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Another keeper, another drop

England's record of selecting and then abandoning wicketkeepers since the retirement of Alec Stewart suggests their strategy may need a rethink

George Dobell

January 25, 2013

Comments: 57 | Text size: A | A

Craig Kieswetter is under pressure ahead of the Sri Lanka match, Kandy, September 30, 2012
Craig Kieswetter has become the latest wicketkeeper to be discarded by England © Getty Images
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Like Greek prime ministers, Henry VIII's wives and World War I fighter pilots, the career of an England wicketkeeper - in limited-overs cricket, at least - often appears short and brutal.

Craig Kieswetter is the latest in a long line of casualties. Indeed, there are now 13 men still playing county cricket who have, at some time, kept wicket for England in international cricket. Half the counties can claim an England wicketkeeper on their staff; some can claim two. A strong argument could be put together to suggest England have not had a settled ODI keeper since the retirement of Alec Stewart in 2003.

Perhaps Kieswetter may feel a little unfortunate. Asked to open the innings - a novel experience at the time - he was then moved back into the middle-order to accommodate a faltering Kevin Pietersen. His keeping, while raw - especially to spinners - has improved steadily and, aged 25, his best years should be ahead of him. In truth, though, he has not grasped the opportunity as he might have done. England have invested nearly three years in him but he never really showed any mastery of pacing an ODI innings and continued to face more dot balls than was acceptable. After 46 ODIs, he has had his chance.

He faces an uncertain future. If England now see his Somerset team-mate Jos Buttler as a more viable wicketkeeping option, they would be quite within their rights to request that Somerset give him the gloves ahead of Kieswetter whenever possible. While that decision will remain Somerset's, they will be well aware of the importance of the success of the England team in funding the game throughout the land and mindful of their responsibility to help the national side whenever possible.

Kieswetter may also reflect that, if he is to win back a place, it is likely to be in the middle-order. Opening the batting with Somerset - as he does at present in limited-overs cricket - will be of little value. Hampshire, who have sought a new keeper for some time, is one obvious venue; Worcestershire is somewhat less likely due to their financial situation. Hampshire's current keeper, Michael Bates, 22, is quite excellent behind the stumps but a modest batsman, while Worcestershire have just signed a 24-year-old with a far-from-glorious record in the Birmingham League.

As things stand, it appears likely that Jonny Bairstow will be handed the gloves in ODIs when England arrive in New Zealand. Even that is not certain, however, as Buttler is currently the man in possession and could produce a match-winning performance in the final ODI in India that would make him hard to drop. As a consequence, it is hard to ignore the conclusion that, just six games ahead of the Champions Trophy, England are back to square one when it comes to knowing who their best ODI keeper might be.

Current county players to have kept wicket in England internationals

  • Tim Ambrose
  • Jonny Bairstow
  • Jos Buttler
  • Paul Collingwood
  • Steven Davies
  • James Foster
  • Geraint Jones
  • Craig Kieswetter
  • Phil Mustard
  • Matt Prior
  • Chris Read
  • Marcus Trescothick
  • Vikram Solanki

Neither Bairstow or Buttler - both of whom are also competing for the position in T20s - would claim to be the finished article with bat or gloves. Buttler is not even first-choice keeper with his county. They are developing talents. They need careful nurturing to fulfil their huge potential. Premature exposure and subsequent disappointment will hurt more often that it helps.

The concern is that England will commit the same error as they have so often in the past: promote a keeper before they are ready and then jettison them too soon with shattering consequences for the rest of their careers. There are copious examples: Chris Read, James Foster and, to a lesser extent, Steven Davies were all fast-tracked into the side and, when it became clear that the elevation came too soon, spat back out, often with harsh judgements made about their value.

Little mind seems to have been paid to their subsequent improvement, either. Certainly in the case of Read, a vastly underrated batsman, and Foster, who may still be the best keeper in the world, England have missed out on the finest years of their careers. Both remain high-quality cricketers but missed out largely because England went through a long period where they insisted their keepers in ODI cricket also opened the batting.

There is a lesson here for England. They must be careful not to rush Ben Foakes, the highly rated 19-year-old from Essex, who they have fast-tracked into the Lions squad after only five first-class appearances as the only wicketkeeper on their short trip to Australia. He is some way from commanding a first-team place at Essex - Foster and, perhaps, the unsung Adam Wheater stand ahead of him - and will surely fare better in international cricket if he is allowed time to develop in domestic cricket first.

Few players - be they batsmen, bowlers or wicketkeepers - are at their best in their early twenties. Perhaps, if England really do see the Champions Trophy as a priority, they should consider selecting a more mature professional as their keeper. Read, Foster, Phil Mustard, Matt Prior and Tim Ambrose - players who have experienced the highs and lows of a life in professional sport and learned the techniques and coping mechanisms to deal with it - would all do a decent job and might allow young talents the time to learn their trade away from the unforgiving spotlight.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (January 27, 2013, 11:16 GMT)

Why not stick with Matt Prior in all formats of the game? He is a decent wicket-keeper as well as batsman.

Posted by pat_one_back on (January 27, 2013, 5:55 GMT)

Wow, amazing string of names there, almost, almost compares with Aust selectors revolving door treatment of spinners.

Posted by dabhand on (January 26, 2013, 20:07 GMT)

Bit of a stretch including the likes of Collingwood and Trescothick - I appreciate that within the strict interpretation of article they might have kept wicket but no one could pretend they were really wicket keepers.

Posted by bipulkumar on (January 26, 2013, 15:44 GMT)

James Harris looks like a great pick. I am sure we will become great asset for England.

Posted by Kidderwolf on (January 26, 2013, 14:57 GMT)

Fantastic article, such a shame for many 'keepers that they never were given a chance. Foster and Mustard are two that I have seen play over the past couple of seasons and wish England had stuck with them.

I suspect the same may happen for Davies too, although hopefully he can get on with his career now without the stresses of 2011 (coming out) and 2012 (Maynard's tragic death) though and force his way back in again in the future.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (January 26, 2013, 13:35 GMT)

For those calling for Matt Prior, he has played 68 ODIs to Kieswetter's 46. Kieswetter's average is 6 runs better than Prior's and his strike rate is 13 better. Why exactly would they drop Kieswetter and bring in Prior? Yes, he has performed domestically and that's why he's played 68 ODIs but he has failed to translate that to the international stage.

Posted by TLKC on (January 26, 2013, 13:26 GMT)

Very well reasoned article. The last paragraph particularly rings true. For this important competition play the best we have now and let others naturally develop for the future.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (January 26, 2013, 13:25 GMT)

Bring back Alec Stewart!! Apart from this probably having Prior just do it without a further thought about it is the best solution.No-one is getting his place in tests. The runs matter less than the keeping in ODI's.

Posted by   on (January 26, 2013, 12:29 GMT)

Surely there must be a decent wicketkeeper going around in the South African leagues......................

Posted by --JV-- on (January 26, 2013, 11:20 GMT)

I dont undertand. Why cant they have Matt Prior as Wicket Keeper in all formats??

Posted by hhillbumper on (January 26, 2013, 11:03 GMT)

they keep dropping wicket keepers and yet they keep picking seriously poor bowlers called Dernbach.Come on Miller,pretend he is a keeper and drop him!!!!!!

Posted by glance_to_leg on (January 26, 2013, 10:19 GMT)

Odd the mishandling of keepers. Read consistently performs brilliantly with the bat for Notts, especially when others fail, but he is probably too old now ... Plus England's management would have to admit their mistake in leaving him in the wilderness for so long. Foster is a superb keeper, and an much under-rated batsman. Davies would be snapped up by many other test-playing countries. I find it odd that the emphasis on a keeper's batting means that lots of players who are pretty mediocre behind the stumps (Kieswetter, Butler, Bairstow) seem to be considered, when plenty of other excellent keepers who are also very good with the bat get overlooked: Mustard, Ambrose both average around 30 in first-class cricket ... not great but they are good keepers; Read averages about 37, compared with Kieswetter's 41, but Read easily makes up for that with his ability in the gloves; Davies averages 38. Ultimately though Prior ticks all the boxes. Why look elsewhere?

Posted by UdB on (January 26, 2013, 7:11 GMT)

makes an indian fan thank god for Dhoni

Posted by KanAloshFozter on (January 26, 2013, 5:22 GMT)

The best man for the job is James Foster.Stumpings are the best way to analyse keeping.His 11 stumpings in 7 odis shows how good his keeping is. His batting too is not bad. Love to see him get one more go.

Posted by pkvedas on (January 26, 2013, 3:56 GMT)

Craig Kieswetter is the most aggressive england batsmen, few glimses of Gilli... He is the right guy to partner with Cook on ODIs. Won lot of matches for somerset...

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on (January 26, 2013, 1:11 GMT)

What about Matt Prior? He's probably the best wicket-keeper batsman in the world right now, not considering Sanga as a wicket-keeper batsman as of now.

Posted by ThatsJustCricket on (January 26, 2013, 0:49 GMT)

Not sure why Prior doesn't get another go in the ODIs. Unless, the selectors think it would be too much workload for one guy to handle all 3 formats with Englands hectic schedule around the year.

Posted by Humbata on (January 26, 2013, 0:31 GMT)

If England continue their 'keeper merry-go-round philosophy, I hope they aware that Sussex have an excellent young wicket-keeper playing for their 2nd XI this season, who is also a high quality bat, proven at international level. Is it time to give Sarah Taylor a go in the team ?

Posted by   on (January 25, 2013, 23:00 GMT)

Eoin Morgan has also kept wicket for England - 2009 Champions Trophy

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/415280.html

Posted by creado on (January 25, 2013, 22:51 GMT)

@landl47 Thanks for clearing that up. And I agree that seems like padding the argument a bit. Interesting article, but I don't think Kieswetter can really claim his career was unfairly short. And it could probably have done with a bit more brutality. Overlong and meak might be another phrase.

Posted by philvic on (January 25, 2013, 22:44 GMT)

SA would love to have either Prior or Kieswater. I dont know what Englands problem is.

Posted by ygkd on (January 25, 2013, 22:43 GMT)

I think you have to be English or more-so, from Essex, to susbscribe to the belief that James Foster is the best in the world. Don't get me wrong, he's very good and rather unlucky to have been ditched so quickly, but the best keepers today are usually sub-contintental like Jayawardene and Rahim, because they get so much more exposure to spin from an earlier age. Michael Bates has been mentioned as an exception, but he's not really experienced to spin despite playing for Hampshire. I think he's only ever taken a handful of County stumpings. Wicket-keeping and spin go hand-in-glove. Without one the other is lost.

Posted by ygkd on (January 25, 2013, 22:27 GMT)

Without wanting to sound harsh, Kieswetter always had a question-mark hanging over his glovework. It really wasn't of international standard. Having seen every one on the above list keep except Solanki (and he's a batsman anyway), I would have to say that the ECB can't be keen on Mustard, otherwise he'd have had a decent go. Maybe he needed more time but I can't help thinking that investing time in Kieswetter was a mistake as was not investing in Mustard. Have the ECB now learnt? Apparently not, for if they had Bairstow and Buttler wouldn't be heading down the same path. Alec Stewart is not an ideal wk role model. Stewart's keeping improved to international level (though he was never great to spin) but his opening batting was such a forte it was best left alone. Selection panels, whether in England or here in Australia or wherever, would do well to look at keepers who can bat, not batsmen who can keep because Stewart was an exception. Usually, batsmen-who-can-keep simply can't.

Posted by JG2704 on (January 25, 2013, 21:57 GMT)

@Lmaotsetung on (January 25 2013, 12:15 PM GMT) Buttler isn't even in the test squad

@Munkeymomo on (January 25 2013, 13:47 PM GMT) Both decent fielders but I'm afraid I think Jonny is better in the field and Jos is better with the gloves

@Gurram on (January 25 2013, 17:00 PM GMT) Jos can also hit big. Ask Wayne Parnell. Also this article is about WKs which Patel and Stevens are not

Interesting article. Personally I feel the best gloveman for the shorter formats is probably Foster. Possibly the best gloveman in the country and a player who is used to coming in mid order. However if England are building for the future I guess they'll be looking more at the 2 JBs and Craig. As for Prior , he'd probably ended up being rested half the time if he played shorter formats

Posted by landl47 on (January 25, 2013, 21:53 GMT)

@creado: Collingwood, along with Trescothick and Solanki, weren't selected as keepers. They stood in when the regular keeper was hurt. I think it's a bit of a stretch to call them keepers- is Phil Hughes a test match keeper because Wade bowled an over?

Posted by creado on (January 25, 2013, 21:35 GMT)

When did Collingwood keep for England? I forgot that; seems like a waste. And I agree Prior is worth another go - assuming Read is too old.

Posted by landl47 on (January 25, 2013, 21:17 GMT)

This is a very good article, particularly in the conclusions it draws. England does need to evaluate, not only the W/Ks but every position, on the basis of what that player is doing now. Prior was luckier than most; he was brought up too soon and sent down again, but then brought back when he had become a more competent keeper (he was always a good batsman). I am not a huge supporter of giving the job to Buttler, who Somerset think is not even as good a keeper as Kies. Bairstow could probably do with a few more years in county cricket, too. As for Foakes, let's hope that the Lions trip is only to give him experience. He's a very exciting prospect, both as a batsman and a keeper, but he's quite a few years away from being ready for international cricket.

Gilchrist, by consensus the best w/k-batsman ever, made his test debut 9 days before his 28th birthday. Haddin had to wait even longer. Wade's been rushed in and you heard what Healy thinks of his keeping. Keepers need time to mature.

Posted by kenchie on (January 25, 2013, 20:18 GMT)

Can we have Matt Prior in the team please?

Posted by   on (January 25, 2013, 19:32 GMT)

i dont know why england dropped him. He can hit the ball, he can score 30, 40 runs. Then what is a problem ??? In ODI cricket, u not need more than this from a keeper. Pakistan is still relying on Kamran Akmal despite he is not scoring and the reason is we are struggling to find his replacement. ECB should not drop these type of players. Wicket Keeping and then scoring with the bat is not an easy job

Posted by bumsonseats on (January 25, 2013, 19:17 GMT)

unlike some we drop our wicket keepers because of lack of runs not on wicket keeping ability.unlike the aussies who select them even when they lack ability and runs.

Posted by VickGower on (January 25, 2013, 18:39 GMT)

All the more tragic therefore that when assessing Dhoni's performance the Indian fans seem to hardly care for Dhoni's superb keeping skills. The guy hardly misses a stumping or catch.

Posted by Rural_Cricketer on (January 25, 2013, 18:38 GMT)

As a Somerset fan this is a double edged sword. Of course you are delighted that Crain and Joss are in the England set up, but it means they don't play at Taunton much. Craig getting dropped may result in a few more victories for the Cidermen..... hopefully!

Posted by RandyOZ on (January 25, 2013, 18:20 GMT)

Yet another case of the so-called 'new wave' of South Africans failing miserably. He's been replaced with a similarly sub-standard keeper, but hey, sometimes you get lucky.

Posted by Trickstar on (January 25, 2013, 18:14 GMT)

@ Gurram What are you saying, that Buttler isn't a big hitter? You can't have seen much of him then, all you have to do is look at his List A record the kid is all about hitting boundaries, he averages 57 at a strike rate of 119 which is frankly a bit freakish. A part from that England have picked Eoin Morgan & Samit Patel for both one day forms of cricket, so I'm not sure what you're point is, England have just replaced Kieswetter with Buttler, which for you're benefit is a guy with a much better strike rate.

Posted by Trickstar on (January 25, 2013, 18:01 GMT)

One thing that hasn't been mentioned in the article is that most of these guys that have been picked have been inexperienced and for the most part been batsmen who keep wicket. So it would seem to me that they would spend more time getting their wicketkeeping skills up to par and concentrate less on their batting. So it's hardly a surprise I would have thought, as their keeping's improved their batting has deteriorated. Kieswetter is a case in point, he seemed a much better batsmen at the start of his England career, but was poor with the gloves, now his batting has got worse but his keeping has improved. Surely the best way is to pick the most complete batsmen, a competent Keeper and a decent batsmen. What's the betting in time Jos will become a better keeper but his batting will start to stink.

Posted by DaveMorton on (January 25, 2013, 17:10 GMT)

I am surprised if Michael Bates is rated as a non-batsman. I saw his maiden century at Headingley, and he looked very competent indeed, and absolutely top-class with the gloves. To me the England ODI w-k spot is a complete no-brainer; Matt Prior to bat at 6 or 7, as he does in Tests. The picking too early - and subsequent discarding - of young players extends to spin bowlers as well as keepers. Swann himself was one such, but he got a second chance. Duncan Fletcher seems to have been the chief culprit, mainly because since Swann's second coming there have been fewer opportunities for other spinners.

Posted by Gurram on (January 25, 2013, 17:00 GMT)

England will drop Jos Butler after NZ series, what is wrong with ECB? Small grounds in NZ need hitters like Eoin Morgan/Samit Patel/Kieswetter or even consider Darren Stevens, for god sake.

Posted by Trickstar on (January 25, 2013, 16:35 GMT)

@ gsingh7 He's easily the best one day wicket keeper batsman but he certainly isn't the best Test keeper batsman that's Prior.

@bennybow Been a little dishonest there aren't you, why just look at those 4 games that he played after he'd spent a month playing Test cricket in India, it doesn't really show the true picture when it comes to Prior playing T20 cricket. How about we look at his stats for the English Twenty 20 season where he averaged 42 at a strike rate of 180, he absolutely murdered bowling and showed exactly what England have been missing. For the Champions Trophy I'd hand the gloves back to Prior, he's good at playing spin, great at rotating the strike and running quick singles and can clear the ropes when he wants, he's everything you'd want from a middle order one day player. The problem for Prior is when he's been asked to open, he's not a one day opener, he can do it in T20 cricket but that's very different.

Posted by emmersonne on (January 25, 2013, 16:08 GMT)

Keepers get better as they get older, to a point. However the selectors seem vehemently against picking anyone over 30 (the Nixon incident aside)

Posted by John-Price on (January 25, 2013, 15:44 GMT)

England have given themselves a problem over the last ten years by looking for a keeper who could be a pitch hitting opening batsman. in other words someone who could go out, face the new ball and take the best bowlers in the world apart on a regular basis. It's a nice idea, but just not realistic. If they can lower their expectations to a more sensible level, they could have more stability.

Posted by bennybow on (January 25, 2013, 15:27 GMT)

Still find it bizarre that England obstinately refuse to pick their best keeper but I place importance on taking wickets not making up for the inadequacies of the top six. Matt Prior? May be least worst of those currently playing international cricket but that's all. Like a frightened rabbit standing up. Oh do check Prior's recent T20 batting for Sydney Thunder - 32 runs in 4 innings! Chris Read for me every time. England's loss is Notts gain.

Posted by Selassie-I on (January 25, 2013, 15:03 GMT)

Without a decent all-rounder we can't afford to have a specialist Keeper in ODIs. Matt Prior deserves a go in the middle order after a few failed attempts at opening with him. As George points out that the selectors seem to have an unhealthy obsession with finding a keeper/opener rather than just a keeper/batsman, I have always thought that in ODI you want your best batsmen opening, so they have a chance to bat the full 50 overs. For us that's cook and KP.

If not Matty Prior batting at 6, I like what I saw with Buttler keeping the other day, far from perfect but good signs and he looks a fantastic finisher.

Posted by Aussiesfalling on (January 25, 2013, 14:24 GMT)

I disagree with the premise of the article that England have changed their ODI keepers too frequently. Craig Kieswetter has had a long run in the team and had a long run as opening batter to boot and Matt Prior has had a lengthy career as ODI keeper. The disruption to the role has not come from the selections of the side but the selecting of the batting order. Matt Prior's longest run as opener was half the number of matches CK managed. A keeper, batting at No6/7 in ODIs should be expected to have a high strike rate not a high average. If you look at Prior's career in this respect, he was a success. Get him back.

Posted by Paulo_OWC on (January 25, 2013, 14:17 GMT)

I really struggle to see why Matt Prior isn't in both the T20 and ODI sides. His keeping has improved so much that he's almost unrecognisable from the player that got dropped in 2008. His batting in the lower middle order would be a real boost for the ODI side. I mean, how many times has he scored a quick 50/60 in a test match when England really needed it?

Posted by Aussiesfalling on (January 25, 2013, 14:11 GMT)

6 matches until the ICC Trophy is still plenty of time for England to work out that they need their best Wicket-keeper/Batsman Matt Prior.

Posted by gsingh7 on (January 25, 2013, 14:03 GMT)

@gloves-- dhoni is best wk batsman in current world order , i think he is better than gilly due to superior wk skills and higher average, also he captained india to 2 wc wins

Posted by segga-express on (January 25, 2013, 13:54 GMT)

You missed Eoin Morgan from the list of people to have kept wicket. He kept for 2 matches in the 2009 Champions Trophy

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (January 25, 2013, 13:51 GMT)

Buttler's the best choice: A devastating batsman, a huge six hitter and a great keeper. England have the long-established best keeper/batsman in the world in Prior, if they get Buttler in for the ODI's it would be a great pick.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (January 25, 2013, 13:49 GMT)

Since we're talking One-Day cricket here and not test matches, I think it's time we selected a good ODI batsman who plays down the order and keeps well. In Test Matches, England famously don't have this problem, and what's more, and what brings a smile to every English fan's face these days, is that the Aussies have the established worst test keeper in the world. The Wade saga is still being felt down under, after being promoted by fans and management only to miserably on the pitch. England's smiles grow wider every day, in the knowledge that in Matt Prior they've had the best keeper/batsman for the last five years, and undeniably the best since Gilchirst.

Posted by Munkeymomo on (January 25, 2013, 13:47 GMT)

As far as ODIs go, either JB would do a fine job I feel, batting at 6 or 7. Buttler I feel is the better fielder so perhaps Bairstow could keep. If a mature option were to be selected then my vote would go with Mustard. While I feel Foster is the best keeper England have, he is not a nice guy, so I'd prefer to see Mustard given a go. Especially considering he did nothing wrong to get dropped last time around.

Posted by gloves71 on (January 25, 2013, 13:30 GMT)

No team in world cricket has got this right since Gilchrist. Reason: he was an exceptional talent, one that comes along only every few decades. Surely it's now time to pick our best keeper and, if needs be, give him all the support to become an outstanding batsman at 6 or 7. I don't think he's the best keeper we have but surely Matt Prior should be next in line? At least he has proved his international quality in other formats.

Posted by Whatsgoinoffoutthere on (January 25, 2013, 13:13 GMT)

@Lmaotsetung - I believe England are using Bairstow as backup keeper in Tests. Buttler would not at present be sound enough as a Test batsman: there is too great a gap between his limited overs and first class performances. However, with the emergence of Joe Root, the only way I can see Bairstow getting a game in the near future is in the absence of Matt Prior (and that isn't likely to happen).

Buttler got a shot at the keeper's spot after finding himself in the right place at the right time and for little other reason. He didn't acquit himself too badly for someone who doesn't even take the gloves for his county and I can see him being used as keeper in twenty20 games, even if purely to make space in the team for him as a batsman at the death. I still think Davies is worth a try as keeper in the 50 over games - ignore last season's performances for Surrey. At the very least, he deserves the same chance that Kieswetter was given.

Posted by GreenDeviln on (January 25, 2013, 13:12 GMT)

Great article. I like that you are not only placing the problem infront but also providing the possible solutions according to you.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (January 25, 2013, 13:10 GMT)

I had totally forgotten that Collingwood, Trescothick and even Solanki had kept wicket at some point! Collingwood keeping wicket would be such a waste because he was a useful fill-in bowler, which I still feel is sorely missed in the current ODI teams.

Posted by WheresTheEmpire on (January 25, 2013, 13:03 GMT)

"The career of an England wicketkeeper often appears short and brutal......" and also has a certain and messy ending - like a baby's nappy perhaps. Lack of talent or poor management of available talent? I agree with the conclusion in the article and suspect it is a bit of both.

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (January 25, 2013, 12:15 GMT)

So I gather that Steven Davies is no longer the backup keeper even for test series and Eng are going to use Bairstow or Butler for that role?

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