The Cricket Paper|September 20, 2020
It wasn’t until cricket returned without crowds that I realised the true value to his team of a modern-day wicketkeeper. Here I was, under the impression he was there to take blinding catches and make lightning stumpings, when all the time it’s how much noise he can make. Velvety gloves? “Do me a favour,” you can hear the coach snorting. “Find me a bloke with a pair of cast-iron tonsils.”
Martin Johnson

Thanks to acoustics reminiscent of a half-empty swimming baths, every utterance a wicketkeeper makes is now picked up with crystal clarity on the stump microphone, and is generally of such utter banality that, were I in charge of the honours list, I’d be recommending a knighthood for the bloke who invented the remote control mute button.

Non-stop spouting has now, as far as I can see, even replaced scoring lots of runs as the way to impress the selectors, or at least that’s the conclusion that Ben Foakes now appears to have come to in his ongoing quest to find a way into the England team.

Being widely regarded as a far superior gloveman to either Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow didn’t mean a lot unless he could bat, as Foakes well knew when he made his Test debut in Sri Lanka in 2018, so he scored a century on his debut. But proving himself a decent batsman still wasn’t enough, so now he’s added chuntering, yapping and chirping to his repertoire in order to win over the selectors.

Foakes was again impressive behind the stumps when Surrey played Middlesex in a T20 Blast game at the Oval this month, and then bailed them out with an unbeaten 60 when Surrey slipped to 23-4 in chase of a modest 114 to win. But what he should have won the match award for was the fact that in the entire Middlesex innings, the Surrey 12th man didn’t have to run on once with emergency supplies of throat lozenges.


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September 20, 2020