanie are great keepers, but there are comparitive keepers who are considerably better bats. judging keepers you've never seen is even harder than batsmen or bowlers, but i know that Lindsay not only holds records for most catches taken in series' (not a big deal - its how few you miss thats the sure sign, and there's no stat for that) - but i believe he also holds records for fewest byes conceded (pretty good sign of quality). h'es my pick then.

  • MaraudingJ on December 4, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    Compared to the rest of the categories, paring this choice down to two is easy. It's without a doubt between Boucher and Lindsay, who could both potentially walk into an international all-time WK XI. I suppose it's not surprising that their roles in the team were similar, and that they shared the same fiery, never-say-attitude South African fans love so much. I hate being forced to choose -- I don't even have the benefit of comparing their ability to keep to spin, since neither has done so frequently at Test level! -- but since I must, I have to go with Boucher, simply because, along with Jacques Kallis and Allan Donald, he's been South Africa's most consistent match-winner in the post-isolation era. Lindsay played with other thorough-breds; Boucher went through a long period where it was often left to him to pull the mess out of the fire and restore some hope. Boucher it is.

  • sacricketlegend on December 4, 2009, 5:02 GMT

    Agree with you there Wasp. And not only was Lindsay the best keeper of them all, he could bat better than anyone else on this list. Easy pick.

  • vsssarma on December 4, 2009, 5:11 GMT

    My rankings of South African keeper-batsmen in test matches is given below: 1) DT Lindsay (2) JHB Waite (3) Mark Boucher (4) Dave Richardson (5) HB Cameron (6) George Fullerton.

  • CricFan78 on December 4, 2009, 5:32 GMT

    Lindsay for me. Almost as good a bat as Gilly and very good keeper

  • sudiptaasi on December 4, 2009, 5:44 GMT

    Its Difficult to judge Keepers one has not seen. But Boutcher has been a modern day stalwart, one of the best match winners of our era. So my vote to him.