The job of wicket-keeper is the toughest role in the field in Test cricket. He/she has to concentrate intensely on every single delivery sometimes for two days at a time. Keepers must be in tip-top condition both physically and mentally.
On top of this, the keeper is required to assist the captain in setting and adjusting the field placings. In modern cricket we also expect the keeper to also be a competent middle or lower order batsman.
Keeping wicket requires special techniques for both pace bowling and slow bowling. The crouch, the foot movement, the hand positioning are all repeated ball after ball.
These skills must be constantly practised and refined. Keeping is often referred to as an art.
The keeper must also regularly sprint up to 20 metres to get to the stumps ready for the throw from the outfield. I’m sure wicket keepers need about 12 hours sleep after a long day in the field.
So why do we continue to see the ball being fired in to the keeper even when there is no chance of affecting a run-out? When the batsmen are not even interested in a run.
Is it because of the laws of cricket surrounding when the ball becomes dead? Law 23 states “the ball becomes dead when it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or bowler.”
Does this mean the ball must be returned to the keeper? No. Law 23 also states “The ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play.”
I was at the Gabba for day one of the first Test recently and the number of times the ball was fired at the keeper for no reason was quite astonishing.
If the ball was played gently down to mid off, the fielder would pick up the ball and fire it in to the keeper. Sometimes the keeper would be moving up to the stumps and sometimes he was still back in his starting position.
Surely if it is obvious that if the ball is dead, he should just pick it up and gently toss it to the bowler as he walks back to the top of his mark.
Another alarming aspect of these unnecessary throws to the keeper was the number of wayward throws that had the keeper jumping or diving around. This risks injury to the keeper and also risks overthrows adding to the score.
Watching the last season’s matches between Australia and India, I noticed the Indians rarely returned the ball to the keeper unnecessarily. Yet the Australian team favour this idea of the returning the ball to the keeper at every opportunity.
Why? One thought is that it keeps the batsman on his toes and may intimidate him if the ball flies inches from his head on its way to the keeper. Another is that it is good practice for the fielders throwing at the stumps. But not every ball surely?
Doesn’t the keeper have enough to do already?
Fan article originally published on The Roar's sports opinion website and kindly reproduced here thanks to The Roar. Submit your own cricket fan article for potential publication on cricket.com.au
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 19 November, 2012 10:00AM AEST