The Ten Commandments of Wicketkeeping - Part II - cricket for india
COACHING

The Ten Commandments of Wicketkeeping - Part II

Every wicketkeeper should strive to minimise his mistakes and ensure that he has more good days than ordinary. Although it is a thankless job, there is no doubt that the wicketkeeper is by far the most important member of the fielding side, for it is he comes into contact the maximum number of times with the object that makes all the difference between victory and defeat the ball.

Adam Gilchrist
Adam Gilchrist in the thick of thing...

Let's take a look at the next installment of the 'commandments' that govern the art of wicketkeeping:

EQUIPMENT:

For a keeper, his gear is his most precious possession. It need not necessarily be new or branded. What is important is that it should be comfortable, and allow the keeper to move quickly. There is no point in equipping oneself with stuff made by renowned manufacturers, in which one feels uncomfortable and virtually immobile. A brand-new pair of keeping gloves is hard and stiff. The ball tends to bounce out of gloves that are hard. Hence, the gloves need to be soft and pliable. The leg-guards are also a key component of a keeper's armour. They shouldn't make the keeper feel that he is carrying an additional burden.

A keeper's hands are his warheads. These warheads merit proper maintenance. Gloves that are bigger than the hands give the latter 'breathing space'. They also help to keep the palms soft and loose, which in turn leads to more effective catching. Keepers should place the little finger of one hand on its counterpart. This will minimise the number of drops wherein the ball goes through the palms.

THE GLOVES - BIG ENOUGH FOR THE HANDS:

A GOOD VIEW OF THE BALL:

The keeper should be standing in a position that allows him a good vision of the ball. He should at no time take his eyes off the ball. Although the ideal position varies from individual to individual, the preferable approach is to mark a line on the off-stump line, and stand with the left foot on the line. This is what a keeper could do when a right-hander is on strike. He should do exactly the opposite when a left-hander is batting. This position will facilitate steady and smooth movement on both sides of the wicket.

BALANCE:

It's critical to balance the body-weight equally on both legs. If there is a difference in the weight on the legs, the keeper will have to transfer it from one leg to another while he is moving. That might delay his reaction by a few moments, and this could prove costly. A keeper should be well balanced before the ball arrives.

ANTICIPATION AND CONFIDENCE:

Cricket, it is said, is all about anticipation. The same holds true for keepers. A keeper will find it difficult to collect half-chances or even regulation catches if he is finding it difficult to anticipate the bowler's move or batsman's stroke. The ability to anticipate can give him tremendous confidence, which will in turn affect his all-round game. After all, 90 % of the game is played in the mind!

NO SNATCHING AT THE BALL:

One of the biggest sins that a keeper can commit is to snatch at the ball. In all probability, the ball will bounce out of the gloves if he does so. The palms should be soft and move in the same direction as the ball. The keeper should allow the ball to settle in his palms before he releases it or executes a stumping. He should wait till it 'settles in'.

BODY BEHIND BALL:

Not all pitches are consistent in pace and bounce. Most Test pitches tend to behave unpredictably at some point in a match. This causes problems not only for the batsmen, but also the wicketkeeper. He has little time to judge the height of the approaching cherry. Hence, it is all the more important to get the body behind the ball. Even if he fails to catch it, he will be able to stop it. It can be demoralising for a bowler who is giving it everything to see the ball go past the keeper for extras. On the other hand, he will be heartened if the keeper manages to stop the ball, in the knowledge that his colleague is not giving away generous donations to the opponent

FINGERS FACING DOWNWARDS AND OUTWARDS:
 
It is essential to avoid injuries, whether minor or serious. Pointing the fingers outwards or downwards will reduce the chances of injury to a great extent. In case of a misjudgement, there is a greater chance of the fingers getting injured if they are turned towards the ball. Hence, the fingers should be pointed downwards or outwards whenever possible.

LIGHTNING REFLEXES, SHARP EYESIGHT AND STAMINA:

This commandment has more to do with the individual's physical responses than any other. A keeper can hone these skills by following certain training regimes. Practising alone with a golf ball helps improves reflexes. Running will increase stamina.

For a wicketkeeper who adheres to the 'ten commandments' and sticks by them, even the sky is not the limit!