Pietermaritzburg: Where wicketkeeping is concerned, Ian Healy needs no introduction. After all, he holds the record for the maximum dismissals (395) in Test cricket. In fact, he was successful in the ODIs as well (234 victims) and so is more than qualified to sit in judgement on the present lot.
Healy, who is around on a TV assignment, spoke to The Telegraph the other day. He talked about the demanding job and the Adam Gilchrists and Mark Bouchers.
The following are excerpts
On the skills required by a wicketkeeper
Nice and soft hands, good footwork... The ability to move low, which is aided by good footwork... And, most important, the ability to watch every ball with exceptional single-mindedness. Youíve got to forget about the batsman, forget everything else... The ability to quickly forget a mistake, while on the field, is also a skill. (After a pause) If youíre enjoying the job, concentration will come easy. Improvement too.
Itís most difficult when the pressure is at its highest... The more simple you keep things, the better. Switching on and off' No, it canít be off... Itís got to be switch up and switch down. Always focus on the next delivery without bothering about what could happen. Switch up when the bowler is running in, switch down when the ball is dead.
On whether wicketkeepers can be Ďmadeí
Of course... I didnít íkeep till I was nine and finished with the world record! Give me a youngish player with good body skills and I should be able to make a íkeeper out of him.
On attitude, something he keeps speaking about
(Laughs) Itís enthusiasm, the ability to communicate with the fielders... Do remember that itís the íkeeper who sets the fielding standard and, if heís smart and sharp, that will rub off on the team... A íkeeper must learn to minimise mistakes and learn to quickly bounce back after slipping-up ó that goes with attitude. Thinking about a mistake will lead to more mistakes.
On whether selecting a batsman-wicketkeeper will, increasingly, become the flavour of every season
Donít think so... If a íkeeper is good enough to be in the XI as a íkeeper, then he has to be counted as one... I mean, if a Rahul Dravid is good enough to be looked upon as a íkeeper, Iíll call him just that instead of a batsman who can íkeep... My own belief is that pure íkeeping skills wonít be sacrificed for too long and that selectors will have to look at a 50-50 balance. Dravid, to my mind, is 65-35.
On the wicketkeepers (alphabetically) doing duty for the ten Test-playing nations in the World Cup
On Boucher: Technically, heís fine, but I do feel he can move a bit better. Heís only 26 and has it in him to improve... Perhaps, needs to relax more, though.
On Dravid: I accept that you donít want a íkeeper who wonít make any contribution with the bat but, equally, you wouldnít want your top batter to come under pressure because of his dual role... Dravid has had a mixed run, but a World Cup is different from a series: Every match is a one-off affair. One off day, at the wrong time, and the World Cup could be gone for good. India should be looking at a specialist who can bat. Have I seen Parthiv Patel' I have, yes, and he looks good... Has the right attitude as well. It takes two years for a íkeeper to settle. Therefore, give that kid some time. He will get better, both with the bat and gloves.
On Gilchrist: He didnít have a great summer back home, but remains a high profile íkeeper... Obviously, he is back in form as the movement of his feet is good and the glovework excellent. Moreover, you can count on him to deliver in both roles.
On Ridley Jacobs: Doesnít miss much, which is a key requirement. He prefers to lunge and dive rather than move well, but remains effective. Actually, the more runs he scores, the better he will íkeep. For him, itís a matter of confidence.
On Rashid Latif: Technically, heís quite good and has a tough job íkeeping to fast bowlers who, towards the end, swing late and the deliveries keep low. Overall, very handy and solid... We all know he began the World Cup with a controversy (allegation about a racist remark), but Iím sure he can finish on a high.
On Khaled Mashud: Frankly, I havenít seen much of him. Then, Iíve read heís quitting after the World Cup and, so, wonít get time to watch after the tournament either.
On Brendon McCullum: Iíve been quite impressed. His movement, specially, is very good and he stood out in the game against the West Indies. Really, itís been quite some time since I last saw a íkeeper move so well. Fit and sharp, heís somebody to look out for.
On Kumar Sangakkara: Probably the best Sri Lankan íkeeper Iíve seen... Is close to the top bracket which, for me, means Gilchrist and Boucher... Even Latif, perhaps.
On Alec Stewart: Is effective in the one-dayers, though I wouldnít put him in the No.1 bracket for Tests... You arenít expected to do anything special in the one-dayers, which suits him fine. Also, he does help balance the England side... However, probably needs to be moved up the order.
On Tatenda Taibu: I havenít seen much, but heís very enthusiastic and willing. Technically, heís fine and, because heís so young, has the potential to go far.
Finally, on whether his record will be broken
(Laughs again) Firstly, being world record-holder doesnít mean much to me... That I could play 119 Tests enabled me to get there... Yes, the record will go and, among the current íkeepers, Boucher is best placed to overtake me. As Iíve said, he has age on his side. Then, heís in a team which has the ability to take all 20 wickets in a match. In other words, there will always be opportunities for Boucher to keep getting into the act.