Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/57

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
35
THE WICKET-KEEPER.

said that a good wicket-keeper makes a moderate bowler bowl well, and a bad wicket-keeper makes a good bowler bowl below his form.

First-rate wicket-keepers are very rare. It would be safe to say that in any given year the really first-raters in the world could be numbered on the fingers of one hand. At present there are four that I know of—Mr MacGregor, Storer of Derbyshire, Lilley of Warwickshire, and Hunter of Yorkshire. The first does not play so much now as he once did. Between the other three it would be hard to choose. I once had a fancy for Lilley, but can hardly be quite sure now if there is any difference between them. One thing is quite certain—it pays to select the best wicket-keeper quite irrespectively of his batting ability. And for this reason. More catches go to the wicket-keeper than to any one else, and more good bats are dismissed on true pitches by catches at the wicket than in any other way. The difference it makes whether a chance at the wicket from such opponents as the Champion, Abel, Ward, Gunn, Mr F. S. Jackson, and others be talcen or missed, far outweighs the merely potential value of one man's batting success on your own side. You should give your side the best possible chance of that catch being caught. A really good wicket-keeper saves more runs than any single batsman gets, besides helping the bowlers in the way just mentioned. The general opinion is that Mr Blackham, the Australian, was the finest wicket-keeper the world has ever seen. He was the quickest and most brilliant. Mr MacGregor, however, and Pilling ran him very close.

Good wicket-keeping is very deceptive to the uninitiated. It looks all right and simple. Nothing much seems going on. Every ball is taken easily without any fuss. One of the most marked characteristics of the great wicket-keepers is their quietness. They seem scarcely to move except to balls on the legside and wide on the off. Unless they jump to one side or the other for this purpose, their feet seem rooted to the spot. Mr MacGregor holds the record for tranquillity at the wicket. He is sphinx-like in his calm fixity. Some wicket-keepers complain that their lot is a hard one—all kicks and no halfpence. Certainly here, as elsewhere, there is a tendency to take for granted what you will and severely criticise what goes wrong. All the mistakes of the wicket-keeper, and some not perpetrated by him, are mercilessly chalked up against him by the recording angels in the Press-box. His catches are not much mentioned,