Do You “Keep” or Do You Backstop?
Everywhere you turn these days in professional cricket opinions are split as to whether top sides need a top class wicket keeper or an excellent batsman who can `stop’ the ball. I`m sure you will have your own opinions on that topic.
Back in club cricket most sides are happy just have a guy who is `good behind the sticks’ and if he can bat as well, well that’s a bonus!
Certainly at club level whilst some might deem this comment unfair, wicket keeping coaching is often overlooked sadly, sometimes there are snippets of guidance offered to a youngster learning the trade but seldom is the same level of attention given to wicket keepers as say to the batsmen, bowlers or fielding practices..
Main reason? Well wicket keeping is a specialist position and other than basic perception / opinion not too many people know much about coaching the art. Let me give you a few pointers as I continue..
Most young wicketkeepers I see suffer from extremely poor footwork making their chances of catching the ball very poor especially if the ball is not coming straight at them.
Many young ‘keepers’ squat into their ready position with their heels too close together, in most cases nearly touching which means their knees point towards 10 o`clock and 2 o`clock.
This position makes sideways movement almost impossible and as a result many balls are dropped or missed due to over reaching for the ball or worse still as the keeper reaches, his hands come apart meaning he`s not only in a poor position to catch the ball but also trying to catch it one handed.
Ok back to that stance.. Your body should be nicely balanced; many keepers either sit back in their stance or indeed lean forward onto their gloves. Again without good balance in your stance your ability to move to the sides in severely compromised.
When you squat into position get your feet shoulder width apart and try working on pushing off your right foot to move to the left and vice versa when moving to take the ball.
Work really hard to keep the distance between your head and your hands as small as possible, especially when you`re moving to catch a ball, that`s right move your head to the ball too – oh and don’t forget to keep those hands together for as long as possible.
At the point of contact for the ball entering the gloves think about a straight line from your eyes directly down to your gloves. Obviously it`s not always possible but as a general rule of catching the ball after it passes the stumps think always head and hands.
For those of you learning this difficult art keep enjoying what you`re doing. It`s not easy and work hard. The best keepers make the art look so easy that many people believe that they could do it easily but always remember anyone can backstop, not everyone can ‘keep’!