Wicket-keeping today worse than before, says Mike Brearley

Former England captain, Mike Brearley, hailed Alan Knott as the best wicket-keeper he'd seen.

A leader renowned for bringing the best out of his players, Mike Brearley agreed that the role of a captain had declined in significance.   -  K. Murali Kumar

The Decision Review System in cricket has improved player behaviour on the field, believes the former England captain Mike Brearley.

"You don't get so much hypocrisy, you don't get so much bitterness between teams which leads to accusations of cheating," he said here on Saturday.

"I think there's a better attitude in international cricket than there has been at times in the past."

Hypocrisy, Brearley noted, was visible in English cricket when batsmen walked. "The English would hypocritically walk when they were on 53 or 127 but not walk when they were on 0 or 99. The Australians didn't walk, but they didn't walk ever," he said.

Brearley was in discussion with historian Ramachandra Guha and cricket-writer Suresh Menon at the Bangalore International Centre, around his new book, On Cricket.

The book, a collection of his pieces on the game, devotes an entire part to wicket-keepers and a whole chapter to Alan Knott.

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"Wicket-keeping is the one aspect of the game that is definitely worse than it was before," said Brearley.

"In those days, wicket-keepers would be real pros. You'd never notice them because they never dropped the ball. They would stand up to the stumps when needed. They were craftsmen, and any runs were a bonus. But now you want people who are athletic, who can catch standing back, who can rush up to the wicket quickly and score quick fifties."

He hailed Knott as the best wicket-keeper he'd seen. "People criticized him for catching the ball with one hand and not two, standing back. But he worked it out that in many of those positions, when you went with two hands you were more likely to drop it. He did things his own way. He batted his own way; he wouldn't have been allowed to if it wasn't his second string. He was a minor genius."

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Inspirational leader

A leader renowned for bringing the best out of his players, Brearley agreed that the role of a captain had declined in significance. Of his own efforts as Ian Botham's captain in the 1981 Ashes, he recalled: “He (Botham) said, 'You can't have me bowling three-over spells.' I said, 'You can't bowl medium-pace half-volleys.' That stirred him up a bit. I told him things he didn't want to hear but motivated him.”

Brearley addressed a number of other subjects, including Len Hutton, Tony Greig, Imran Khan, and Test match attendances. There was much laughter, and never a dull moment.