5 Best-Ever Wicketkeeper-Batsmen
By Stuart Garlick
Wicketkeepers used to be players whose sole job was to organise the field, but that's changed. These days, they need to be all-action heroes, the force at the centre of a cricket team who pushes his team-mates to greater heights. A great wicketkeeper these days must also be a great batsman. Here are some players who are, or were, both.
Kumar Sangakkara, still playing and still gracing T20 leagues all year-round, is a gloveman who can also bat any side, in any form of the game, out of trouble. Known for his tremendous cool head under pressure, and for his unflappability behind the stumps, Sangakkara is a fine mentor for younger players.
Arguably Gilchrist set the template for all wicketkeeper-batsmen after him; the Aussie wicketkeeper's post had gone to some legends, and Gilchrist took over from Ian Healy for his first One-Day International in 1996, sticking around until 2008 thanks to the force of his charisma and also his incredible ability to organise a team while keeping maximum focus. Gilchrist's decision to bat in the 2007 World Cup final with a small rubber ball in his glove was criticised, but is an example of his revolutionary approach to batting, which won that tournament and many others.
Dhoni has a reputation as a superhero in India and around the world thanks to his lightning-quick glovework that meant, while he kept wicket for his country, no international batsman could ever relax for a moment. Captaining a team while keeping wicket and batting at the top of the order is incredibly difficult, but Dhoni was a natural at it.
Andy Flower was the figurehead of the Zimbabwe national team through its most successful period in the 1990s, helping his country to a first Test victory against Pakistan while captain in 1994/95, then achieving success against an England side that was famously in the doldrums at the time. An assured wicketkeeper who played for Middlesex in a successful stint in the County Championship, Flower was also Zimbabwe's opening batsman for most of his time playing international cricket, right up to a protest against President Robert Mugabe's government that cost him his place in the 2003 World Cup.
Flower has since had a mostly successful few years in charge of the England cricket team, at one point helping Andrew Strauss's side to number one in the Test world rankings, and still works with the England & Wales Cricket Board.
Boucher was one of the prominent figures that, along with long-time captain Graeme Smith, brought South Africa to the role of serious contenders for every major trophy in the 2000s. He keeping was the main reason for his largely being an automatic selection, along with a relentless positivity that meant whenever energy flagged in the field, his team-mates would hear a voice behind the stumps to keep them going. Boucher's batting was great too, generally from the lower-middle-order, with a Test average of 30 prior to his forced retirement in 2012 due to an eye injury.