Keepers feel the pain

2012-10-13 15:34

AB de Villiers’ back and ankle injuries have placed the spotlight on wicketkeepers’ vulnerability. Khanyiso Tshwaku discusses the most unglamorous, yet most important, job in cricket

It sounded like the best job on the field when in his nasal Australian drawl, Ian Healy used to say: “Bowlin’ Warney.”

What the outsider might not realise are the physical demands placed on a wicketkeeper.

Some, like Mark Boucher, Adam Gilchrist and Healy spent their entire careers behind the sticks.

To prolong his batting life, Kumar Sangakarra dropped the gloves to focus on batting, with excellent results.

A purist from the old school might see such a decision as some sort of weakness.

But Dolphins captain and keeper Daryn Smit doesn’t see it that way, especially if you have to bat in the top order.

He said: “Batting in the top order and keeping at the same time means a lot of impact and places strenuous demands on the body. You will find that keepers in the four-day game bat lower down because of the time spent keeping in matches, and if one is keeping while also batting up the order, it could shorten your career, as it has a massive impact on a player.”

He had a point, as most keepers, barring England’s Alec Stewart, batted at seven or lower.

In the shorter format, they were often found in the top three, with their attacking batting being a key component in clearing the infield in the first 15 overs when the field was up.

Smit said pitches also played their part in keepers’ injuries, especially when the pitches were varied.

“There are days when sore joints get hit and that happens when the ball is coming on and the fingers are not protected,” he said.

“Then there are those days when you keep on tracks where the bounce is inconsistent and you have to take the ball on
the fingers, which exacerbates the pain.”

As a shorter keeper, Warriors’ Athenkosi Dyili, said he faced a different problem from the taller Smit, who said he often encountered back strain.

Dyili said his Achilles tendon, which plagued him for much of last season, has been well managed through the use of injections.

“I’ve never had back problems, maybe because of my height, as I am more or less the same height as Mark Boucher,” he said.

“My problem was with my Achilles tendon and keeping against Simon Harmer did not make things easy, as I had to move a lot to counter spin.

“Jumping to collect returns from the outfield also adds to the strain,” said Dyili.

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