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The profession of wicketkeeper-batsman can be classified into two eras – pre and post-Adam Gilchrist. Until 1996, a wicketkeeper was expected to convert edges into catches, stop byes, gee up his teammates and irritate the batsman with constant chatter. Whatever he scored with the bat was a bonus. Then emerged a boy from New South Wales, who revolutionised this role. He won matches singlehandedly with the bat, flattening the morale of the bowlers – whether opening the batting in ODIs or batting at No.7 in Tests.
Arguably the best wicketkeeper-batsman ever, Gilchrist has been a part of the Indian Premier League since its inaugural season. Even at the age of 40, he is one of the most feared opening batsmen and is fitter than some of the young ‘keepers in the world. On a relaxed morning of a non-match day, the leader-cum-mentor of Kings XI Punjab took time to chat with iplt20.com and expressed his views on the top wicketkeeper-batsmen in IPL 2012.
Gilchrist spoke at length about his favourite wicketkeeper-batsman. He hailed his sharp cricketing mind, powerful batting skills and wished he carried his fearless brand of batting in Tests too. (Click here to read Gilly’s take on Dhoni)
A shrewd customer
He is an extremely hard working professional, which you can see when he is on the field. He is a very intelligent cricketer. You can see he puts a lot of thought and preparation into the way he goes about his cricket.
The ‘keeper: Versatility personified
He’s not keeping in this tournament. But along with Dhoni, Sanga’s another ‘keeper who I haven’t seen making blunders, which have cost his side. He has done an extremely difficult job of keeping to Muttiah Muralitharan and the variety of spinners in the subcontinent. I haven’t seen him ‘keeping in England, but what I’ve seen of him in Australia has been very impressive. He seems to make adjustments to varying conditions with ease.
Relinquishing the gloves
Kumar has given up wicketkeeping in Tests. I haven’t spoken to him directly, but I think it could be in order to extract maximum out of his batting. It’s a personal decision. If I had given up ‘keeping, my batting probably would have gone down because keeping added a balance in my game. I played 10 first class games in the beginning of my career as a batsman and I never felt like a complete cricketer. I put too much pressure on my batting when I didn’t have anything else to offer to my team, whereas when I was a wicketkeeper, wicketkeeping was my job and batting was just a bonus. Kumar could have continued keeping and batting lower down the order; but at the end, it’s his choice.
The batsman: Class meets aggression
He is one of the top three batsmen in the world currently and will go down as one of the top fifteen in the world ever. He really is a class act in the batting. He plays by the textbook but is not less aggressive. He has the ability of playing shots and maintaining high strike-rate. Even in Test cricket, he can bat with a good pace, which allows his team to bowl the opposition out. He is classy but just as aggressive.
The ‘keeper: The unsung performer
Again, he doesn’t keep wicket in Test cricket to try and extract maximum from his batting. When he is keeping, he is really athletic. It’s really a tough job to keep in New Zealand where the ball wobbles around a bit. He has probably had as difficult a job as any other wicketkeeper because New Zealand never had a bowling attack, which could penetrate like some of the other teams. Therefore, fewer chances and fewer opportunities, which can make a wicketkeepers job more difficult. The batsman: A Firecracker
He is like a firecracker. I love watching him bat. He is prepared to try anything and use every single part of the bat to get runs, whether it’s the scoop over the head or reverse or whatever it may be. He is an out-and-out aggressor. AB de Villiers
Everything he does, he does a fine job of it. I swapped a shirt with him when we played for the first time against him in South Africa. I wanted to get something of his because I knew he was going to be a big superstar. What I like the most about him amongst his sharp catching and the way he scores runs is his desire to want to do whatever is required off him for the team. That sends a wonderful message to his team. Jonty’s grief
I understand why Jonty [Rhodes] is disappointed that AB has been thrust into the wicketkeeper’s role. In the field [he] is magic to watch. But I think in T20 cricket, filling up a position and giving your team an option to play an extra bowler or batsman is far more important than him being on the field. Jonty may disagree being a fielding coach and an exceptional fielder himself, but AB keeping gives RCB more flexibility in the line-up.
The eye-catching young ‘uns
Mathew Wade from Australia is not here this year, but he has shown really good signs. He scored a hundred in Test cricket in Brad Haddin’s absence. The more he is exposed to the higher level, the more he’ll improve. He is a hard working character.
Another guy I am really impressed with is Nitin Saini in KXIP. He got an opportunity after I got injured. You wouldn’t say he is a flamboyant cricketer who everyone is going to notice, but he has got a terrific work ethic. He is going to blossom with time as more opportunities come his way.
The adrenaline is high, the teams are in their zone and playoff spots are beckoning. No wonder, then, the IPL stars are hitting top gear to deliver stunning performances. The last week has featured a remarkable debut, some incredible fielding and a thoroughly entertaining, if one-sided, contest between two highly rated compatriots. Relive the week that was as IPL blasts into the crunch games.
Chennai Super Kings v Deccan Chargers – May 4, 2012
Despite losing Shikhar Dhawan in the eleventh over to a freak run-out, the Deccan Chargers, in pursuit of 161, must have fancied their chances of getting to the post given their two most experienced players – Cameron White and Kumar Sangakkara – were at the crease.
From 77 for two, DC soon slipped to 85 for three, thanks to a spectacular catch from Suresh Raina. Sangakkara, still new at the crease, drove a flighted delivery from Raina off the backfoot and then watched as the bowler flung himself full length to his right and plucked the ball inches from the ground.
It was a moment of magic that energised the entire CSK team; the defending champions would strangle their opponents thereafter, clawing their way into the match and going on to win by 10 runs.
Pune Warriors India v Kolkata Knight Riders – May 5, 2012
When Murali Kartik dished out a longhop, the woefully out-of-form Yusuf Pathan rocked back and pulled it with all his might towards the midwicket boundary. In normal circumstances, that shot would have fetched him six runs. On this occasion, however, Superman Steve Smith pulled off a sensational piece of fielding to save his team four runs.
Smith, fielding at wide long on, ran a few metres to his right, flung himself in the air full-stretch, caught the ball and parried it back to within the field of play; the last two actions were completed in the few micro-seconds he was airborne. Had he held on to the ball, he would have landed outside the ropes and that would have cost his team six runs; however, his presence of mind – to go with brilliant athleticism – meant only two runs were added to the KKR total.
Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings – May 6, 2012
At one point in their chase of 174, the Mumbai Indians were sitting pretty at 134 for two, needing another 40 runs from 26 balls. A few lusty blows and a couple of wickets shortly after meant both teams had a chance heading into the final over. Mumbai Indians needed 16 to bag the two points while CSK needed to keep them to under that, or pick up three wickets, in the final six deliveries.
Dwayne Smith, playing his first match of the tournament, dug out a yorker from Ben Hilfenhaus and took a single off the first delivery of the final over. Lasith Malinga had his stumps uprooted off the next delivery and RP Singh picked up a single off the third delivery leaving MI to get 14 off the final three.
CSK must have felt they had their noses ahead at this point in time. However, one blow from the Barbadian Smith brought his team right back into the contest; he hit the fourth delivery of the over – a low full toss – high and wide over the ropes at long on. Eight from two needed, and Smith delivered; he clubbed the fifth delivery straight over the bowler’s head for a boundary and then forced the final ball of the innings to the long off boundary to seal the deal in favour of his team.
It was an incredible knock from a man who had just joined the team and was playing his first match of the season; his unbeaten 24 from nine deliveries (which included two fours and as many sixes) not only won his team the match but also fetched him the Man-of-the-Match award.
Steyn vs. Gravity
Deccan Chargers v Royal Challengers Bangalore, May 6, 2012
Virat Kohli’s eyes must have lit up when he saw Amit Mishra land one wide outside the off stump and turn further away from him. The RCB skipper stood deep in his crease and forced the delivery off the backfoot, in the air towards extra cover. The ball would have crashed straight into the advertisement boards outside the boundary – but for Dale Steyn.
The DC fast bowler ran a few paces from long off, leapt in the air, gained more height than he normally would by doing something similar to climbing a step – and plucked the ball out of thin air. Given how stiff fast bowlers generally are, and their reputation when it comes to fielding, this was a superhuman effort. Virat Kohli couldn’t believe what he’d seen; he stood stunned at the crease for a while before taking the long walk back to the dressing room.
Royal Challengers Bangalore v Deccan Chargers, May 6, 2012
At 143 for five after 17 overs (in their chase of 182), Royal Challengers Bangalore were almost down and out of the contest. While AB de Villiers was batting at the one end, it seemed he had only the bowlers for company.
Over 18 saw the face-off between the world’s best bowler and perhaps the world’s best batsman. Dale Steyn, who’d bowled some memorable overs earlier in the tournament, ran in full steam to bowl to his compatriot de Villiers. First up, the fast bowler served a short delivery that the batsman disdainfully dispatched into the stands at midwicket. The second ball was a ripping yorker which the batsman managed to keep out and pick up a brace. Steyn dished out a slower delivery next up which de Villiers hit to the midwicket boundary for four runs.
The following delivery was a shin-high low full toss on middle-stump – bowled at 146 kph; de Villiers made room for himself by moving to the leg-side and clobbered it over the extra-cover boundary for an unbelievable six.
Next up was a 142 kph delivery well outside off; de Villiers was up to the task this time too, he stepped outside the off stump and paddle-swept to fine-leg. After some outrageous strokeplay, sanity returned for the last ball of the over; de Villiers smartly picked up a single to keep the strike the following over.
Having scored 23 runs off the over, AB had comprehensively won the battle of the South Africans heavyweights.