The New York Times ran an article last week on Russell Martin, a catcher for the Yankees. The position, which requires someone to squat behind the batter in baseball and catch the pitch, is the closest thing to the wicketkeeper in cricket, and it’s no surprise theTimes calls it the “toughest position” of the sport:
Getting down for the next pitch — again and again, across scores of games and hundreds of innings and in service of thousands of pitches — is the essence of Martin’s job. He is, as a professional baseball catcher, at once trusted and vital, exposed and embattled, relied on by his team and most likely underappreciated by fans.
From the first day of training camp in late winter until the end of the season in the fall, a catcher will make innumerable critical decisions affecting the outcomes of games. He will take hundreds of tipped and bouncing balls into dozens of protected and unprotected parts of his body.
And he will put untold stress and wear on his knees, legs, back and neck. Just by getting into his position.
“It’s the hardest position to play, by far,” Tim McCarver said. “People don’t realize half of what goes into it.”
Catchers pick up all sorts of deformities — their fingers and wrists get cut and bent out of shape; their thigh muscles grow disproportionately; the mental exhaustion of the routine is a killer. Read the whole article — even though it’s about baseball, it gives you a very good idea of the commitment and strength required by the position in cricket. Actually, I imagine it’s slightly harder in cricket because wicketkeepers are also expected to contribute with the bat after spending an innings squatting and standing.