A message to selectors: Keep keeping first

Jono Baruch Roar Rookie

By Jono Baruch, Jono Baruch is a Roar Rookie

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    It is the most important position and title in any cricket team, yet at the moment the Australian cricket team is in a bit of a crisis without a clue who our best wicketkeeper in the country is.

    Leading into another highly anticipated Ashes series and determined to make amends for the slip-up in the UK in 2015, the unsettling reality for the Australian team is that not only is the XI shaky and looking patchy with indifferent form, but it is also increasingly obvious that whoever they pick in the wicketkeeping position, there won’t be a great deal of confidence in the selection.

    Following the South African series last year Peter Nevill was fairly or unfairly dropped and Matthew Wade returned to the side, the reason cited being that Wade talked more in the field and provided more energy than Nevill. Wade was also chosen because he had Test experience and because his batting prowess would be of greater value to the team.

    This is the problem in one hit. It is the constant position that the Australian selectors keep on maintaining as their argument when it comes to picking not just keepers but other members of the team. We all remember when Rod Marsh famously picked Joe Mennie over Jackson Bird because he offered more with the bat.

    So the simple message to whoever is on the selection committee and is making the final call about the wicketkeeper is: pick the best keeper, not the best batsman.

    (Ross Setford/SNPA via AP)

    If you want to talk about batting and place emphasis on the contribution to the team with the bat, in the nine Tests that Matthew Wade has played since returning to the national team, his highest score has been 57 and he has averaged just 21 across 16 digs. While his keeping has improved somewhat, his work with the gloves is a far cry from what some of his interstate rivals can do.

    For some time now Peter Nevill has been the best gloveman in Australia. He takes the ball cleanly right in front of his eyes and is sharp behind the stumps. Considering Australia’s first-choice bowling attack, his state teammates should also have him higher up in the pecking order as he knows how to keep to them.

    He has 17 Test matches under his belt and a Test batting average of 22, which shows he is no mug with the bat, holding his own and playing some important roles on a number of occasions in his short Test career thus far. He has another opportunity this week against Queensland to put some runs on the board after missing a golden opportunity to go on with it last week against Western Australia.

    If we were picking the best gloveman, then Alex Carey from South Australia has to be in the conversation. While no keeper has put their hand up with the bat thus far, Carey’s glovework over the past two shield seasons have pushed him up the pecking order with his clean work behind the pegs for South Australia. A record-breaking 59 dismissals last shield season and a sprinkling of starts would have Carey right in the frame for a dream Ashes debut in less than two weeks.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Among the other contenders is part-time keeper Cameron Bancroft, who is keeping the place of Sam Whiteman and showing off his batting prowess. He was selected for the cancelled tour of Bangladesh in 2015 and is looking the most promising option with his bat in hand. But do you take a punt on a part-time keeper who is making runs? The only part-time keeper I would be confident having behind the stumps would be AB De Villiers, and he isn’t an option.

    Elsewhere Tim Paine is still thereabouts in the selection frame, but it would appear that, barring a miracle, his name is nearly off the whiteboard given that the incumbent, Wade, is likely to take the gloves again this week for Tasmania in a bid to prove he is still the man for the job.

    While we all wait in anticipation for the squad announcement, we know there will be a few surprises, because it wouldn’t be an Australian squad without one. But when it comes to the position of the wicketkeeper, pick not the man with the most runs on the board but the man who you believe is the best with the keeping gloves on his hands crouched down behind the stumps.

    Of course, if they can’t make the decision and stick with the incumbent and back him in for the long haul, at the end of the day we are just going to have to get behind him and hope he delivers on the biggest stage.

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    The Crowd Says (42)

    • Roar Guru

      November 13th 2017 @ 11:47am
      Ryan H said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

      I think we are seeing a trend internationally that leans toward batting being the primary criteria for choosing a keeper as seen with Bairstow and de Kock; but I’m still a little skeptical on it. Obviously you don’t want to carry a keeper who struggles to average more than 15-20 with the bat, but you also have to weigh up the added value of say 15-20 extra runs (or more) offset against the number of extra runs potentially given up due to shoddy keeping.

      If Carey was scoring a little heavier, or Whiteman was fit, it would be one of those two. I hope they don’t fall back onto Wade by default, but I think they may. Otherwise Nevill probably gets a look ahead of Bancroft due to reliability, but even then he’s missed some chances in Shield matches so far.

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 11:34pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:34pm | ! Report

        That’s my big issue with Nevill. He’s being talked about like choosing him is choosing a good solid keeper who won’t make too many mistakes, but he seems to make them all over the place. He’s dropped a couple of catches so far this season, had byes he really should have stopped, and on top of the dropped catches, there are the ones that he didn’t even move for that he should have caught. (Wouldn’t get put down as having dropped Swepson today, but the ball went in the air about half a metre away from his left glove and he didn’t even move. Had to be his catch). In fact, I think that’s his biggest weakness. From the first time he played for Australia I witnessed him not even moving to catches that were clear keepers catches between him and the first slip fieldsman.

        I can’t come at picking Wade. He’s just completely lost it. But I couldn’t pick Nevill either. So if I was selecting it would have to be between Carey and Bancroft, and personally, I’d probably plump for Bancroft. Despite this only being his third first class match keeping, he is a keeper from way back, and his keeping looks as solid as any of the options, and his batting a thousand times better.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:23pm
      Truth said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

      You can’t just pick a player based on one discipline anymore. Wicketkeeping is a fielding position and generally batsmen are better fielders. The combined package of wicketkeeping and batting needs to be considered. Also there have been so many collapses for the Australian XI over 2-3 years now particularly in the middle order – so at the moment we need more batting at number 7. For me I would try Bancroft at number 7.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 13th 2017 @ 2:42pm
        Dogs Boddy said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

        Does nobody here remember Wayne Phillips??

        You need a specialist keeper, otherwise a part timer is costing you more in runs that the deficit a good keeper saves v’s his lesser batting. Ian Healy wasn’t a great batsman (average 27), but he was the man you needed to keep to Warne. Gilchrist was the ideal, but if we don’t have another player like him then use a specialist keeper.

        Those who forget the sins of the past are doomed to repeat them.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 13th 2017 @ 5:00pm
          Matthew Pearce said | November 13th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

          Gilchrist was an anomaly in that he was also an excellent keeper who improved as he went along. I can’t think of anyone since who’s even been capable of fitting that bill apart from Dhoni and Sangakkara. De Kock, maybe.

          It took us 10 years to realise we don’t need to immediately find the next Warne, we still haven’t learnt the same with our keepers.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 6:15pm
          Brainstrust said | November 13th 2017 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

          Do you remember Wayne Phillips?
          I think at the time the keeper to replace Rod Marsh was intended to be Roger Wooley,
          and he was also noted for his batting,
          I can remember Wooley getting injured on the tour of the West Indies when he was supposed to be the keeper.
          I think Wayne Phillips got his break against Pakistan maybe because Wooley was out injured or because he was a left hander and Qadir had routed the AUssies in the Pakistan series.
          Wayne Phillips was quite decent as a keeper and Wooley who was intended to be the next one I think blundered in a Test match when he finally got fit again.
          The Australian team at that time was at all time low, and bowling was weak rather the Wayne Phillps keeping being the big problem.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 10:13pm
          Don Freo said | November 13th 2017 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

          If any of these boys kept like Phillips, you’d be right. The only one of these current candidates that keeps like Phillips is Wade. This “Wayne Phillips” argument is invalid.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 14th 2017 @ 10:11am
            Dogs Boddy said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

            No, not really.

            Wayne Phillips was a batsman who was considered handy with the gloves. Being able to keep was considered a lesser part of his game, and that is what we are currently doing, choosing keepers based on their batting ability rather than their keeping ability.

            And yes I do remember Wayne Phillips, and the dark ages of 80’s Australian cricket as well. Do you?? I dare say a few people on here don’t, or choose not to, based on the comments.

            I’m not saying Wayne was a complete mug, like giving the gloves to Phil Tufnell for example, but he was certainly not a test quality keeper. He would have made a decent go of things as a batsman, but doing both was certainly detrimental to his game.

            We need a specialist keeper, this is not an easy job to do.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:33pm
      dan ced said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

      They have to take the plunge and give Carey the gloves. I’m sick of this fartarsing around with keepers that did so shit they were dropped. Returning the gloves to Nevill is a step backwards, leaving Wade with the gloves is fkn insane. Giving the gloves to a part time keeper is irresponsible.

      Carey is really the only viable option.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 14th 2017 @ 10:13am
        Dogs Boddy said | November 14th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        Neville should never have been dropped in the first place.

        It wasn’t because he was a bad wicketkeeper, it was because he was deemed worse with the bat than Matty Wade. How did that work out for us??

        Neville is not keeping well at the moment, so it’s hard to champion his return. I still think he is the best keeper in the country but he’s out of form at the moment.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 8:47pm
      nick said | November 13th 2017 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

      I’d happily give the job to Bancroft. This series will be tighter than people think. Australia have collapsed in 14 out of their 15 past tests. Cast your memory back to the last Ashes in Australia and the keeper saved our bacon from collapse with runs in every test and along with Mitch was the standard player of the series. It appears we are not going to have an old head batting at 6 so having a strong batting keeper at 7 will be vitally important.
      England have Bairstow keeping who dropped a few during the first year or so he was in the job but who is now excellent. They have a serious advantage over us in the lower middle order with Bairstow, Ali, Woakes.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 10:11pm
      Don Freo said | November 13th 2017 @ 10:11pm | ! Report

      Bancroft’s keeping is as good as De Villiers’ as is the rest of his fielding. He was first a keeper who had to become a specialist batsman because there was no keeping spot available. He is not a “part-time” keeper in the sense you are using the term.

      Recently he has kept in last year’s Matador, this year’s JLT, the Big Bash and Shield games. At the moment, he is the best keeper in Shield cricket, even before we mention batting. Nevill is making way too many errors. Carey missed a sitter stumping last game. Bancroft has kept a clean sheet including one outstanding catch diving forward.

      There is no risk with Bancroft. There is great risk with all the rest.

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 11:40pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:40pm | ! Report

        That’s largely been my point also talking about Bancroft. I haven’t seen him keep all that much, but haven’t seen anything to suggest he can’t, and I know that with only 6 first class keeping spots, and the fact that the incumbent basically has to do pretty poorly to get dropped no matter how good other players might be, it can be hard to break into a team as a keeper, and if you are good enough to play just as a batsman and take that chance, that certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t a good keeper.

        I really worry that people keep saying things about Nevill like “it’s generally accepted that he’s the best pure gloveman in the country”. I’ve heard things like that on news reports and things. Yet the facts just don’t add up to that. He’s dropping catches, not even moving for other catches that aren’t even a big stretch away, and giving away byes for balls he totally should be stopping.

        I can’t see that there is any evidence that Nevill would make less mistakes with the gloves than Bancroft, and right now Bancroft is clearly the pick of the keepers with the bat.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 1:19am
          Don Freo said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:19am | ! Report

          Interesting thing with Bancroft is that if he gets the gig, he will make it his own…to the degree that Whiteman might have to be just a batsman. I’d argue that Whiteman is the best batsman in WA after Shaun Marsh.

          He has had a successful graft from his hip to his knuckle and should be back batting soon but is unlikely to keep this year. With Bancroft keeping for Oz and Whiteman just batting, there might be bonuses all around.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 10:41pm
      Bazmace said | November 13th 2017 @ 10:41pm | ! Report

      Problem is all the the keepers are making mistakes with gloves. Bancroft should be a lock!

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 11:43pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:43pm | ! Report

        Yes, and of late, Nevill has probably been the worst. I’d probably put his glovework this season below Wade. Nevill getting picked over Wade would likely be picking Nevill because he can bat better, despite making more mistakes with the gloves! I can’t see Bancroft making more errors than either Wade or Nevill (can’t really comment on Carey, as I haven’t seen enough of him, but his batting has also been a major struggle) and Bancroft is clearly the best with the bat at the moment by a fair way!

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