Want to become a better wicketkeeper? Here’s some expert advice from Surrey and England gloveman Ben Foakes.
GET YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM YOUR BODY
I try to catch the ball as far out as I can. I want to take it away from my body and then bring it in. A lot of bowlers will wobble it so if you end up taking it with your hands close to your body you’re giving the ball more time to do that. Also the closer your hands are to your body the harder they are, because they’ve got nowhere to go.
If you take it with your hands further away from your body, you can adapt for wobble, you can see it all the way and you can give with your hands so it doesn’t just hit you.
THEY’RE GOING TO NICK IT…
I tell myself ‘nick’ as the ball’s coming down because you don’t want to be caught out. You can slightly switch off, maybe at the end of the day or a long innings, and if you’re not expecting a nick and your weight’s too much on your left foot then you’re going to struggle. If they do nick it at that point you’ve just got to fly!
If you’re telling yourself they’re going to nick every ball then the one they miss or leave is right there – it’s an easy take – but at the same time you’re ready if they do nick it.
My set-up is probably slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. I’m generally trying to stay in quite a straight line – by that I mean my feet pointing down the wicket and not opening up at all towards the off-side. You want to be in the Z position.
ANCHOR YOUR LEFT FOOT
There is the temptation to take a half-step left sometimes, especially if the ball seems to be heading in that direction. Certain bowlers almost push it that way sometimes and they can be quite difficult to keep to. You need to resist the temptation and keep your left leg still, otherwise your weight will be heading in the wrong direction and you will not be able to react to a nick.
When I’m standing up to the stumps I have a method where I’ll have my hands on the ground and I’ll say ‘bounce’ as the ball bounces. That helps me to come up only after I’ve said that, and not too early.
You’re screwed if you come up just before you think it’s going to hit the rough, for example. If it doesn’t then it skids down and hits you on the knee-cap and if it does hit the rough and rags then you’re off the ball and can’t do anything. Keeping that posture as long as you can is vital.
KEEP YOUR HEAD ON THE BALL
The most important thing is keeping your head on the ball. For example, when you’re diving, if you go with your hands and your head stays where it is, the distance you can cover is tiny. If your head goes towards the ball the second that there’s a nick then everything has to follow and it all goes that way. You can probably gain three of four yards in a dive just by making sure your head leads.
TIPS AND DRILLS
Those orange Katchet boards are really good for drills. Coaches launch them in from 20 yards away and you’re hovering, all the time desperate to come up. But if you’re disciplined and stay down you learn how many balls you can actually take if you stay in the right base. If you come off it you’ve got no chance.
TOP TIP #1
Think ‘nick’ as the ball is coming down to ensure your weight doesn’t fall towards the leg-side.
TOP TIP #2
Footwork is really important when moving to take a catch. Get a coach or a mate to put a resistance band around your waist while you power your legs as if going for a catch. Without the band you’ll feel lighter and able to cover more distance.