Cow Corner

Will England ever settle on a limited-overs wicketkeeper?

Keeping wicket for England in limited-overs cricket is, it seems, an impossible task. Many have tried to fit the role, but all have fallen short of what was expected and have been duly replaced.

Jos Buttler, the 22-year-old Somerset star from Taunton, became the 13th different wicketkeeper England have employed in the one-day format alone since 2002, and he is unlikely to occupy the position for an extended period.

Perhaps more than with any other position, wicketkeepers are constantly scrutinised, with runs, catches and stumpings closely monitored and compared with all the alternative options.

If a keeper is quickly pigeon-holed as a 'specialist gloveman', their ability with the bat is immediately bemoaned; equally, if a 'batsman-keeper' type is weighing in with a good amount of runs, then it's any shonky glovework which is put in the spotlight.

Finding a keeper who is both an expert gloveman and a prolific run-scorer is like stumbling upon a gold mine. If only someone like, say, Matt Prior was English. Sigh.

But then again Prior, England's inspirational Test keeper - one of the most successful keeper-batsmen to have played that form of the game - has, of course, been tried before in pyjama cricket.

An average of 24.53 with a strike rate of 77.92 is, clearly, criminally insufficient in terms of what the selectors are looking for. After all, there are batsmen in the side who have once tried on a pair of webbed gloves and who have a better record with the bat - and everyone knows that keeping wicket is easy as long as it is not in a Test match, right?

The selectors have surely been over-thinking this one for a very long time; they have been over-analysing, overly demanding, and probably don't even know what it is exactly that they want.

Since it was discovered that Craig Kieswetter's only two shots were an uppish drive wide of mid on, and an uppish drive wide of mid off, it was decided that he simply had to go. The only available option in the touring squad was his Somerset team-mate, Buttler, who is also judged by his strike rate.

Kieswetter was replaced by his county colleague in the England Twenty20 side as wicketkeeper before Christmas, and now he has been usurped in the 50-over format too. Well, at least until Jonny Bairstow's boundaries-per-minute rate sails beyond that of Buttler's.

The other issue is, of course, that England had been set on finding a keeper who was comfortable opening the batting and being erroneously referred to as a 'pinch-hitter' - Kieswetter's stock was incredibly high at that point in time - whereas now, a middle-order dasher is very much in fashion.

Buttler is the said 'dasher', and he also fits the crucial role of 'lower-order scooper', which is an equally useful thing to have on the CV as a limited-overs wicketkeeper, along with the ability to throw off the gloves and intercept the ball if it is running towards Samit Patel.

Andy Flower once admired the fact that Kieswetter had a penchant for "hitting the ball out of the park" and, as assistant coach Richard Halsall said of the 25-year-old only last week, "If you think of a couple of games ago how he and Samit finished that innings, people have short memories." They do. Very short. But that was last week.

So Buttler is the new 'batsman-keeper' sat in the proverbial moving chair, but exactly the same things are now being said about him that have previously been spouted about the long list of talented stump-tenders in the table below.

Buttler is a very talented limited-overs batsman and a decent keeper, but don't believe for a second that England have finally settled on one man to be given an extended run in the side. In 12 months' time, two or three more names could well have been added to the list.

Promising Essex keeper Ben Foakes is heading off to Australia for the England Lions for their one-day series against Australia A and is already being talked about in glowing terms, but county team-mate James Foster will, no doubt, have had a word or two of caution to offer - he knows better than anyone else how fleeting the acclaim can prove to be.

Perhaps the wicketkeeper position will eventually be regarded as quite important in limited-overs cricket, and maybe that will be the point at which England begin to seriously invest in the long-term prospects of a talented specialist to provide some much-needed continuity. Or they could just keep their eyes shut, and the conveyor belt running.


England's ODI wicketkeepers since 2002

Time span Mat Inns Runs HS Ave SR 100
Chris Read 2000-2006 36 24 300 30* 17.64 73.17 0 0
Alec Stewart 2000-2003 45 42 1299 101 36.08 69.02 2 9
James Foster 2001-2002 11 6 41 13 13.66 57.74 0 0
Marcus Trescothick 2002-2002 5 5 64 41 12.80 68.81 0 0
Geraint Jones 2004-2006 49 41 815 80 24.69 78.21 0 4
Matt Prior 2006-2011 56 50 1006 87 24.53 77.92 0 3
Paul Nixon 2007-2007 19 18 297 49 21.21 85.59 0 0
Phil Mustard 2007-2008 10 10 233 83 23.30 92.46 0 1
Tim Ambrose 2008-2008 5 5 10 6 2.50 29.41 0 0
Eoin Morgan 2009-2009 2 2 76 67 38.00 102.70 0 1
Steve Davies 2009-2011 8 8 244 87 30.50 105.62 0 1
Craig Kieswetter 2010-2013 43 37 924 72* 28.87 90.49 0 5
Jos Buttler 2013-2013 1 1 14 14 14.00 155.55 0 0