As England finish yet another unsuccessful one day series in India, the blame for their failures has again been laid at the feet of a wicket keeper. Craig Kieswetter faces what can only be a lengthy spell away from international cricket as he trudges back to Somerset to hone his skills and wait for Jos Buttler to inevitably be deemed as not suited to the role.
I wholeheartedly believe this is a mistake. England have been rough on the young Somerset keeper, they’ve zig-zagged him up and down the order in both the 20 over and 50 over game, changing his position within the team dramatically. He began as he played for a Somerset, as an opening batsman (in the shorter form anyway) and ended up as a finisher, a role for which he was systematically unable to fulfil due to England’s frequent top order collapses.
It was decided that he was not suited to the role of building an innings, so they moved him down the order to fully utilise his big hitting capabilities. Unfortunately, England have regularly not been in the position this series to actually use a finisher, it’s often been left to Kieswetter to re-build an innings, which England already decided he was not suited for. Hence, Kieswetter has been trapped in a paradox of the England management’s creating.
It’s worth noting as well that Kieswetter’s keeping has improved dramatically from the beginning of his international career and spectacular catches have rapidly become his signature. His batting as well, can verge on the spectacular, and while his overseas record may not flatter his statistics, dropping him for the New Zealand tour is pretty poor from the England management. After all, this is the man who won England the world cup in the Caribbean two years ago.
My defence for Kieswetter stems from the fact I don’t see any player better suited to the role of wicket keeper/batsman for England in the short form of the game. Considering the following candidates, I know who the right man for the job is.
Candidate No. 1 – Matt Prior
He may be the best wicket keeper/batsman in test matches but for me, Matt Prior doesn’t cut it for the ODI’s and T20’s. However, I, like many people, am a massive Matt Prior fan. Despite this his ODI record is not something to shout about, 62 innings at an average of 24.18. In Matt Prior’s defence, he also spent his ODI career zig-zagging up and down the order, never playing in a settled position; he’s played up the order, down the order and even had a go at opening. It’s hard to get settled and equipped to utilise your position when it changes from match to match. His glove work is inarguably impeccable. His domestic form in the short form of the game has been fairly spectacular, but Prior is getting on now, and this new, young, dynamic England side cannot afford to live in the past.
Candidate No.2 – Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler is very obviously an extremely talented young cricketer. But I fear that he may suffer from Mark Ramprakash syndrome; electric at country level, always slightly off kilter at international level. He’s had his moments and displayed some exceptional batting skills at times. But I wouldn’t give him the gloves. He doesn’t even keep for his county side, Somerset, seeing as Kieswetter will never be ousted as their no.1 choice keeper. I would not trust him behind the stumps in a tense situation where every run counts. Kieswetter’s keeping should easily keep Buttler at bay, but England appear to have different ideas.
Candidate No. 3 – Steven Davies
Steven Davies been chosen several times as the backup wicket keeper on test match tours, but as far as ODI’s and T20’s are concerned he’s been systematically overlooked. If you are looking for solid, dependable glove work, look no further than Steven Davies who is always reliable behind the stumps. He actually boasts a fairly decent average of 30.50 in an England shirt with a strike rate of over 100. In all shorter formats of the game his strike rate is in fact, over 100. However I can very much understand why he has been so overlooked in favour of Kieswetter. Kieswetter hits the ball so hard I actually wonder why the bowler doesn’t instinctively dive for cover; his big hitting status is what is desired in the short format of the game these days. Davies does not have the same kind of reputation and in many respects, does not have the range of shots needed for today’s brand of limited overs cricket.
Candidate No. 4 – Johnny Bairstow
I’ve been staggered by his batting displays, he’s shown poise, maturity and above all, ingenuity. He epitomises the old head on young shoulders, he’s also, dynamite in the field. I would be concerned about losing such a talented outfielder and giving him the gloves when he’s so untried in that position. He’s hugely exciting of course and I will never forget his debut, on a cold night in Cardiff, under lights, under pressure and all eyes on him. Step up Johnny Bairstow. It was possibly the most impressive debut by an English batsman since Ben Hollioake put the Aussie’s to the sword. But Bairstow is a batsman more than a keeper. Why complicate matters for him right now when there’s a wicket keeper/batsman who is already suited to the international scene. The wicket keeping element aside, the future is very bright for English batting, and it belongs to Johnny Bairstow.
Ultimately, England should never have dropped Craig Kieswetter. This merry-go-round of wicket keepers has been going on for long enough, from the Geraint Jones experiment to Chris Read, Matt Prior and Steven Davies, it seemed like, for a moment at least, England had settled on Kieswetter. But the revolving door policy strikes again, leaving England more unsettled than they were when they started the tour.
The first ODI that Jos Buttler was given the gloves at the expense of Kieswetter, he made 14 runs. India won by 5 wickets.