Tale from behind the stumps – The best wicket-keepers of the era


Best wicket-keepers of the last fifteen years – certainly a difficult question to answer. Here is a nice analysis on this less-explored topic.

Cricket has been more or less called either a batsman’s or a bowler’s game as suggestive from the scorecards. But in strict terms, neither of them does have a chance to play an essential part for the full duration of an innings. However, a batsman has his innings (which can at most last the entire innings if he carries his bat through) in which he does have the luxury to spend some time at the non-striker’s end with being so much directly involved into the live proceedings of the game. Similarly, a bowler too has his own quota of bowling (one-fifth of an innings in limited format and at most one-half in Tests) during which he remains an integral part of the action in the middle. However, if there’s one player in the field who has the chance to be an integral part of each and every ball that his own fielding side plays, it’s the man with the gloves and pads behind the stumps – the wicket-keeper.

So here we are to analyze the best wicket-keepers in international cricket (excluding T20 internationals) from the last 15 years. The following bullets include our criteria and procedure of analysis:

  • Innings include only those that the player participated as wicket-keeper.
  • Average for runs and dismissals are given on per innings basis.
  • Minimum 150 dismissals, 2500 runs in bothTests and ODIs.
  • Any score is a ratio of one’s parameter and a standard parameter which is calculated following ’average of the averages’ principle.
  • Each of Test and ODI score is the sum of Keeping and Batting score.
  • Final score is the summation of the Test and ODI scores.

A total of eight keepers qualify through the above criteria. They are – Adam Gilchrist (Australia), Mark Boucher (South Africa), M.S. Dhoni (India), Kumara Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), Alec Stewart (England), Brendon McCullum (New Zealand), Andy Flower (Zimbabwe) and Ridley Jacobs (West Indies). Let me present the statistics and the scores at first and we will delve into the analysis part afterwards.

List of best wicket-keepers for tests:

Player Dis/Inn Keeping Score Bat. Avg. Batting Score Combined Score
A. Gilchrist 2.178 1.167 47.61 1.27 2.437
A. Flower 1.572 0.842 53.71 1.433 2.275
M. S. Dhoni 1.771 0.949 38.09 1.016 1.965
K. Sangakkara 1.677 0.899 39.55 1.055 1.954
B. McCullum 1.884 1.01 34.18 0.912 1.922
M. Boucher 1.975 1.058 30.3 0.808 1.866
A. Stewart 1.709 0.916 34.92 0.932 1.848
R. Jacobs 1.795 0.962 28.32 0.755 1.717

List of best wicket-keepers for ODIs:

Player Dis/Inn Keeping Score Bat. Avg. Batting Score Combined Score
M. S. Dhoni 1.285 0.954 52.26 1.409 2.363
A. Gilchrist 1.679 1.246 35.64 0.961 2.207
K. Sangakkara 1.365 1.013 43.63 1.176 2.189
M. Boucher 1.462 1.085 28.71 0.774 1.859
B. McCullum 1.322 0.981 30.73 0.828 1.809
A. Stewart 1.189 0.883 33.48 0.903 1.786
R. Jacobs 1.303 0.967 23.31 0.628 1.595
A. Flower 0.891 0.661 34.59 0.933 1.594

In Tests, Gilchrist has the best keeping score and second-best batting score, and best overall score. Andy Flower has the poorest keeping score, but his overwhelming batting score takes his combined score next to Gilchrist. M.S. Dhoni beats Sangakkara (in keeping score) and McCullum (in batting score) to take the third best position overall.

On the other hand, in ODIs, Gilchrist keeps his best keeping score but his batting score is being overtaken by Dhoni and Sangakkara. Moreover, Dhoni’s gigantic batting score gives him such an edge that his limitations behind the wickets are made up well enough to leapfrog Gilchrist in achieving the best combined score. Sangakkara comes in third in this list of best wicket-keepers with an all-round performance.

Overall Scores of the best wicket-keepers:

Player Test Score ODI Score Final Score
A. Gilchrist 2.437 2.207 4.644
M. S. Dhoni 1.965 2.363 4.328
K. Sangakkara 1.954 2.189 4.143
A. Flower 2.275 1.594 3.869
B. McCullum 1.922 1.809 3.731
M. Boucher 1.866 1.859 3.725
A. Stewart 1.848 1.786 3.634
R. Jacobs 1.717 1.595 3.312

Overall, Boucher and Jacobs seems to be better behind the stumps than in the front of it. Alec Stewart looks to be in the lower half of the table. Sangakkara and Dhoni look more successful batsman than regular keepers. Adam Gilchrist looks to be having the best of balances in either departments and hence has the best final score. Dhoni and Sangakkara come next at second and third respectively. Andy Flower ranks second in Tests but last in ODIs, which is primarily due to his sublime batting score.

The analysis takes into account only the dismissal and batting averages into account. Dismissal also depends upon the quality of bowling (which probably gave Gilchrist and Boucher an upper hand in keeping scores) available to the keepers to affect a catch or stumping. In batting, strike rate could not be taken into account in this analysis. Another interesting fact – in both the formats, Dhoni has played most matches as a keeper-captain; his tally in this regard even surpasses the cumulative figures of the remaining others here in this list. Dhoni is also the best keeper-captain of all times.

Who are the best wicket-keepers of all time? Let us know in the comment below!


Photo by Royal Challengers Bangalore