Test cricket continues to remain the most challenging one of the three formats with the five-day game testing the technique, as well as temperament, of any player to the very hilt.
The format remains the making of true greats. It normally calls for specialists in every position in the playing XI – be it with the bat, ball or gloves but the roles have evolved over the years.
Among the roles to have evolved is that of wicket-keepers, who are no longer seen as just specialists behind the stumps. Several players including Australia great Adam Gilchrist have turned the role into one of that a wicketkeeper-batsman with their batting contribution becoming a significant factor.
Here, we take a look at the top eight keepers going around in Test cricket currently by categorising them into four different tiers.
Quinton de Kock
The Proteas star is the man who bears the closest resemblance to Adam Gilchrist from the game’s current generation.
An excellent gloveman with lightning-quick reflexes, De Kock is no mug with the bat either and can cause plenty of damage while walking in to bat at No7 for South Africa.
His best year in the Test format came in 2016 where he averaged more than 63 with the bat and he made the ICC World Test XI on one occasion (2017) as well. His batting strike-rate is a fearsome 73, while he has affected 175 dismissals in just 40 Tests.
A grafter of the highest order, BJ Watling has shown the value of placing a high price on one’s wicket with an impressive Test career for New Zealand.
The 34-year-old has had to bide his time to finally get his dues but he has more than earned it over the years by proving New Zealand’s man for a crisis on several different occasions.
His six tons and 17 fifties do not do justice to the amount of time he has bailed out the Blackcaps from a sticky situation. His 218 Test dismissals in 66 matches speaks volumes about his wicket-keeping abilities as well.
The man from Yorkshire had to wait until 2016 to really establish his place in the England Test squad after scoring nearly 1,500 red-ball runs in a single calendar year.
That year saw Bairstow register three tons and eight fifties and he was deservedly named as the wicket-keeper in the ICC World Test XI for 2016.
He is among only two keepers in history to have registered a ton and effect five dismissals in the same Test on two separate occasions, with the first coming against Sri Lanka in 2016 and the second against New Zealand last year.
The 32-year-old is among only two Bangladesh players to have breached the 4,000-run barrier in Test cricket and has been a stalwart for the national team for more than half a decade.
The right-hander became the first wicket-keeper in history to register two Test double tons when he scored an unbeaten 219 against Zimbabwe last year.
A veteran of 66 Tests, Mushfiqur is the only Bangladesh keeper to register 100 Test dismissals, with his career total standing at 117. He is good enough to play for the Tigers as a specialist batsman with his glove skills being an added bonus.
The India youngster is still very much a work in progress but he has already left quite the impression in his brief career so far.
At just 21, Pant has already become the first Indian wicket-keeper to register overseas Test tons in England as well as Australia with his batting average hovering just around the 45-run mark after 11 appearances so far.
An explosive batsman who loves to go on the attack, Pant still has some way to go with his keeping skills although he did affect a world-record 11 dismissals in the Adelaide Test against Australia in December 2018.
Like Pant, Dickwella is an attacking left-handed batsman who has the capability to score runs at an electric pace.
The Sri Lanka man has managed to become a mainstay in the Test outfit after making a strong return to international cricket in 2017, although he has been hampered by inconsistency of late.
While he has managed to register 12 fifties so far in 32 appearances, Dickwella is yet to notch a ton in the Test format. But the potential is quite clearly there. The 26-year-old’s strike-rate of more than 70 shows the damage he can do if he spends even a little time at the crease.
Tim Paine’s career seemed to be on its last legs before he was unexpectedly recalled through exceptional circumstances brought on by Australia’s infamous ball-tampering scandal at Newlands last year.
Having been instated as Australia Test skipper during their darkest period, Paine has admirably led his men in the year to follow and is seeking to retain the Ashes urn in England.
While he remains a fine wicket-keeper, Paine isn’t the most fluent of batsman although he can dig in for some gritty runs down the order. His batting average of 31.82 after 23 appearances isn’t the most flattering and he has done very little in England this summer.
The Pakistan skipper’s reputation has taken a beating in recent times and that is why he features all the way down in Tier 4.
Sarfraz had two excellent years in the Test format in 2014 and 2015 during which he managed to register three tons for Pakistan. However, his performances have dropped ever since and he has been averaging below 25 since the turn of 2018.
He can still be trusted behind the stumps as shown by his display at the Wanderers against South Africa earlier this year, where he effected a total of 10 dismissals in a single match.
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