Coaching Corner 29 – Wicket Keeping
Please note: although for demonstration purposes a helmet was not worn in the photographs which appear in this section, all young wicket-keepers must wear a helmet or special face guard when standing up to the wicket. This applies to practice as well as match play.
There are five core technical elements in wicket-keeping:
Posture is crucial. Try to create a Z shape but without being hunched up. Think of two hinges (hips and knees) working together to produce speed of movement. Avoid a vertical back – a common fault. The hand should be about 4 inches (10 cm) from the ground. The weight should be forward, but not so far forward that you topple over onto your toes.
Make sure that your hands stay behind the stumps when the ball is delivered. If you don’t, the square-leg umpire will call “No ball”. Likewise, you cannot take the ball in front of the stumps unless the ball has hit the bat or part of the batsman’s body.
As regards position, make sure that you have a clear view of the ball as it is delivered. For a right arm over the wicket bowler and a right-handed batsman, this will mean that your left foot will be in line with the off stump. (See above)
How far back do you stand?
“Standing up to the wicket” means just that. Don’t be tempted to move back a yard.
When standing back, your position should be such that you take a normally paced delivery between knee and waist high. In other words the position will depend upon the pace of the bowler and the pitch. You will need to assess this quickly, because the slip fielders will take their position from you. You don’t want chances to be missed because the ball bounces in front of you (too far back), or conversely because the ball arrives too high (too close.)
The hands need to be relaxed but strong. You must maximise the catching area, so although the elbows need to close together, don’t tuck them into your ribs. Your arms and hands should rotate as an arc when moving to the ball, so the fingers point down when the ball is taken below waist height and move to point up if the ball bounces higher.
Try to make as big a catching area as possible and get your hands out in front of you.
Many ‘keepers like to overlap their hands with the little finger, with the dominant hand overlapping. (Note that one way to strengthen the weaker hand is to tidy up throws from the deep by using the weaker hand)
Prepare to take the ball with your arms almost straight but relaxed. This will allow the elbows to bend with the “take” and prevent the ball from bouncing out of the gloves.
Your head must go to the line of the ball. Try to keep the eyes level, so avoid jumping up and down when moving sideways. Your eyes are your camera – you need a clear image.
The head goes with your hands- when the ball is moving about it is absolutely vital that the head is in line.
Foot speed is vital, and the right posture will increase it. You will need to move quickly. The posture already described will provide a good base for moving quickly in short fast steps.
When standing up, move sideways to the ball off the stumps, not back. Moving back will take you out of range of the stumps and a stumping opportunity will be missed.
If the ball bounces more, be ready to move off the line to “ride” with it rather than move back.
“Riding with a high ball, will enable the wicket-keeper to stay close to the wicket and complete the stumping.”
The ball going down the leg side presents the greatest challenge to the wicket-keeper. Remember that even if the ball is called a wide, the batsman can still be stumped. You will need to move quickly.
"Note how the keeper has moved sideways and by keeping the weight towards the stumps has been able to break the wicket quickly.”
This brings us neatly to timing.
Knowing when to move is crucial. In the case above, i.e. a leg-side stumping, you actually have to move late. You will be blinded by the batsman’s body, so moving late will reduce this time. When the ball pitches, the ‘keeper should be watching it from the off-side. Then the hands go first, followed by the feet and head. Fast, powerful movements are the order of the day.
When standing back, the wicket-keeper, especially if the ball is swinging late or moving off the seam, must move as late and as fast as possible. If there is no lateral movement, then the ‘keeper can move earlier, but don’t move until you have sighted the ball leaving the bowler’s hand.
Taking returns from the outfield.
The traditional way to take a throw from the outfield is to stand behind the stumps.
However, nowadays, wicket keepers often move towards the ball to take it in front of the stumps in order to break the wicket more quickly, as below.
Much, however, will depend upon the accuracy and trajectory of the throw. You will have to use your judgement as to which method to adopt at the time. The “new” way is certainly effective with a good throw.
The wicket-keeper – the “leader of the band”
The wicket-keeper should be the hub of the team – the “leader of the band” setting the rhythm and tone, constantly bringing his team-mates into the game, cajoling, encouraging and putting pressure on the batsman by his very presence and body language.
Always keep positive: nothing is worse for a team than to see the ‘keeper quiet and depressed.
Encourage high standards of fielding and make sure that you set the right example by taking returns from fielders tidily. Never stop the ball with your pads and always stay within striking distance of the stumps, no matter how awkward the return.
You will set the position for the slips – tell them if they are too straight, too wide, too close or too far back.
Concentration is everything. You must stay totally focussed throughout the innings no matter how tired you feel.
You can be a great help to your captain: you can see clearly how the ball is behaving for different bowlers, you can see how the pitch is playing. You will be the first to notice if a bowlers losses his “nip” or line. You can see first if fielders are losing their angles by moving position slightly. You are also in the best position to spot any technical faults in the batsman.
You will need to be fit and have strength and power in the legs as well as being agile. It is tiring to keep wicket – you are involved in every ball and will be constantly moving quickly up to the stumps and back again. Remember that when you get tired, the first thing to go will probably be posture, and we’ve seen how crucial this is.
There are plenty of activities which you can do to improve both technique and reactions.
Holding a pen or pencil at eye level with an outstretched arm, releasing the pencil and then trying to grab it is a simple way of improving reactions.
“Distraction” drills with a partner are useful. Ask somebody to throw the ball to you past another person standing in the batsman’s position who is moving his hands about in a criss-cross motion. This will improve concentration and reactions.
Or you could ask a batsman to bat with a purpose-made very thin bat (the club has one) to practise taking the ball when the batsman is playing and missing and likely to “nick” one.
Using a “Katchit” board or catching net with a partner will improve catching and reactions.
Practise diving in both directions.
But remember, these drills have to be done regularly.
· Getting up too soon
· Snatching at the ball.
· Not getting up to the stumps quickly enough to take returns.
· Moving too soon before the line of the ball has been judged.
· Moving backwards when standing up to the stumps.
· Standing too far back or too close when standing back.
To be good wicket-keeper you will need to be brave, dedicated and fit, but once the art starts to be mastered, it is an extremely fulfilling role to play. You will be the lynch-pin of your team. We wish you every success.