Ask six people for the name of the wicketkeeper who they think has taken the most number of catches so far this season in the County Championship, and the chances are that you will get a half a dozen different answers, such is the array of talent currently behind the stumps in the shires.
In fact, over half of our regular county wicketkeepers have international experience with England – Chris Read of Nottinghamshire has appeared in 15 Tests and 36 one-day internationals, James Foster of Essex in 7 Tests and 11 ODIs, Tim Ambrose of Warwickshire in 11 Tests and 5 ODIs, Geraint Jones of Kent in 34 Tests and 49 ODIs, Durham’s Phil Mustard in 10 ODIs and Craig Kieswetter of Somerset in 12 ODIs plus the recent ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies, while the present Test match incumbent Matt Prior of Sussex has played in 35 Tests plus 55 ODIs.
There are other names to add to this list as the England selectors today have called upon the services of Steven Davies, formerly of Worcestershire and now of Surrey, for the one-day series with Pakistan. Davies has already played in an ODI as well as an international Twenty20 match, but his departure from the county scene for a couple of weeks while the one-day series takes place with Pakistan will not however reduce the number of international wicketkeepers on show as Surrey’s reserve gloveman is Gary Wilson, a veteran of 22 one-day internationals with Ireland.
Leicestershire’s Paul Nixon – who rarely keeps these days for the East Midlands side – has also played in 19 ODIs for England, while Nic Pothas, Hampshire’s first choice wicketkeeper, represented South Africa before becoming a Kolpak with the South Coast club. Additionally, Northamptonshire can call upon the services of Irish international Niall O’Brien.
Rarely in the history of county cricket can there have been a situation such as we have at the present time when over half of the regular wicketkeepers have had international experience. I grew up in an era where if it wasn’t Alan Knott, the great Kent ‘keeper, behind the stumps for England then it would be Derbyshire’s Bob Taylor. There were many other fine county wicketkeepers, but apart from Leicestershire’s Roger Tolchard they rarely got a look-in.
Before starting up a debate about the greatest uncapped wicketkeeper, I think I should end with the answer to the question of the wicketkeeper with the most catches. As of August 31, it is Chris Read who has 51 catches to his name, three ahead of Essex’s James Foster and Jon Batty of Gloucestershire – one of the few county ‘keepers without any international experience!