The ball hisses past the bat and rears up much like a cobra raising its hood. And you’ve got to be quick... in fact, very fast.
You need to be an artist with an incredible skill set to stand up to spinners in the sub-continent and do the job with distinction. You need to rise with the ball, have soft hands to allow the turning ball to ease into your gloves. You only have a split second to snaffle the edges or adjust to the extra bounce, and a lot of times you are blindsided by the batsman. Catches go down in a millisecond and a match changes course. It’s the job of a specialist.
One of the finest wicket-keepers of our times, England’s Jack Russell rates Ben Foakes the best ‘keeper in the world while standing up. India’s Wriddhiman Saha would disagree, but it still is high praise for the 27-year-old Foakes.
With Jos Buttler slated to fly back after the first Test, Foakes is likely to play three Tests as a wicket-keeper batsman considering England is looking at Jonny Bairstow as a specialist batsman these days.
Foakes’ brief career with England is rather interesting. Someone rated highly as a wicket-keeper, Foakes started his Test journey in Galle, 2018, and came up with a hundred  on debut. This was followed by an innings of 65 later in the series; even as he kept wickets wonderfully well, the silken touch evident at all times, he made vital runs.
Then Foakes travelled to the West Indies in 2019, where he had a less successful time with the willow, and soon found himself in the international wilderness.
Still, he averages 41.50 with the willow in five Tests while his ‘keeping has always been exceptional.
In a media interaction on Sunday, Foakes spoke about a “lot of excitement and anticipation,” about playing in India. “It is an incredible place to play,” he said.
He added, “I have spent a lot of time in the sub-continent. Had success in Sri Lanka. India is a bit different.”
Foakes dwelt on the intense competition for the slot of a wicket-keeper batsman in the England team and talked about working with Buttler, his competitor, “You got to help each other out and do your best when you get your chance. Healthy competition is good.”
On the challenges of keeping wickets in the sub-continent, Foakes said, “You got to stand up for long hours, concentrate for long periods, and you know that the ball will turn sharply and you got to react quickly.”
Foakes said he wasn’t given a reason for his omission after the West Indian tour but came to understand it was “for the balance of the team.”
And he understands the nature of the beast when it comes to selecting a ‘keeper. “However good you are as a ‘keeper, you got to contribute with the bat.”
Watch Foakes behind the stumps. You will see an artist in action.
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