Follow
Shravan Bhat
I live sporting weekend to sporting weekend

Is AB de Villiers the Best Wicket-Keeper-Batsman in the World?

I always thought of wicket-keepers like drummers in rock bands, there to keep things ticking behind the scenes. It was the fast bowler who was the lead singer in the leather jacket. But the current crop of ’keepers can change anyone’s mind. Take, for instance, swashbuckling South African captain AB de Villiers. He is clearly a head-banging front man. It’s been two years since he took over the ODI captaincy and he looks set to be test skipper too. And he’s just one of the many wicket-keepers increasingly influencing world cricket. Watching Kumar Sangakkara’s match-winning 134* (135) in the ICC Champions Trophy against England made me realise what a wealth of talent world cricket currently has, both as custodians behind the stumps and counter-attackers in front of them.

 

Abraham Benjamin de Villiers. Photo: REUTERS / Philip Brown

Abraham Benjamin de Villiers. Photo: REUTERS / Philip Brown

Kumar Sangakkara, Matt Prior, MS Dhoni, AB de Villiers and Brendon McCullum are either captains of, or among the most important players on, their teams. Some are better limited-overs sloggers while others are Test match fulcrums. But how do they stack up against each other and, probably the greatest keepers of the recent past, Adam Gilchrist and Mark Boucher? If we compare their batting (runs, average, strike rate, centuries) and keeping (dismissals – catches and stumpings – and dismissals per innings), AB de Villiers seems to come out on top.

 

The One Day game seems to throw up a three way battle between the elegant Sangakkara, the athletic de Villiers and ice cool Dhoni. Here they are, ranked by average.

 

Name

Runs

Average

SR

100s

Dismissals

Dis/Innings

Dhoni

7286

51.7

88

8

280

1.278

de Villiers

5680

50.3

93

14

81

1.588

McCullum

4952

39.8

90

4

238

1.300

Sangakkara

11231

39.1

76

15

399

1.366

Gilchrist*

9619

35.9

97

16

472

1.679

Boucher*

4686

28.6

85

1

424

1.462

Prior

1282

24.1

77

0

77

1.375


*Note: No longer playing

Sangakkara

For: Eleven thousand runs, most centuries and probably the most aesthetically pleasing stroke-maker.

Against: For a player who has played 321 innings and scored all those runs should really average more than 39 and have scored more than 15 centuries. His wicket keeping numbers are also mediocre.

Dhoni

For: Supreme average of almost 52 overall and close to 100 in successful chases. Unparalleled in pressure situations.

Against: Lowest dismissals / innings.

 

de Villiers

For: Highest strike rate, number of centuries and dismissals/innings & 2nd highest average, just less than Dhoni.

Against: Relatively inexperienced as a keeper

ODI wicketkeepers

Though it’s hard to pick between the three, de Villiers edges it for me. He has grown into the triple role of being captain, wicket keeper and batsman, leading South Africa to 16 wins out of 21 and averaging almost 80 since June 2011. Winning crunch games in tournaments, as the recent Champions Trophy showed, is still South Africa’s major weak point.

 

That being said, Gilly would get the nod over both of them if I had to pick. 16 centuries, an astonishing strike rate of 97 and the highest dismissals / innings of all time make him my #1.

The Test arena is an interesting battle – and one where Dhoni does not feature as highly.

 

Name

Runs

Average

SR

100s

Dismissals

Dis/Innings

Sangakkara

10486

57

54

33

151

1.677

de Villiers

6364

50.5

55

16

55

2.115

Gilchrist*

5570

47.6

82

17

416

2.187

Prior

3680

44.3

63

7

202

1.655

Dhoni

4209

39.7

60

6

248

1.734

McCullum

4459

35.4

60

6

178

1.873

Boucher*

5515

30.3

50

5

555

1.975

 

Sangakkara

For: Runs are, again, head and shoulders above the competition but this time his incredible average of 57 and 33 centuries match them.

Against: 2nd lowest dismissals per innings.

 

de Villiers

For: Tops today’s keeping charts with 2.115 catches or stumpings per innings. 2nd to only Sangakkara in runs, average and centuries.

Against: Inexperienced – lowest number of dismissals.

 

Prior

For: Excellent strike rate (though still nowhere near Gilchrist’s!), named England’s player of the year for 2012/13 and averaged 71 across the India and New Zealand series.

Against: lowest dismissals / innings

Test Wicketkeepers

In the Test arena, it’s a tough call between de Villiers and Sangakkara. In my opinion, one thing that really sets the Test match batsman apart is his ability to score runs away from home. Sangakkara’s average falls drastically to (a still world-class) 50 away from the slow turners of Sri Lanka whereas de Villiers’ increases to 58.

 

The recent South Africa tour of Australia highlighted AB’s temperament. After the first Test, former Aussie keeper Ian Healy said [about de Villiers keeping wicket] “I do think it’s going to take some effectiveness out of his batting”. AB proved his doubters wrong emphatically. On the final day of the 2nd Test at Adelaide, he blocked 220 balls for just 33 runs to help save the match. In the following game, he smashed 169 off 184 balls to set up a series win.

 

Though he has only claimed one-tenth of the dismissals his legendary compatriot Mark Boucher did, his athleticism and hand-eye coordination make him even more effective per innings. De Villiers is new to keeping and from the look of things, his agility and balance should stand him in good stead for the rest of his career. However, as Healy pointed out, his keeping is yet to be fully tested on slow, spinning wickets – though South Africa don’t have any top quality spinners to test him! De Villiers’ big weakness is his lack of stumpings: just 3 stumpings out of 83 dismissals in ODIs and 2 out of 55 in tests. Compare that to Dhoni’s 69/280 in ODIs and 36/248 in tests.

 

I think what sets him apart is his versatility across formats. He may not be outright numero uno in Tests or ODIs, but he challenges nonetheless. Even in T20s, de Villiers pushes Dhoni close (the Indian has a better average and strike rate). Though he was overshadowed by Kohli and Gayle in this year’s IPL, he has been a successful player for RCB too – who can forget how he smashed Dale Steyn last year or how he hit a reverse sweep for six?

YouTube Preview Image

 

Playing a shot like that requires you to be an all-round athlete: his balance, the hand-eye coordination and forearm strength are stunning. He can save Test matches, anchor ODI innings and improvise under IPL floodlights. AB can do it all. And that’s why he’s my first among equals.

Post Your Comment
Name
Required
Email
Required, will not be published
Comment
All comments are moderated
 

Comment
other keepers even not comparable with A B. A B is awesome
GILLY THE LEGEND EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR HE IS BEST
A b d is just awesome..... no words to describe him....He has different approaches for different formats of the game. ... he is not like Dhoni who just comes at last to maintain his average ...
Joseph Thomas
I think that AB can easily came to the top by covering his opponents
Main thing that should be taken into account is that how he handles pressure and the average.dhoni excels in both these things in odi's.so,i think dhoni is the best in odi's.when it comes to tests,sangakkara should not be taken at all as he did not keep for most of his career.usually prasanna jayawardene does it.so i think gilchrist is the best!!!!!
I highly admire this cricketer ... Hope he helps SA to get some Trophies ...
#Dhoni averages more then ABD but we should not take it into account as Dhoni bats down the order and in most case he leave the ground as not out , whereas ABD comes ahead . #Dhoni never proved himself on foreign soil & his test performance is dismissal.. ABD is a complete player who can fit into any squad n in any format .
 
 
Shravan Bhat
Loud, proud Arsenal fan: I went to a Premier League football match every month for the three years I spent at university in England. I had the privilege of going for three of the last four cricket World Cups. Along side football and cricket, I watch tennis, F1 and golf regularly. I want to tell you why sports are great and why they can bring about positive change.

I've lived in Singapore, London, Hong Kong, Bangalore, Birmingham, Frankfurt (Oder) and now Mumbai. After studying Business & International Relations at Aston University, I joined Forbes India Magazine. My major interests are foreign language movies, food and international affairs. I love old European cities, sushi and the Lord of the Rings.
 
 
 
Most Popular
Shravan Bhat's Activity Feed
January 01, 2014 14:04 pm by tanuj
other keepers even not comparable with A B. A B is awesome
July 20, 2013 20:51 pm by raJESH
GILLY THE LEGEND EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR HE IS BEST
July 14, 2013 11:49 am by gokul
A b d is just awesome..... no words to describe him....He has different approaches for different formats of the game. ... he is not like Dhoni who just comes at last to maintain his average ...
July 05, 2013 21:11 pm by Joseph Thomas
I think that AB can easily came to the top by covering his opponents
June 30, 2013 16:32 pm by Santosh
Main thing that should be taken into account is that how he handles pressure and the average.dhoni excels in both these things in odi's.so,i think dhoni is the best in odi's.when it comes to tests,sangakkara should not be taken at all as he did not keep for most of his career.usually prasanna jayawa...