Do you want the better batsman or the better wicketkeeper behind the stumps for your team? That argument’s been represented by any number of individual duels over the years. Recently though, we think you’ll all agree that the better batsman’s been winning out, in general.
Blame Adam Gilchrist. He’s a great wicketkeeper, but his batting’s so spectacular it easily overshadows that fact. International sides want wicketkeepers who average 50 now, let alone 40. They’ll never get it because Gilchrist’s a one-off, but it won’t stop them trying.
But there might be some hope for the thoroughbred stumpers. Might Twenty20, that impure bastard version of the game, bring wicketkeeping skills to the fore once more?
Here’s our rationale – obliterate it in the comments with your usual gusto. How many batsmen do you need in Twenty20 cricket? How many do you really, really need? We reckon five – five specialists at any rate.
Presumably at least one of your five bowlers won’t be Tufnell-esque and presumably any eligible keepers are at least half-competent with the bat. If you’re serious about winning, then you don’t really want to be losing more than five wickets in 20 overs. Things aren’t going your way if that happens.
So you can fairly happily pick your best keeper. And you know what – there’s an added incentive.
In Twenty20 cricket, with scoring being so low and tight, batsmen get cheeky. It’s not totally unknown for them to take a run off a ball which goes straight through to the keeper. They like to jump around as well to disrupt the bowler’s line and length, coming down the pitch or batting out of their crease.
So wouldn’t it help if you had a keeper who was good enough to stand up to the stumps to fast-medium bowlers? No cheeky byes. No batting out of the crease. The wicketkeeper’s having a real impact there.
Twenty20: saviour of the wicketkeeping tradition. There’d be a touch of irony in that.