Wicket-keeping is undoubtedly one of the most undervalued aspects of the game even though it is no less significant than batting, bowling, or fielding. On paper, a keeper has a simple task: grab the chances that come his way, and keep motivating his team.
Having the big gloves in hands, though, comes with its own challenges: standing up to pace bowlers, anticipating a catch even when the batsman has blocked your vision, or going for tough chances that fly between the keeper and the slip.
If a wicket-keeper does a good job behind the stumps, he/she rarely gets the credit, as it is considered routine. However, just like a goalkeeper in football, a keeper’s mistake behind the wicket gets amplified.
This is why no one should deny the keepers their few minutes of fame when they pull off some spectacular catches. In this piece, we dive into the world of great catches, and rewind to have a look at 10 of the best grabs of all time behind the stumps.
#10. Jack Russell (1989 Ashes, Manchester)
The flamboyant Jack Russell had a stop-start career for England. But, he had his moments behind the stumps when he got his chance. One such occasion was during the 1989 Ashes.
In the 4th Test in Manchester, Australia were 135 for no loss in response to England’s first-innings score of 260. It was when Ian Botham bowled a poor delivery down the leg side to Geoff Marsh. The batsman glanced in search of some easy runs, only to find Russell plucking out a beauty, standing up to the stumps.
Russell further contributed an unbeaten 128 in England’s second innings, but the Aussies clinched the game by nine wickets.
#9. MS Dhoni (2008 Sydney Test)
One of MS Dhoni’s finest catches came during the controversial Sydney Test of 2008. Andrew Symonds, after many strokes of luck, had smashed 162 in the first innings, and was batting on 61 in the second.
The Indians were getting increasingly frustrated when RP Singh went round the wicket to Symonds, and bowled a juicy half-volley well outside off-stump, inviting a drive. The Australian all-rounder accepted the challenge, but in his effort to smash the ball, was only able to edge it behind the stumps.
The ball flew between Dhoni and first slip ,when the keeper pounced to his right to pull off the catch one-handed. As the first slip was wide, the ball would have flown to the boundary had Dhoni not intervened.
Dhoni’s brilliance, though, could not change India’s fortunes in the game as they went down by 122 runs.
#8. Mark Boucher (2007 Belfast ODI)
Mark Boucher has been no stranger to great catches during his long career. But his effort to send back Sachin Tendulkar during the Belfast ODI in 2007 merits special mention.
India were chasing only 149 runs to win the third game of the Future Cup, and South Africa were desperate for early wickets. In the second over of India's chase, Makhaya Ntini bowled one to Tendulkar that straightened after pitching and rose. The batsman was completely squared up, and edged the ball behind the stumps.
The ball was dying in front of first slip even as the fielder got into position to take the catch. However, Boucher left nothing to chance, and flung himself full length to his right to pull off a blinder.
India went on to win the match by six wickets, but Boucher’s effort makes it to the ‘best catches’ videos on YouTube.
#7. Nayan Mongia (1999 World Cup, Manchester)
Former India wicket-keeper Nayan Mongia was an indispensable part of the Indian team in the mid and late 90s. His keeping, especially to Anil Kumble on rank turners where the ball spun and bounced from varied angles, won him plenty of accolades.
In the 1999 World Cup clash against Pakistan in Manchester, Mongia came up with another memorable catch off Kumble’s bowling. Chasing India’s 228, Pakistan were 78 for 4 in the 25th over. Kumble bowled one back of a length outside off stump, and got the ball to bounce. Azhar Mahmood jabbed at the ball, but as it was rising, he could not control it, and only managed to nick it.
The beauty of the catch was that Mongia pulled it off while standing up to the stumps. The reaction time for the keeper would have been hardly a fraction of a second. Yet, Mongia was successful in grabbing the ball perfectly.
India won the game by 47 runs as Venkatesh Prasad claimed 5 for 27. Although India bowed out in the Super Six stage, Mongia’s catch was declared the catch of the 1999 World Cup.
#6. Adam Gilchrist (2007 Perth T20I)
It is tough to pick out an Adam Gilchrist catch for a top 10 list. So good was the Aussie behind the stumps, there can be a separate top 10 compilation for his spectacular catches alone. We finally zeroed in on the grab he picked up in Perth during the one-off T20I against New Zealand in December 2007.
Chasing 187 for victory, New Zealand were 29 for 2 at the start of the seventh over. Shaun Tait ran in hard, and bowled a short, rising delivery to Jamie How. The batsman tried to hook it, but was too late on the ball, managing only to get it as far as Gilchrist behind the stumps.
Gilchrist dived high as the ball was above his head. He tried to grab it with both hands, but the ball popped out behind him. Just when it seemed the chance had been grassed, the Aussie wicket-keeper turned around, and leaped to take the catch with his left hand, inches above the ground.
How was dismissed for 4, and Australia easily won the game by 54 runs. Andrew Symonds was the star of the match for his blistering 85 not out from 46 balls.
#5. Brad Haddin (2008 Wellington T20I)
After Adam Gilchrist’s retirement, Brad Haddin did a commendable job stepping into the legend’s seemingly irreplaceable shoes. And, he too pulled off quite a few brilliant catches, just like Gilchrist. One such instance happened during the first T20 of Australia’s tour of New Zealand in February 2010.
New Zealand batted first in Wellington. The opening over was bowled by Shaun Tait. The fourth delivery from Tait to Brendon McCullum was an outswinger sent down at 150 km/h. A fidgety McCullum stuck his bat out, and the edge seemed to be flying to Shane Watson at first slip. Then Superman appeared out of nowhere. Well, actually it was Haddin!
Diving full length to his right, Haddin with his outstretched hand pulled off the catch. A stunned Watson remained in a catch-taking position for a few seconds after Haddin had completed the catch, before joining in the celebration.
New Zealand could not recover from McCullum’s early dismissal, and folded up for 118. Mitchell Johnson picked up 3 for 19 as Australia won the game by six wickets.
#4. Alan Knott (1971 Oval Test)
England’s Alan Knott is widely regarded as one of the finest wicket-keepers the game has ever produced. His strong reflexes enabled him to pull off some great catches, and a number of modern-day wicket-keepers look up to him as a role model.
During the third Test of England’s historic tour off India, Knott held on to one of his many great catches. India were chasing 173 runs to clinch The Oval Test. Dilip Sardesai, batting on 40, edged one from Derek Underwood that pitched and turned away.
The ball spun sharply, but in no time Knott sprung to his right, and pulled off a one-handed catch. India, though, went on to win the Test by four wickets, and the series 1-0.
#3. Sarah Taylor (2013 Hove ODI)
Former England wicket-keeper Sarah Taylor pulled off one of the best reflex catches in the game’s history, during the third ODI of Australia’s tour of England in Hove in August 2013.
During the first innings, Australian captain Jodie Fields was on strike in the 26th over, when Danielle Hazell came in to bowl. The off-spinner bowled a length delivery outside off stump, and Fields went for a reverse sweep. She connected well, or at least she thought so.
Taylor, keeping a close eye on Fields’ movement, anticipated the shot brilliantly, and dived to her right to pluck off a one-handed beauty. The glee on Hazell’s face was as much of surprise as it was of jubilation. Chasing 204 runs for victory, Taylor contributed 64 from 59 with the bat, to be adjudged the Player of the Match for her all-round brilliance.
#2. Rodney Marsh (1975 World Cup, Leeds)
Australia’s Rod Marsh produced what is arguably the greatest catch in World Cup history. Gary Gilmour dominated the proceedings in the 1975 World Cup semi-final against England in Leeds. But, Marsh made his own contribution in the game, with a moment of unforgettable brilliance.
England were struggling at 2 for 26 when Gilmour combined with Marsh to send back Tony Greig. The batsman drove one that was going across him, but only managed to get a thick edge. The ball was flying to the slips when Marsh plunged to his right, and pulled off a fine one-handed take.
The agility of Marsh was evident from the fact that the slip fielder was in no position to take the catch even after Marsh had completed the grab. Gilmour’s 6 for 14, and an unbeaten innings of 28 propelled Australia to the World Cup final where they lost to the West Indies.
#1. Kumar Sangakkara (2013 Dubai T20I)
Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara pulled off many a difficult catch during his illustrious career. Most of his wicket-keeping heroics were often overshadowed by his brilliance with the bat. However, his catch to send back Shahid Afridi during the 2nd T20 of Sri Lanka’s tour of UAE is unmissable.
Chasing 212 for victory in Dubai, the match was runnng out of Pakistan’s grasp, at 121 for 7 in the 13th over. Shahid Afridi, who was enjoying himself with some big hits, decided to take on Thisara Perera on the first ball of the 14th over.
The maverick Pakistani went for a slog across the line, and mishit one up in the air towards the slip region. As is the unwritten norm, keeper Sangakkara called for it. The ball was swirling in the air for long, and it seemed Sangakkara had lost it. However, at the very last moment, he dived full stretch to his right to grab a stunner.
Afridi was dismissed for 28 off 13 balls, and Sohail Tanveer contributed a 26-ball 41, but Sri Lanka won the contest by 24 runs.