How Tough Is It Being The Wicketkeeper?

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.



4 thoughts on “How Tough Is It Being The Wicketkeeper?

  1. The catcher is expected to contribute with the bat as well, especially in AL. Look at some of the names in AL in the recent years. Posada, Joe Mauer, Matt Weiters, Varitek or even in NL Carlos Ruiz etc. Baseball catchers basically dictate the game where as in cricket, that isn’t so, very much. 162 games in 6 months is brute of a schedule. No recovery time either. However, catchers get a respite every 3 outs where as a wicket keeper could be in the field squatting 540 times a day for days together.

    • CricketNNS says:

      Yeah, I agree. Wicket-keeping in Tests is never an easy job. You have to always be on your toes, waiting for the ball. Kumar Sangakkara, who was the SL wicket-keeper in all formats, gave up the gloves a couple of years ago to Prasanna Jayawardene. And boy, did his average increase or what. Sanga bats at no.3, so he had to be at his best on the field and then come out to bat as soon as a wicket fell. There is a lot of pressure as well. On the other hand, people like MS Dhoni, Matt Prior, and even Brad Haddin come at no.6 or later than that, so they can relax a bit. All in all, wicketkeeping is for the best of the best. And yes, it’s not for people like Kamran Akmal.

  2. And this article doesn’t even go into the details of calling pitches.

    I think a senior wicketkeeper in cricket is worth a *tremendous* amount. And wicketkeeper-captain is a natural fit (best seat in the house, best opportunity to be heard, and if you’re bowlers mess up they are *directly* letting you down).

  3. Cricblogger says:

    Sangakara’s decision to play as a specialist batsman in Test cricket is very thoughtful and reduces the stress on his body from all that laborious bending and catching.

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