Before starting this article, let us inform you that a wicket-keeper has to be sharp, thoroughly active and vigilant all the time behind the stumps, plus it requires a lot of fitness to stand behind the stumps for 50 overs and 5days continuously, You have to dive, jump, run, stay vigilant and it requires high levels of concentration, fitness & mental strength. Plus their job is not done just by keeping, they also have an added responsibility to bat down the order and rescue their teams out of trouble or score those crucial runs. So technically, a wicket-keeper goes through more physical hard work than a proper batsman or a bowler because he has to look after two jobs in a match unlike other players who need to prove only in one department.
Well you ask any cricket conneisseur about the top wicket-keepers to have ever played the game the answers will range from wicket-keepers starting in the range of 1970’s to the current generation. As youngsters (post 1993 generation)we may have not witnessed players like Wasim Bari, Allan Knott, Syed Kirmani, Farokh Engineer, Narendra Tamhane or Rodney marsh or even Ian Healy or Budhi Kundaran amongst many others. These names were not the best statistically but they served their nation with their best which they could give.
Even Moin Khan for Pakistan was equally effective and in fact the best keeper for Pakistan since they started playing cricket. Because Moin Khan who has played 214 ODI’s and 69 Tests with over 342 catches and 93 stumpings, no other keeper from Pakistan has even come half close to his records behind the stumps. What’s more, Moin was a keeper when Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar were at their peak and he hardly let any balls go past him, be it a 150+ ball from Akhtar or a bouncer from Waqar or a Wasim or Akhtar’s wild wides. Players like Akmal brother (Kamran, Umar, Adnan) came but none of them even combined matched the versatility and records of Moin Khan. Current keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed on the other hand looks promising.
And as far as Modern game is concerned, there are only 4names which we can say with confidence have thoroughly been the all time keeping greats of the game and i.e is MS Dhoni, Mark Boucher, Adam Gilchrist & Kumar Sangakkara. Each of these players had a different trait and characteristics which made them stand out. While Boucher was a pure keeper and an average batsmam, Gilchrist was one of the devastating openers, Dhoni was the best finisher while Sangakkara was the best no.3 batsman in the world.
Video- Mark Boucher terrific keeping
Many may find his name in the all time best keepers a little worth arguing but his longevity, fitness and consistency has made him serve South Africa for almost 18years, the longest spanning career for a wicket-keeper. Mark was a silent warhorse perfectly accurate behind the stumps and that made him a permanent fixture in the south African side though his batting with an average of close to 30 was only average in both the forms of the game, it was his untouched records in keeping where the world will remember him for a long long time.
Longest career as a wicket-keeper– 16years
Most Tests as a keeper– 147
Highest number of catches in Tests and ODI’s-656 in Tests and 356 in ODI’s+ 2 in T20’s, Total- 1014catches
Video- Dhoni Insanely fast stumpings
A batsman par excellence and also one of the greatest finishers of the game, unlike boucher who was just handy with the bat, Dhoni averages a staggering 50+ in ODIs and 37 in Tests which is more than a commendable for a wicket-keeper batsman who usually comes to bat at no.6,7 or 8. Dhoni was spotless and a perfectionist behind the stumps and has hardly commited any mistakes, add to it his raw aggressive batting, Dhoni took the Indian team towards a new patch of success since his arrival into the international cricket. What’s more he also became one of the most loved and successful captains of India. Too many hats at a time for sure for our Dhoni.
Catches- 256 in Tests + 283 in ODI’s+ 43 in T20s, Total- 582catches
Stumpings- 38 in tests +100+ in ODI’s and 23 in T20’s- 161stumpings (Highest)
Video- Adam Gilchrist 149 in the World Cup Final
You talk about Adam Gilchrist and most of the bowlers will turn nervous bowling to him. No batsman or a keeper batsman has matches the aura and fear which Adam Gilchrist evoked as an opener. Counter attack was his only weapon and he succeeded in it too. What’s more he was a prolific batsman with a test average of close to 48 in Tests and 37 in ODI’s with a combined 33 international tons and over 17,000 runs.
Stumpings- 37 in Tests and 55 in ODI’s = 92 stumpings
Catches- 379 in Tests, 417 on ODI’s & 17 in T20’s = 813 catches
Video- Wonderful catches by Sangakkara
Even if we take away all the batting records from this genius, Kumar would still remain in the team for his flawless wicket-keeping and even if you take away all his keeping records, he would remain in the team for his gigantic batting records. Such was the importance of Sangakkara which made him the most important vital cog of the Lankan team for almost one and a half decade. 38test hundreds, batting average of 57, 12,400 test runs, 93 ODI 50’s along with 25 ODI tons and over 14,000 ODI runs. Do we need to say anything more about him? The records says it all! Add to it
Catches-182 in Tests, 402 in ODI’s and 25 in T20’s = 607 catches
Stumpings- 20 in Tests, 99 in ODI’s and 20 in T20’s= 139stumpings