Keeping wickets to fast bowlers - Part I
A wicketkeeper's job is multi-dimensional and
involves a number of aspects that require careful
attention and planning. One of these aspects has
been dealt with in this article, i.e. the position
and posture of the keeper when keeping wickets to
the 'fast men'.
There are a number of factors that will affect
where and how the keeper will stand, or rather,
1. The speed of the bowler: fast, fast-medium,
2. The condition of the pitch: bouncy, fast, sticky
3. The direction and velocity of the wind and the
4. The state of the ball: new, semi-new or old.
5. The situation of the match.
to the Gilchrist-Lee combination
When a 'tearaway' fast bowler like Shoaib Akhtar or
Brett Lee is operating with the new ball in
'normal' pitch and wind conditions, a keeper should
stand around 20 yards away from the stumps. A
'normal' pitch is one that is sporting, offering
equal purchase to the batsmen and bowlers. 'Normal'
conditions imply that it is not very windy. The
definition of 'normalcy' of course varies from
country to country. In England, it stands for
overcast weather, seaming wickets and a wind that
is not too strong. On the sub-continent, it
represents hot and humid weather with little or no
wind, and a pitch with low bounce.
When a fast bowler operates with a semi new-ball in
these normal conditions, the keeper should stand
two yards further up, i.e. 18 yards. When the ball
gets older, the keeper should move two yards
closer. But then, conditions are not always normal.
How should a keeper adjust to different kinds of
On a bouncy, fast strip, it would be wise for a
keeper to crouch 22 yards from the stumps.
Keeping wickets to fast bowlers on a sticky wicket
is an art in itself. The ball plays all kinds of
tricks on a sticky wicket; it may kick off, keep
low or skid after pitching. This creates problems
not only for the batsmen, but also the keepers.
Here, the keepers will have to use their
discretion. Depending upon their experience and
confidence, they will have to decide the distance
from the stumps where they will be most
Wicketkeepers will also have to adjust their
position according to the wind conditions, as the
pace at which the ball travels in the air and off
the pitch is influenced by the velocity and
direction of the wind.
When the bowlers are 'fast-medium' like Zaheer
Khan, Mohammed Sami and Makhaya Ntini, the ball is
brand new, and the conditions normal, the keeper
should crouch around 18 yards away from the stumps.
As the ball gets older, he should move closer to
the stumps in the manner stated above.
Parthiv Patel (R) celebrates
the fall of a wicket with
For bowlers who are 'medium-fast', like Heath
Streak, Darren Gough and L. Balaji, the keeper
should stand around 14 yards from the stumps when
the ball is new. But with a ball that is 6-8 overs
old, he may well use his discretion and judgment,
and think in terms of 'standing up', close to the
stumps. This will give him the opportunity to pull
off stumpings if the batsman stretches forward and
misses. One remembers Indian stumper Sadanand
Viswanath 'standing up' to Madanlal against England
in the 1985 World Championship of Cricket and
taking a superb reflex catch to dismiss Richard
Ellison. Some bowlers tend to get more confident
when their keepers stand up, although there aren't
many who feel this way in international cricket at
the moment. Alec Bedser, England's bowling great of
the 40s and 50s, was one such. Another factor that
comes into play in 'standing-up' matters is the
match situation. Even if the keeper wants to stand
up, the captain or bowler may overrule him if they
want to cut out the possibility of the batsman
getting a thick edge and the ball sailing past the
keeper for a boundary.
While some keepers might think of standing up to
medium-fast bowlers and others may decide against
it, they should go ahead and do so against
'military medium' bowlers like Sourav Ganguly,
Nathan Astle and Ian Harvey, who generally operate
with a semi-new or old ball (I say 'generally'
because Ganguly has opened the bowling for India in
quite a few Tests!). However, in windy, seaming
conditions like those in England, he should stand
14 yards away even to these bowlers, as the chances
of the batsman getting deceived by the swing and
nicking a catch are far greater. In his usual
position, away from the wickets, the keeper anyway
has less than a second in which to observe the ball
as it takes the outside edge of the bat and flies
in his direction at a certain height and speed. He
has to judge the path, height and then catch it.
Reducing this time further by standing up, will
increase the chances of the catch being missed.