All cricket skills are hard to learn, but do the wicketkeepers have it easy compared to the batsmen and bowlers?
Paul Collingwood took over the gloves against the West Indies when the first choice keeper Matt Prior injured his finger. He did a good job. The TV and radio commentators enjoyed mulling over how difficult wicketkeeping really is, even at Test level.
Why wicketkeeping is easy
At its core wicketkeeping is about a skill most cricketers can perform: catching the ball. It's a task that is made all the easier by gloves. You could argue it's more difficult to stand at first slip without the aid of protection and catch balls flying off an edge at great speed.
Standing up is more difficult, but anyone could pick up the basics with a little practice. Like Collingwood, someone with a good pair of hands could do a competent enough job. You couldn't say the same about an opening batsman or swing bowler.
Duncan Fletcher, the innovative coach, has argued compellingly that it's far easier to teach a batsman how to catch than a catcher how to bat.
For these reasons the more specialist keeper has vanished from the game. All first class wicketkeepers these days must be able to bat. The simple truth is a decent batsman who can catch can do the job.
More than skills?
While these points are valid, they do miss a key element: You have to be prepared to do it.
Keeping wicket is difficult both physically and mentally. It's hard work crouching and concentrating on every ball of an innings and takes some getting used to. That's why, even in these days of batsmen-wicketkeepers, you almost always have a player who takes the gloves regularly.
The skills of wicketkeeping do get easier the more you practice them, so players need to be nailed down as keepers early so they can keep their standards high. This is especially true of standing up to the stumps. If you keep, always look to find someone to help you practice.
Yet despite all this work, the keeper is usually undervalued in a team. They only get noticed when they make a mistake. Unlike runs or wickets there is no strict measure of success for a wicketkeeper. You could look at byes and dismissals but both could arrive through no fault of the man with the gloves.
So for me, wicketkeeping is a skill anyone can perform but few bother to master (what's the point if you don't get much credit).
What do you think?