It is rare for a wicketkeeper to get ‘Man of the Match’ or ‘Man of the Series’ award in cricket. It was, therefore, nice to see the wicketkeepers of England and Pakistan getting the best player awards in the Test series recently. I would like to congratulate Mohammad Rizwan of Pakistan and Jos Buttler of England for the same.
It hardly matters that both of them have got the best player awards not because of their excellent keeping but for their superb performance with the bat. In this series, Buttler left a lot to be desired as far as glove job is concerned. Both of them performed tremendously well in the batting area. Buttler scripted the victory for the team. At one point of time, he was out of form. Even questions were being raised over his induction in the team.
However, Buttler not only recovered from his bad form but also fetched victory for the team and took his batting to a high level. For this, the England coach and selectors deserve congratulations. They, after all, took risk by giving such a player a chance whose wicketkeeping was just average. Silencing his critics, Buttler performed extraordinarily well with his bat and contributed a lot in England bagging the test series win.
At the same time, Rizwan also displayed superb batting skill, that too, at a time when most of Pakistan batsmen were almost surrendering to the English bowling attack. Rizwan displayed a good understanding of the game and played stroke all around and in all directions. Rizwan is a good wicketkeeper also. This is also a fact that it is very difficult to do glove work in England. Skill of anticipating the ball comes from experience. Rizwan did a great job in such a challenging situation and ensured his place in the team for the limited overs cricket. As regards Buttler, he had not done too much glove work in the test matches before. Now Ollie Pope is also in the playing eleven who has done wicketkeeping in one test. Jonny Bairstow used to have this responsibility earlier but now he is part of the team for limited overs cricket. But Buttler needs to improve upon his wicketkeeping. He does not look to be a wicketkeeper of even national standard. He has several shortcomings in his keeping. These shortcomings have come to the fore before the fast bowlers and spin bowlers during the series against Pakistan. Buttler missed catches as well as the chances to stump. Despite this poor performance, selectors relied on him. Now, after scripting victory for England with his bat, Butler will be playing future tests with higher morale and confidence. His experience will help him a lot in tests in future.
In our time too, wicketkeepers were not lacking batting skilles. I was selected for the test team after scoring good runs in domestic cricket. But today, wicketkeepers’ batting skill is given too much importance. A wicketkeeper with tremendous batting skill fulfills the need of an all-rounder in the team. In this case, the team has an option to keep an additional bowler. Even good batting performance helps the wicketkeeper to cover up his weaknesses in the keeping area. This is true that good wicketkeepers such as Andy Flower, Kumar Sangakkara, Adam Gilchrist, Ian Healy and Mark Boucher used to turn the tables on rival teams with their superb batting skills in world cricket. M.S. Dhoni can also be included in this list, who won the hearts of all by virtue of his splendid batting.
The writer is a former wicketkeeper. He has played 49 Tests and 94 ODIs for India.