In the IPL, where the spotlight is on the batsmen and bowlers, wicketkeepers are often a footnote in a match report. It is assumed they will be error-free behind the stumps but are expected to be more than a handful with the bat.
It is only when they flounder at their primary role do they get unwanted attention. Such embarrassing instances in this IPL have been few and far, but when KL Rahul misses a crucial stumping, it is difficult not to take note of the downside of having a part-time wicketkeeper.
In T20, wicketkeeping is not just the ability to catch or effect a stumping. Taking off a glove for a run out is something where MS Dhoni has showed the way. Standing in front of the stumps to cut down time between catching the ball and breaking the bails is another innovation of this format. These are innovations a specialised wicketkeeper can learn more easily than a part-timer.
Apart from Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkata Knight Riders are the only team to not play a regular wicketkeeper. Having a part-timer hasn’t hurt KKR so far but there has been the odd mishap where Robin Uthappa has let through a few byes or not moved across the stumps to the spinners. Approaching the business end of the league, KKR captain Gautam Gambhir doesn’t want to take a chance.
That’s why KKR have decided to address the situation mid-season by appointing former South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher as consultant. With close to 1000 dismissals in international cricket and a fair amount of experience in the IPL, Boucher might just be the man KKR need in this hour.
“I thought we got two part-time wicketkeepers (Uthappa and Sheldon Jackson) and if someone could work with them, especially going forward into the tournament, where we will be playing a few home games now,” said Gambhir ahead of their match against Gujarat Lions.
While Uthappa has been having a dream run opening with Gambhir, the decision is indicative of how motivated KKR are to be on top of their game in all departments. The move was primarily prompted by the fact KKR now play four matches at Eden, where the ball has in the past turned and gripped a lot.
“On this wicket if it starts turning a little bit, obviously if Sunil Narine and Brad Hogg start playing together, someone with that experience can help two part-time wicketkeepers, help them learn a bit more about handling spin bowling,” said Gambhir.