Who are the best wicketkeepers in world cricket?

The role of the wicketkeeper in the modern era has changed dramatically as they have to keep wickets and also bat aggressively.

MS Dhoni file photo, (Image Credits: iplt20.com)
By Siddharth vishwanathan | Mar 16, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

When one talks about wicketkeepers, it is often assumed that they have plenty of tasks in their hand. They have to be steady behind the wicket and be alert for any kind of edge or stumping. They have to be vocal and assist the captain in field setting. Sometimes, they ask the bowler to bowl a particular length. When a keeper is doing so many things, it is difficult for him to focus on his batting. In the past, keepers would be an added bonus if they could bat well

At the start, there was Godfrey Evans of England who kept wickets in very challenging conditions. In the period of the 40s and the 50s, wickets would be uncovered in the rain. Yet, he played 91 Tests. After Evans, the next best keeper from England was Alan Knott. In the 70s, Rod Marsh of Australia was considered the best wicketkeeper. For India, there were many stars in Farokh Engineer, Syed Kirmani and also Nayan Mongia, Saba Karim and Parthiv Patel.

However, in the modern era, the roles and definitions have changed. A wicketkeeper is expected to be a brilliant batsman, be aggressive and sometimes, be the defacto captain. Currently, the definition of who is the greatest keeper of all times boils down to three people. Australia’s Adam Gilchrist, India’s MS Dhoni and South Africa’s Mark Boucher are candidates who can claim to be called the Greatest of all Time.

Dhoni, Gilchrist and Boucher the key

In the 90s, power-hitting was given another term in the form of pinch-hitting. Trying to clear the outfield in the first 15 overs was one key factor. Adam Gilchrist of Australia gave a new definition to power-hitting in the period of the early millennium. Opening the batting in ODIs and T20Is and coming down at No.5 or No.6 in Tests, Gilchrist was famous for turning the course of the match. In addition to been a fine keeper, Gilchrist’s batting totally changed the way keepers approach cricket.

Gilchrist became the first to hit 100 sixes in Tests and over 200 sixes in ODIs. In addition to his 888 dismissals, he set new benchmarks in the field. But, if there is one person who has probably matched Gilchrist, it is Dhoni.

Captaining all three formats. Keeping in all three formats. Winning all three formats. Batting brilliantly in every format. MS Dhoni was the one-man army and he revolutionised Gilchrist’s approach even better. Having cited Gilchrist as an inspiration, the fact that Dhoni could be a power-hitter, great captain in all three formats is a testament to his greatness.

The Dhoni benchmark

Dhoni is the only captain to have won all three ICC trophies. He is the second wicketkeeper-batsman after Kumar Sangakkara to hit 10,000 runs or more in ODIs. He is the only keeper to have 100 stumpings or more in ODIs. His average of 50 in ODIs and having played 90 Tests changed Indian cricket forever. It is because of him, India are a powerhouse capable of winning anywhere in the world. There may be doubts over his Test credentials, but in ODIs, he was supreme.

But, if Gilchrist and Dhoni had a benchmark to surpass, it was initially set by Mark Boucher. His 999 dismissals combined across all formats might never be overhauled. Such was Boucher’s longevity and adaptability that even he matched Dhoni and Gilchrist when it came to batting. At one point in time, he even had the fastest ODI century which he hit off 44 balls against Zimbabwe. His 555 dismissals in Tests will forever remain the gold standard in addition to his 425 dismissals.

When one looks at all three players, Gilchrist, Boucher and Dhoni are all the greatest. But, when one looks at achievements, it is always better to acknowledge the trendsetter. For this reason, Gilchrist is perhaps the greatest keeper of all times in cricket. Dhoni cited him as an idol for a reason. The numbers prove it.

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