International Cricket Wiki

The wicket-keeper (also spelt wicketkeeper and often shortened to keeper) in the sport of cricket is the player on the fielding side who stands behind the wicket being guarded by the batsman currently on strike. It is essentially a specialist role although a keeper is occasionally called upon to bowl, in which case another member of the fielding side temporarily keeps wicket. The role of the keeper is governed by Law 40 of the Laws of Cricket and is similar to that of the catcher in baseball.


The keeper's major function is to stop deliveries that pass the batsman (in order to prevent runs being scored), but he can also attempt to dismiss the batsman in various ways:

  • The most common dismissal effected by the keeper is for him to catch a ball that has nicked the batsman's bat, called an edge, before it bounces. Sometimes the keeper is also in the best position to catch a ball which has been hit high in the air. More catches are taken by wicket-keepers than by any other fielding position.
  • The keeper can stump the batsman by using the ball to remove the bails from the stumps, if the batsman has come out of his crease during a delivery.
  • 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.

A 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, while for slower bowling, he will come much nearer to the stumps (known as "standing up"), to pressure the batsman into remaining within the crease or risk being stumped. The more skilled the keeper, the faster the bowling to which he is able to "stand up", for instance Godfrey Evans often stood up to Alec Bedser. [1]

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 keeper is also expected to possess reasonable batting skill, suiting him for the middle order at least. Wicket-keepers who are also capable of batting at the top of the order are known informally as keeper/batsmen.

Since there is only room for one keeper in a cricket side, selectors (especially at the international level) are often faced with a difficult choice between two or more skilled keepers. Often, one of the two keepers is an exceptional keeper, but only an average batsman, whereas the other is a keeper/batsman who is clearly better at batting, but not quite as good a keeper as his rival. One such selection dilemma was that faced by England selectors in the 1990s between Jack Russell (the pure keeper) and Alec Stewart (the keeper/batsman). They were never able to consistently choose between the two until 1998, when Russell began to fade: prior to that, they had regularly swapped the role, often with Stewart maintaining his place when not wicket-keeping thanks to his batting skill. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kumar Sangakkara, Brendon McCullum and Mark Boucher are the top keeper/batsmen today in cricket.

The keeper may also have a captaincy role. Uniquely, they are usually involved in every delivery of an innings, and may be in a position to see things that the captain misses. They can frequently be heard encouraging the bowler, and may also indulge in the practice (not meant to be overheard) of "sledging" the batsman with well timed comments about their skill, appearance or personal habits.

The 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. The protection offered by the gloves is not always adequate. The England 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.

Wicket-keepers are allowed to take off their pads and bowl, and this is not uncommon when matches are drifting to draws or a bowling team is desperate for a wicket. Two keepers have removed their pads and taken hat-tricks in first-class cricket: Probir Sen for Bengal v Orissa at Cuttack in 1954-55 and A.C. (Alan) Smith for Warwickshire v Essex at Clacton in 1965; Smith was a most unusual player in that he was primarily a wicket-keeper, but was sometimes selected as a frontline bowler.


According to Law 2 of the Laws of Cricket, a substitute (taking the place of an ill or injured player) may not keep wicket.[2]

This rule is sometimes suspended, by agreement with the captain of the batting side, although Law 2 does not provide for such agreement to be made. For example, during the England—New Zealand Test Match at Lord's in 1986, England's specialist keeper, Bruce French was injured during England's first innings. England then used 4 keepers in New Zealand's first innings: Bill Athey kept for the first two overs; 45-year-old veteran Bob Taylor was pulled out of the sponsor's tent to keep, immaculately, for overs 3 to 76; Bobby Parks, the Hampshire keeper, was called up for overs 77 to 140; and Bruce French kept wicket for the final ball of the innings.

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
No Name Country Matches Caught Stumped Total dismissals
1 Mark Boucher2 South Africa 126 453 22 475
2 Adam Gilchrist Australia 96 379 37 416
3 Ian Healy Australia 119 366 29 395
4 Rod Marsh Australia 96 343 12 355
5 Jeffrey Dujon West Indies 81 267 5 272
6 Alan Knott England 95 250 19 269
7 Alec Stewart England 82 227 14 241
8 Wasim Bari Pakistan 81 201 27 228
9= Ridley Jacobs West Indies 65 207 12 219
9= Godfrey Evans England 91 173 46 219
11 Adam Parore New Zealand 78 197 7 204

Notes in Table

  1. Statistics are correct as of 20 May 2009
  2. Indicates current player

Leading One day wicket-keepers

The following wicket-keepers have taken 200 or more dismissals in one day cricket.

Leading one day wicket-keepers by dismissals1
No name Country Matches Caught Stumped Total dismissals
1 Adam Gilchrist Australia 287 417 55 472
2 Mark Boucher2 South Africa 280 385 21 406
3 Moin Khan Pakistan 219 214 73 287
4 Kumar Sangakkara2 Sri Lanka 246 208 64 272
5 Ian Healy Australia 168 194 39 233
6 Rashid Latif Pakistan 166 182 38 220
7 Romesh Kaluwitharana Sri Lanka 189 131 75 206
8 Jeffrey Dujon West Indies 169 183 21 204

Notes in Table

  1. Statistics are correct as of 20 May 2009
  2. Indicates current player

See also