A keeper stands near the stumps for a spin bowler, the distance usually being two feet from the stumps. In most cases, the keeper squats outside the off-stump, and in some very rare instances when the captain decides to adopt a negative strategy, he squats outside the leg-stump. Remember James Foster standing outside the leg-stick while keeping to Ashley Giles' left-arm spin when English skipper Nasser Hussain decided to adopt negative tactics against Sachin Tendulkar in the 2001-02 series between England and India?
The keeper usually marks his position and also the line of the three stumps. Standing, or squatting near the stumps is referred to as 'standing up' to the bowler.
Ian Healy, the most successful wicketkeeper-batsman in Test history, completes a smart
stumping to send back West Indian Jimmy Adams in the
It is critical for a wicketkeeper to be mobile, energetic, strong, enthusiastic, and also patient and agile, when a spinner is in operation. He should be quick on his feet around the stumps. Quickness on his feet comes in handy to dart around and prevent cheeky singles.
The keeper should position his gloves above or outside the edge of the bat, instead of placing them directly in the line of the ball. He should expect an edge off every ball. He should stand close to the stumps, and be able to move around sideways, so as to cover the angle created after the ball pitches. This also reduces the distance between the gloves and the ball and forces him to gather the ball earlier.
The gloves should be positioned in such a way that their maximum surface area is exposed, but at the same time the fingers face either the ground or sky, or towards the left or right. At no time should they face the path of the ball.
The keeper should crouch until the ball pitches, and rise with the ball. Another important thing is not to grab at the ball, but wait for it to settle into the gloves. He should try not to make stumpings in haste, for it may result in a fumble or a missed chance. He should concentrate on taking the ball first and then bring it to the stumps. Of course, this may give the batsman an extra fraction of a second to return to the crease, but constant practice will pay in the long run. Dislodging the bails in a flash will become second nature for the keeper even before he realizes it!
Condition of the pitch:
Different skills of a keeper come into play on different types of pitches. On the first two days of a Test, especially the first, the pitch is relatively fresh. This affords less turn, but more speed depending on the amount of grass on the track. As the match progresses, the condition will deteriorate with every passing hour and the ball will start spinning more. The bounce of the ball will become uneven, and the ball will start playing all sorts of tricks after pitching, due to wear and tear. This will require a lot of concentration, agility and technical soundness.
To be continued...