Wicketkeeper July 6, 2010

Safe, solid, sometimes spectacular

The West Indies side has been blessed down the years with keepers who could bat, and bat well

Ever since Karl Nunes, the captain of the team, walked out to bat at No. 4 at Lord's in West Indies' first Test in 1928, their man behind the stumps has usually been not only a wicketkeeper but also a batsman.

On that June day, Nunes scored 37, the team's second-highest score of the innings, and ever since, up until recent times, West Indies wicketkeepers, some of whom have batted up the order, have always contributed to the team's total.

In fact, Errol Hunte, who batted at No. 11 in both innings of his first Test match, moved up to No. 2 in the order in his second Test and chalked up the team's top score of 58 in the first innings and 30 in the second. In 1933, Ivan Barrow, opening the innings, scored West Indies' first century (105 at Old Trafford) in England - a few minutes before George Headley, who went on to score 169 at No. 3. Clyde Walcott, the wicketkeeper who opened the innings in his debut Test in 1948, scored two centuries and two fifties in India in 1948-49 while batting at Nos. 4 and 3, and a memorable 168 not out at Lord's in 1950 to lead West Indies to their first victory in England.

The run-scoring record of West Indies wicketkeepers is underlined by the performances of Clairmonte Depeiaza, who made 122 in his world-record seventh-wicket partnership of 348 with Denis Atkinson against Australia in 1955; Gerry Alexander, who made 60 and 5, 5 and 72, 0 and 108, 63 not out and 87 not out, and 11 and 73 against Australia in 1960-61 with a table-topping average of 60.50, and Jeffrey Dujon with a career tally of 3322 runs with five centuries at 31.94.

It is not surprising that having been weaned on a diet of fast bowling, almost all West Indies wicketkeepers were brilliant against fast bowling.

The contenders

Clyde Walcott
He started his career as an opening batsman-wicketkeeper against England in 1948 but gave up the gloves to stand in the slips after the series against Australia in 1951-52. A big man, wicketkeeping apparently took its toll on him, and after showing promise with the bat, he became one of the finest West Indies batsmen of all time; but he was undoubtedly also a reliable wicketkeeper.

Jackie Hendriks
Arguably the best all-round wicketkeeper produced by West Indies. As a batsman, he was useful at the first-class level. As a keeper, however, he was among the best at the highest level. Like all West Indies keepers, Hendriks was great against pace. Unlike most of them, however, he was also great with spin. In 20 Test matches he took 42 catches and made five stumpings.

Deryck Murray
Murray was a sound and solid wicketkeeper, who in his first Test series at age 20 held the world record of 24 dismissals - 22 catches and two stumpings. A quiet man, he was far from flashy, doing his job without fuss. As a batsman he also batted up the order at times, but without much success. Apart from his partnership with Andy Roberts that rescued West Indies against Pakistan at the first World Cup in 1975, his best effort with the bat came in Bombay in 1974-75, when he scored 91 in a match-winning partnership of 250 with Clive Lloyd. In 62 Test matches Murray took 181 catches and made eight stumpings.

Jeffrey Dujon
A stylish, top-order batsman in first-class cricket who became a wicketkeeper. A brilliant, acrobatic catcher of the ball, he leapt high and flew far on either side to take some fantastic catches. Nothing from the fast bowlers, it seemed, was too high or too wide for him to catch. Like Murray before him, he was, probably even more so, the ideal wicketkeeper for West Indies' fearsome battery of fast bowlers. In 81 Test matches, and on top of his fine batting performances, Dujon took 267 catches and made five stumpings.

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

Former sports editor of the Jamaica Gleaner and the Daily News, Tony Becca has covered West Indies cricket for 30 years

Comments