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His major function is to stop balls that pass the batsman (to prevent a run or runs) but also to attempt to dismiss the batsman in various ways. The most common dismissal created by the wicket-keeper is for him to catch a ball that has nicked the batsman's bat, called an edge, before it bounces. The keeper can also stump the batsman by using the ball to remove the bails from the stumps if the batsman is out of his crease after a delivery. A wicket-keeper's position depends on the bowler, for fast bowling he will crouch some distance from the stumps, in order to have time to react to edges from the batsman. To slower bowling, he will position much nearer to the stumps (known as "standing up"), to pressurise the batsman into remaining within the crease or risk being stumped. The more skilled the keeper, the faster the bowling to which he will be able to "stand up".
Wicket-keeping is a specialist discipline and it requires training consistent with the level expected of a specialist batsman or bowler. However, the modern-day wicket-keeper is also expected to be able to bat reasonably well, in the middle order at least. Wicket-keepers who are also capable of batting at the top of the order are known informally as wicket-keeper/batsmen.
Due to there only being room for one wicket-keeper in a cricket side, selectors (especially at the international level) are often faced with a difficult choice between two or more quality keepers. Often, one of the two wicket-keepers is an exceptional 'keeper, but is not very skilled with the bat, whereas the other is a wicket-keeper/batsman who is obviously better at batting, but not quite as good a wicket-keeper as his rival. One such selection dilemma was that faced by England selectors in the 1990s between Jack Russell (the pure 'keeper) or Alec Stewart (the 'keeper/batsman). They were never able to choose between the two until 1998, when Russell began to fade: prior to that, they had shared the gloves, often with Stewart maintaining his place when not wicket-keeping thanks to his batting skill.
When the ball is hit into the outfield, the keeper moves close to the stumps to catch the return throw from a fielder and, if possible, to run out a batsman.
The wicket-keeper may also have a captaincy role. Uniquely, they are usually involved in every delivery of an innings, and may be in position to see things that the captain misses. They can frequently be heard encouraging the bowler and "sledging" the batsman with well timed comments about their skill, appearance or personal habits.
The wicket-keeper is the only fielder allowed to touch the ball with protective equipment, typically large padded gloves with webbing between the index finger and thumb, but no other webbing. An example of this can be found in Appendix C of the Laws of cricket. The protection offered by the gloves is not always adequate. Famous England wicket-keeper Alan Knott sometimes placed steaks inside his gloves for added cushioning. Wicket-keepers also tend to wear leg pads and a box to protect the groin area.
Leading test match wicket-keepers
The following wicket-keepers have taken 200 or more dismissals in Test cricket.
|Leading test match wicket-keepers by dismissals1|
|3||Mark Boucher2||South Africa||76||277||13||290|
|5||Jeffrey Dujon||West Indies||81||267||5||272|
|9=||Ridley Jacobs||West Indies||65||207||12||219|
|11||Adam Parore||New Zealand||78||197||7||204|
(2) Indicates current player
(3) Not all of Alec Stewart's matches and dismissals were as wicket-keeper
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