Legends Month: The best of Ian Healy
As part of Legends Month on Cricket Network, look back on one of Ian Healy's greatest performances
14 May 2018, 10:53 AM AEST
When Ian Healy hung up the gloves as Australia's wicketkeeper ahead of the 1999-2000 summer, he left the game with 395 Test dismissals, a further 234 in one-day cricket and a reputation as the greatest gloveman to have played the game.
Mark Boucher may have eventually overhauled his dismissals record and his successor, Adam Gilchrist, redefined the role of wicketkeepers forever. But over the proceeding decade, the pugnacious Healy was the heartbeat of Australian cricket's revival and dawn of a golden era.
Thrust into a struggling Australian Test team in 1988 after just six first-class appearances for Queensland, Healy made his debut under Allan Border's captaincy in Karachi.
The following year he was part of the Australia's Ashes touring party, famously described as the 'worst Australian touring side ever' that comprehensively won 4-0 to start a generation of dominance.
A devout team man, Healy threw himself head first into everything from training to team meetings, and his slashing cuts and whirling hook shots regularly added vital runs to the Australian cause.
He was an expert keeper to the quicks; 58 of his dismissals came from edges found by Glenn McGrath, closely followed by 55 for Craig McDermott.
But Ian Healy's legend is intertwined inextricably with the leg-spin of Shane Warne.
"Ian Healy was comfortably the best keeper in my time from any country," Warne said in 2015.
Healy's constant nasal intonations of "Bowling Shaaane" and "Bowling Warney" across long spells became part of the soundtrack of summer throughout the 90s.
They combined for 49 dismissals in 74 Tests (Warne had 273 others throughout that time, an unquantifiable number of them owed to the influence of Healy that kept batsmen rooted to the crease rather than advancing to the pitch), but it was not until their seventh Test together that Warne and Healy combined for a dismissal.
But it was not just the dismissals that made their partnership.
It was on the 1993 and 1997 Ashes tours where the Healy-Warne combination was at its finest, each rating those tour as the pinnacle of their partnership. The clean keeping, Healy's ability to read Warne that was the envy of every opposition batsman and their symbiotic understanding made cricket artistry.
"We've chatted so much over the years about what's happening," Healy told journalists on the 1997 tour.
"I suppose I learnt as I went along, but I'm not sure I can better the way I kept wicket to him on the 1993 tour.
"Things are going pretty well this time. Shane's length is the important thing over long periods of bowling. Reading him is one thing but you still have to get there."
Healy rated his work at Edgbaston in 1993 to stump Graham Thorpe as his best ever; a spitting delivery that lifted sharply and bounced wide, Healy's razor-sharp reactions and impeccable footwork allowed him to take the delivery cleanly and sweep his glove back onto the stumps to beat the retreating batsman.
It went in the record books ‘st Healy b Warne’ but it was a team dismissal that summed up the Australian ethos of the time.
"England were eight down and Thorpe was going well," Healy recalled to Wisden. "Steve Waugh at short point begins to suggest that Thorpe would play for the not-out. Thorpe swings at one, aiming for Tugga, and misses the ball, which bounces and spins. It is wide, so I am pleased to beat him back into his crease."
His leg-side stumping of Mark Butcher on the '97 Ashes tour was another few, if any, other than Healy could have affected.
A full toss from Michael Bevan slid down the leg side, but Healy, always on the move but never in the wrong spot, took it gracefully and had the bails off in a flash as Butcher fell away attempting a glance.
The Queenslander's 119 Tests yielded 366 catches and 29 stumpings, as well as 4,356 runs, with four hundreds. His 168 ODI matches saw him claim 194 catches and 39 stumpings.
And his partnership with Warne is regarded as one of the great double acts in Australian cricket.