A heavily loaded pace battery, a rock-steady batting line-up and an outstanding fielding unit – all of these combined would still be a failure without a proper wicket-keeper. An entry into the keeping slot is pretty difficult in the modern game, if you are not an exceptional talent with the willow in your hand. A keeper now has to perform the dual role of keeper-batsman with equal finesse and expertise.
Such an athlete is a rare commodity for any country. Gathering balls bowled at 145 kph in the hot sun for two days and then going out to bat seems to be the most difficult thing in the world to a layman. But there are several keepers who do it, and do it well.
Here’s the list of the top 10 wicketkeeper-batsmen of all time:
10. Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
At No. 10 is the Kiwi wicketkeeper-batsman Brendon McCullum. As destructive with the bat as with his athleticism behind the wickets, he is the perfect embodiment of skill, power, athleticism and smart-thinking. His prowess with the Mcscoop (or Dilscoop) and the reverse sweep has made him one of the most dangerous players of his generation to have swung the willow in the shorter formats of the game.
The 158* with which he set the IPL on fire remains etched in the memories of everyone – from the groundsmen who watched the match from the sidelines, to the bowlers who were at the receiving end of the onslaught, to the millions who watched the demolition on TV. Over 6,000 runs in Tests, close to 6,000 and ODIs (to go with a record 2,105 in T20 Internationals) and more than 200 dismissals in both formats speak volumes about his class.
9. Matt Prior (England)
A prolific batsman who was initially not considered to be an outstanding keeper at the international level, Matt Prior fine-tuned his glovework to become the ideal keeper-batsman for England. His batting too, was a big boost to England in Tests, as he averages above 40 which is quite impressive for a keeper-batsman coming in to bat at 6 or 7.
His aggressive knock of 126 studded with boundaries, in his debut Test match was much appreciated by fans and critics alike. Despite a relatively pedestrian average of 24 in ODIs, his total of over 250 dismissals behind the stumps in Tests make him a must on this list.