Former India wicketkeeper Kiran More believes Davy Jacobs is close to being ready for international cricket. More, who runs a coaching academy in Baroda, is the wicketkeeping coach for Mumbai Indians, Jacobs's IPL franchise.
"By the end of the IPL, he will be ready to play for South Africa," More told ESPNCricinfo. "They need a good wicketkeeper batsman." The news will be welcomed by the South African selectors, whose search for a long-term replacement for Mark Boucher, is still on. While Boucher is still part of the Test team, he has not played an ODI since June last year and the need to replace in limited-overs formats of the game appears pressing.
AB de Villiers has been primed as Boucher's successor and was used as wicketkeeper during the recently-concluded World Cup, but a persistent back problem meant he could only stand behind the stumps in two of South Africa's seven matches. With speculation increasing that de Villiers may be named captain of the ODI side after Graeme Smith stepped down at the end of the World Cup, the selectors may not want to overburden him, opening the door for another gloveman. More thinks that gloveman could be Jacobs, who has shown massive improvement in a few weeks.
"When I met him [in the build-up to IPL 4], he hadn't been keeping for a few months because Mark Boucher was in his franchise [South Africa domestic team, Warriors] and he had a lot to work on," More said. Jacobs, who had never had a wicketkeeping coach before, had to begin with basics, which included new equipment.
"The first thing I did was check his gloves and see where the ball was hitting him. We had gloves manufactured for him." The new gloves allowed Jacobs to have better hand positioning and More noticed a "20 to 25% difference" in him almost immediately.
Jacobs' natural ability behind the stumps and movement, he said, meant his hand positioning was already impressive and the biggest adjustment needed was to get him used to the local conditions.
"Keeping in India is very different to keeping in South Africa," More said, explaining that this stint in the IPL will help Jacobs mature behind the stumps. "The wickets stay low and are dusty. It's probably the most difficult conditions to keep in." Jacobs made the changes and soon looked like a natural in the subcontinent. In this third game, he pleasantly surprised More by standing up to Lasith Malinga at the Wankhede. "That takes guts and confidence."
Jacobs has so far taken one catch and completed two stumpings, the most recent to dismiss Dan Christian of the Deccan Chargers off Munaf Patel's bowling. That stumping, which showed how well Jacobs used his instincts, is why More believes Jacobs is ideally suited to limited-overs and particularly twenty-over cricket. "In Twenty20, the wicketkeeper is key to the game. He has to be aggressive and create opportunities behind the wicket, which is what Jacobs does."
While Jacobs has not lived up to the promise he showed with the bat in last season's Champions League T20, when he was the Warriors top-scorer, More expects the best is yet to come. "He is a hard worker, a quick learner and a complete cricketer."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent