Today in 30 Days, 30 Questions:
Question: Who is the best wicket-keeper in the world today?
Yahoo! Cricket’s answer: Mark Boucher.
As far as thankless jobs go, wicketkeeping runs umpiring a close second – blinders are conveniently forgotten and lapsed half-chances remembered for posterity. Possibly the hardest job on the cricket field (try crouching for a few hours at a stretch before sitting in judgement!), keeping wicket is no longer the preserve of pure glovesmen, who are now required to perform equally adeptly with the bat to keep their place in the side and, in some cases, marshall the team from behind the stumps.
Which brings us to what goes into gauging a wicketkeeper – do we rate him purely on his primary skill, or bring in his bonus contributions with the bat, or – ideally – factor in both performances in the final analysis. Complicating things is the part-time nature of some ‘keepers: Kumar Sangakkara plays as a pure batsman in Tests; Brendon McCullum too has gone the Sangakkara way; while Mark Boucher and A.B. de Villiers have shared the long-form and short-form duties respectively for South Africa
Matt Prior has seen a fair amount of success in either role for England, Kamran Akmal has made up for his erratic behind-the-wicket shows with match-winning knocks, and our own M.S. Dhoni has borne the triple burden of ‘keeping, captaining and batting with remarkable poise.
Of these, who is the best? Since it is wicket-keeping we are here to assess, out vote goes to Boucher – for 555 Test and 425 ODI victims and for having kept with distinction to the likes of Alan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn. Have your say too. The best responses get featured on the page.
[Update: March 29]: Thank you for your responses. Here they go:
It seems Adam Gilchrist continues to top the list for many readers. It's hard not to see why. But the question pertained to active international cricketers.
Vamshi points out what’s missing from Boucher’s illustrious career:
I totally disagree. Mark Boucher has been an amazing wicket-keeper considering the pace bowlers he played with. But he never kept to class spin bowling. Sorry, he never had a chance with South Africa’s spin department. I can’t name him the best if he’s not kept to the likes of Muralitharan and Warne on the fourth and fifth day of a Test match.
Bhaskar thinks Dhoni is not bad at all.
Firstly, I agree with your comment that wicketkeeping is possibly the hardest job on a cricket field. Keepers have to concentrate on each delivery, crouch, stand up, sit down, run, change ends, cheer the bowler.
MS Dhoni is the best according to me. He keeps, leads the team and bats at crucial positions. Sometimes people overlook his ability as a keeper because of his captaincy and batting skills. But he takes wonderful athletic catches, effects flash stumpings. Most of his stumping appeals are so accurate, the batsman is invariably out. Unlike Moin Khan and the likes, (“Shabaas shabaas Saqi!"), Dhoni doesn’t chatter much behind the wickets.
Lavish picks Dhoni too.
Goalkeeper turned wicketkeeper turned captain, MS Dhoni was a fan of Adam Gilchrist. And guess what? He's challenging Gilly in all departments of the game — from the number of runs, to catches to match-winning innings. A safe wicket keeper and a good finisher, MS Dhoni is one of the best.
Lord puts his money on Taibu:
Boucher, Sanga, MSD are all good, but one complete cricketer missing from the list is Zimbabwe's Tatenda Taibu. Had Zimbabwe not been in such turmoil, he could have emerged as one of the best keeper-batsman in the world.
Shab picks ‘Baz’ McCullum:
Brendon McCullum is such a fine batsman that he's contemplating playing only as a batsman even in Test matches but his glovework hasn't deteriorated one bit and he still is one of the best keeper- batsmen in world cricket. Until Brendon becomes only a batsman, he's in this list of special keepers.
Amal Biyani picks Sangakkara:
Sangakkara has been a key player for Sri Lanka both behind the wickets as well as in front. Boucher is good but Sanga is better — a player of grater utility. Hence I'll put my money on the Sri Lankan any day.
We will wrap up the talk with Kaushik’s words:
Mark Boucher wins this purely because Adam Gilchrist has retired. To me, Gilly is the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the history of cricket. Period.