TIPS FOR WICKETKEEPING SKILLS | The wicket-keeper is an essential and key part of the cricket team. Every team needs a reliable wicket keeper. As well as taking catches, stumping the batsmen and taking run outs, the wicket-keeper is one of the team’s most important players. They play a role in motivating and inspiring the bowlers and fielders to raise their game and win.
To be a wicket-keeper you need fast reactions and precise judgement as you have very little time to react to such fast deliveries. Especially if there are changes and deviations in the balls’ line due to variations in swing, movement off the pitch and edges.
You need to be alert and have high levels of concentration. Like top batsmen, you want to be able to ‘switch on and off’ your concentration between deliveries and overs to avoid getting mentally tired. It’s impossible to fully concentrate non-stop for hours at a time. High levels of fitness and flexibility are also very important for a wicket-keeper as it can be very tiring. You are effectively doing hundreds of squats and diving around the field. So stay fit, warm up, warm down and stretch thoroughly to remain in peak condition and avoid injury.
Equipment for wicketkeeping:
Wicket keeping stance
You can stand up to spin bowlers and slower paced bowlers. The wicket keepers stance is quite straightforward, you need to stand about one step behind the stumps. Make sure no part of your body or equipment is in front of the line of the stumps.
Crouch down with your left foot (reverse for left-hand batsmen) in line with middle stump, therefore on you are crouched a little on the offside. Try to keep your head still and eyes level during the delivery to help you judge the pace and line. You should be balanced and relaxed with your weight slightly forward on the balls of your feet. Be alert and ready to react to the delivery.
Catching the ball
When you are catching the ball, aim to get your head/eyes above the line of the ball and your body behind the line of the ball. As the ball rises from the pitch, rise from the crouching position with the ball, so you mirror the height of the ball. Watch the ball into your hands and catch it with your fingers pointing downwards.
You’ll need to cushion the impact of the ball hitting your gloves when catching by ‘giving’ with your hands. If the ball continues to rise as it reaches you, step with your outside foot backward and across. Rotate your body outwards, taking the ball on one side of the body.
To catch a ball delivered on the offside or leg side, move your feet and body across immediately to get your head back into line with the delivery. Move the outside foot first and follow with the inside. Rise with the ball as discussed above and ‘give’ with hands to reduce the impact.
You should be standing back to medium and fast bowlers as discussed above. However, stand in a position so that the ball is taken once it begins to drop.
Sometimes you may have to dive to take wide deliveries or thick edges. Always try to take the ball in two hands if possible and roll after the dive if you can, to reduce the impact of landing and chances of injury.
If the batsman is out of the crease after the delivery, once you’ve taken the ball, move your body weight towards stumps. Move your hands fast to break the wickets.
Training drills and tips
- Practice on a wicket, by having a player throw the ball past the stumps on the off side and leg side. Mix it up and get used to catching the ball either side of the stumps. Do it standing up and standing back, you’ll need to alter the pace of the throw appropriately.
- Develop the drill above by putting a batter into the drill to act as a distraction. Don’t have the batter hit the ball just get them to allow it to pass through to the keeper. It’ll help the wicket-keeper get used to taking the ball down the leg side and having to deal with the blind spot. It occurs as the ball passes across/in front of the batsmen.
- Next get the batsmen to play at the ball and miss it on purpose. The easiest way is to let the ball pass inside of bat by playing wide of the ball. This is a good drill to help get used to taking the ball after being unsighted by the batsmen.
- Have a player (wearing batting gloves to protect the hands) stand in the batmen’s position with a pair of wicket keeping gloves. As the ball passes, hit it with the gloves to create the effect of the ball catching an edge. This will help the keeper get used to deviations of the ball after the point of contact and having to react appropriately.
Start off slow and build it up. These drills will help you develop quick reactions, improve your decision making and help you become the best wicket keeper you can be. Remember to be vocal on the field and keep your teammates motivated.