The keeper, also a Wwicket-keeper, is a fielder who sits right outside the wicket. Actually works in tandem with a bowler; its main task is to get the batsman out of the game (the most popular options are Caught and Stumped). In this case, the keeper must remain in place until the very moment of filing, when:
- The ball touches the bat or striker/part of his body;
- The ball crosses the wicket line and goes to the striker’s end;
- The striker will attempt to run.
The keeper is traditionally considered one of the most difficult positions on the field. Many cricket fans compare the wicket-keeper to a football goalkeeper, and not without reason, since he is noticeably limited in action and must have a refined reaction not to miss the ball. In addition, the keeper is the only fielder who is required to use additional equipment (gloves and reinforced leg protection). Section 27 of Laws pays special attention to this aspect:
- 27.1. The keeper is the only fielder allowed to wear reinforced equipment that is considered part of his body. If the actions of the wicket-keeper or his location on the field are such that the referees conclude that he can’t continue to fulfill his duties, the player is deprived of this right.
- 27.2. Gloves.
- 27.2.1. If the Keeper wears gloves, then it must be borne in mind that the presence of additional jumpers between the fingers is not allowed. The only exception is an accessory tape between the thumb and forefinger, which provides additional support.
- 27.2.2. If a player uses webbing, then it must be made of non-stretch material and not have any additional folds or reinforcements.
- 27.2.3. The top edge of the webbing should not protrude beyond the straight line that connects the tips of the thumb and forefinger. Ideally, it should be fully stretched when the player spreads their fingers.
The overwhelming majority of modern keeper prefer to use the standard posture on the serve – full squat squatting. However, this was not always the case: Australian Sammy Carter, whose career fell on the first half of the twentieth century, introduced him into fashion (before that, the wicket-keepers were limited to a strong lean forward).
From a purely technical point of view, the main task of the Keeper is to intercept the ball sent by the bowler towards the wicket on the serve. However, while some wicket keepers are focused on preventing the batsman from hitting as many runs as possible, others prefer a more aggressive style of play that involves sending the batsman out. This can be done in the following ways:
- Catching a ball that the batsman “cut off” with the bat before bouncing. In addition, sometimes the keeper manages to intercept a projectile in the air, and in percentage terms, he does this more often than any other field player;
- By using the ball to Stumped, i.e. knocking out the crossbars of the wicket, if the batsman leaves the crisis after the projectile crosses the wicket line. In such a situation, the keeper has the right to knock the crossbars to the ground, and the referee must declare Stumped, even if the batsman did not have time to return to the crisis;
- By intercepting the ball on a rebound from one of the fielders after he left for Outfield, and possibly sending the batsman to Run out.
The keeper location next to the wicket depends on which bowler is at the forefront of the attack. So, if we are talking about a fast bowler, then in most cases, the wicket-keeper will take a position at a certain distance from the wicket in order to be able to react to the rapid change in the angle of the ball after the rebound. If there is a slow bowler at the opposite end of the pitch, the wicket-keeper is likely to move closer to increase the pressure on the batsman and increase the risk of being stumped.
Laws restrict keeper movement on the field. So, in particular, the referee has the right to declare No ball if a player deliberately left his position on the field, breaking the rules. In addition, it is allowed to declare the Dead ball if:
27.4.1. The wicket-keeper significantly changed his position in relation to the striker’s wicket after the ball was served. The following episodes are exceptions:
220.127.116.11. The wicket-keeper moved a few steps towards the slow serve while staying within reach of the wicket;
18.104.22.168. The wicket-keeper moved sideways towards the ball served;
22.214.171.124. The move by the wicket-keeper was a response to similar actions by the striker or his intention to join the game.
In addition, the keeper is strictly prohibited from deliberately distracting the batter or interfering with the defense of the wicket.
In fact, the higher the professional level of the keeper, the more willing he becomes to pair with a fast bowler and the more effective their collaboration (a prime example is Godfrey Evans and Alec Bedser). At the same time, it is assumed that the wicket-keeper must be able to handle the bat, too, because when his team hits, he is often forced to act as a batsman. However, unlike bowlers, who pick up the bat rather involuntarily and only in those cases when all the batsmen of his team were sent out, this position is more familiar to the wicket-keeper.
Interestingly, until 2017, substitutes were not allowed to substitute the keeper on the field. Moreover, since the wicket-keeper is not a mandatory position, many captains preferred to do without him at all, but the new amendment to Laws allowed the field staff to be shuffled in accordance with the specific situation, without looking back at the previous restrictions.
Interestingly: the top three test Keeper of all time includes Mark Boucher (South Africa), Adam Gilchrist and Ian Healy (both from Australia). Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), Adam Gilchrist and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India) hold the record for the most organized outs in limited-overs.