With the numbers one to six now filled in our ‘Best ODI XI’ of the past four years, we now move on to the selection of our wicket-keeper. Often known as the heartbeat of the team behind the stumps, a modern-day ‘keeper-batsman is very much expected to be another all-rounder, contributing with both the gloves and the bat.
The emergence of Adam Gilchrist onto the international scene in the late 1990s broke the mould, the Australian’s aggressive game causing seismic effects on the game across the world as suddenly all glovemen were now expected to be able to cause Gilchrist-like destruction, whether it be at the top of the order in white-ball cricket or lower down.
Therefore, our shortlist has been whittled down to those who have shown the greatest aptitude with both gloves and willow, the requirement to make the cut being at least 500 runs and 40 dismissals as a wicket-keeper, albeit in no specific position in the order. The men who we will be selecting from are: Jos Buttler (2199 runs and 110 dismissals); MS Dhoni (1941 and 102), Quinton de Kock (3142 and 93); Shai Hope (3283 and 93); Sarfaraz Ahmed (1296 and 75); Mushfiqur Rahim (2108 and 61); Tom Latham (1081 and 59); Niall O’Brien (576 and 48); Alex Carey (834 and 47); Niroshan Dickwella (1467 and 47); Mohammad Shahzad (1531 and 47); Matthew Cross (771 and 43) and Matthew Wade (702 and 41)
We will initially analyse their batting ability, before then moving onto their glovework.
As mentioned above, Gilchrist’s ground-breaking style paved the way for the explosive wicketkeeper-batsmen we have come to see in recent years – many of whom are included in our analysis here.
The likes of de Kock, Dhoni and Buttler have all showcased their eye-catching talents with the bat numerous times throughout the years, and so it is no surprise to see two of those three positioned towards the bottom-left corner of the below graphic – the area where those who hit the most boundaries are placed.
It is Englishman Buttler who has the lowest balls-per-six (Bp6) of just one every 23.14 deliveries faced, over 20 balls lower than Wade in second with a Bp6 of 44.35, whilst O’Brien is third with a Bp6 of 52. It is not a shock to see Buttler being at the front of the pack, as he has cemented his position as one of the deadliest white-ball players across the globe in the past few years, becoming renowned for dispatching a whole array of bowlers with his 360o scoring ability. Conversely, Sarfaraz is by far the player with the least frequent rate of clearing the ropes, hitting a six once every 241.83 balls faced. In penultimate spot is Carey at a Bp6 of 184.8, surprising given the reputation that he has earned in the Big Bash competition as one of the most destructive hitters in Australia.
When looking at fours hit, it is de Kock who has the lowest balls-per-four (Bp4) of 8.93, marginally ahead of Dickwella with 9.09 and Shahzad at 9.38. It is no surprise to see Buttler in-and-around the leaders once again, given his already-discussed qualities, whilst Carey is much more favourably positioned thanks to a Bp4 of 10.62. Hope is the player with the highest Bp4 of 17.23, fractionally higher than Dhoni (17.2) and Wade (17.14), the trio falling within a group of seven who are positioned in the bottom-right corner of the graph. This group are all players who favour looking to clear the boundary as opposed to just finding it, very much highlighting the dynamic game plan employed by many ‘keepers nowadays as they seek to start scoring quickly as soon as they reach the crease.
Average and Strike-Rate
Moving on to a player’s batting average and strike-rate – how many runs they score per 100 balls faced – we can see once again that it is Buttler who is head-and-shoulders above the rest when it comes to scoring rate.
His strike-rate (SR) of 121.82 dwarfs all others in the field, with nobody else managing to score at a SR of 100 or more – de Kock’s 98.52 the closest anybody comes to Buttler’s coattails. Given the big-hitting, powerful game Indian legend Dhoni has become known for over the past 15 years, it is perhaps unexpected to see him with a relatively lowly SR of 81.17 to occupy 12th position. Elsewhere, O’Brien and Cross are the two slowest scorers with SRs of 69.23 and 70.66 respectively, the two failing to score either heavily or quickly.
Looking at their respective averages, it is West Indian Hope who has been the most consistent run-scorer at an average of 52.11 – an impressive feat given the 26-year-old is also the highest run-scorer in the group with a total of 3282. His method appears to be more of a steady, cumulative approach, due to his SR being the third-lowest of the group. De Kock falls just below a half-century average with 48.33, whilst Mushfiqur is another regular run-getter as illustrated by his average of 47.9. Furthermore, Buttler manages to combine his exceptional SR with a very healthy average of 46.78, too.
In order to provide a more accurate representation of a player’s run weight and speed, combining these two metrics together to give a cumulative total demonstrates a more complete picture of a batsman’s overall run-scoring ability.
When we do so, unsurprisingly, it is Buttler who has the highest total (168.6), de Kock being the man in second with a total of 146.85 and Mushfiqur in third with 133.9. Given their low SR and average, O’Brien and Cross’ respective positions of bottom and second bottom are also not a shock.
An interesting side note away from this is when taking into account a player’s expected average (xA). Usually, there is little/no alteration between a player’s actual average (AA) and then xA – although that is not the case here.
Interestingly, Buttler is underperforming by 2.09 runs when compared to his xA, as he is projected to score 48.87 when taking into account balls faced and RpB, but is actually averaging 46.78. Therefore, it seems that there is scope for the 29-year-old to improve even more.
Pace or Spin?
As we have done in our previous analyses, the next step is to look at a player’s ability against both pace and spin. There is more of a spread of the data than we have seen in previous articles, influenced by the varying batting positions that these ‘keepers occupy in their respective teams and thus the differing likelihoods and frequencies of facing both types of bowling disciplines.
The two most obvious examples of positional preference are the positions of de Kock and Hope, with both batting in the top three for their country and therefore being more likely to face pace early on. Both of their averages against both bowling forms are very impressive, with the two clearly demonstrating the greatest aptitude at playing both forms without a significant deficiency against either.
When looking at those who prefer facing spinners, Dickwella and Shahzad are the two striking instances of such players. Both average above 50 against the spinning ball, perhaps no surprise given that both hail from sub-continental countries from where they are brought up on low, spinning pitches. However, the presence of Mushfiqur at the other end of the spectrum – being the player who has the greatest penchant for pace but not spin – is definitely an eye-opener, given that he too originates from a sub-continental country but shows a clear inadequacy at facing spinners.
Elsewhere, Dhoni is another unexpected player with a lack of runs against spin, and he falls at the extremity of a group of eight players who do not possess a stand-out average against either form. However, with the majority of these players batting further down the order, it is perhaps understandable given that they have a lesser time at the crease than those higher up the order.
Just like we did in the previous section, combining both metrics gives a clearer overall picture of who is the most complete player against both forms. On the graph below, the red area indicates a player’s average against spin, whilst the green area is their average against pace.
De Kock leads the way with a cumulative total of 90.91, and Dickwella’s (84.74) exceptional average against spin means he jumps into second ahead of Hope (83.03) and Shazad (76.38). However, a more accurate method of indicating a player’s overall ability is through what we call their Overall Average, worked out by subtracting each player’s difference in average against pace and spin from their cumulative total – therefore rewarding those who are as good against both and punishing those who have a clear leaning to one or the other.
Even when doing so, it makes no difference to de Kock’s position at the top, although Dickwella and Shahzad are notable victims as they slide down the order to fourth and tenth respectively. Hope rises to second and Buttler to third, whilst Dhoni moves to the last place.
Length of innings against run-rate
Here we arrive at our final constituent batting metric, looking at length of innings – measured in average balls-per-dismissal (BpD) – against run rate in runs-per-ball (RpB). This allows us to gauge the impact each player has on a ball-by-ball basis.
With RpB just being SR divided by 100, the distribution in the vertical direction the same as was when looking at SR (i.e. Buttler is still the quickest scorer). It is Hope who has the longest average innings at 70.02 – adding further weight to the thought of him being the kind of player others play around as opposed to being a big-hitter himself. Mushfiqur is second with a BpD of 55.7, whilst Dhoni is slightly behind at 54.34. The player with the shortest average knock is O’Brien with just 24 BpD, whilst Wade does not last much longer at 27.93 BpD.
With batting capability already discussed, now we progress onto each individual’s record with the gloves on. Of course much is dependent on the quality of bowler they have to entice the edges and mistakes from batsmen, but they still need to possess the sufficient ability to capitalise on such errors.
As there is no method to judge errors, we are instead relying on the dismissals they did produce to provide an indicator of their aptitude.
When looking at stumpings, Dhoni is the clear stand-out here with his rate of 0.443 stumpings per game. He has become renowned as the doyen for having electric hands when standing up to the stumps, and this incredible ability to dismiss batsmen should they stray even a fraction out of their crease is highlighted here. Elsewhere, Irishman O’Brien has the highest catches-per-game at 1.464, whilst Buttler appears somewhere between the two at 1.176 catches- and 0.311 stumpings-per-game.
Taking both of these metrics on board, it is O’Brien who has the highest rate for overall dismissals-per game at 1.714, Buttler in second with 1.486 and Dhoni in third with 1.409.
As has been the case with all batsmen, their selection is ultimately down to how they perform with our Batting Index. This applies here, too, albeit is combined with their dismissal rate to produce an overall Wicket-Keeper’s Index (WKI).
The race for the highest Batting Index is incredibly close – as the graph below conveys.
The man to come out on top in this regard is de Kock. His Index of 226.59 is just ahead of Buttler’s 223.56, with Hope behind in third at 204.25.
However, when taking glovework into account too, who is the man to ultimately be selected?
Just like with our Batting Index, the fight for the top of the WKI rankings is incredibly tight – and the margin of victory is actually even less than it was in the Batting Index.
However, with a WKI of 240.68, it is South African de Kock who is the best wicket-keeper according to our Index, beating Buttler by just 2.26 points – the Englishman’s 238.42 not quite enough to secure him the place in our side. Looking further down, Hope retains third place, whilst Dickwella drops from fourth to sixth, leapfrogged by Sarfaraz and Carey’s greater dismissals-per-game.
With the top seven of our side now selected, the only pieces left in the jigsaw are to find out who the bowlers will be. Stay tuned in the coming days to find out who makes the cut.
- Rohit Sharma (India)
- David Warner (Australia)
- Virat Kohli (India)
- Ross Taylor (New Zealand)
- Ben Stokes (England)
- Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
- Quinton de Kock (South Africa)