Cricket: Wallace the Third Man in Glove Affair ; the Debate Has Been about Foster versus Stewart, but Marsh's Protege May Have a Big Hand to Play
Brenkley, Stephen, The Independent (London, England)
Fond memory suggests, as in all cricketing affairs, that England was once a breeding ground for classy wicketkeepers. It was not quite as though there was one on every street corner, but turn up at any county ground and there was a chap sporting voluminous pads and gloves almost as large, into which the ball regularly melted and which almost as often removed the bails with barely a touch.
Then, around the time the National Health Service started to spiral downwards, wicketkeepers became ham-fisted goalkeepers. They wore shin guards, stood back to all bowling and grabbed messily where once they glided elegantly.
Well, while the NHS is still in decline, wickies might be back. It is in danger of becoming an art form again. Listen to this: "Apart from Jack Russell and Keith Piper, who are the best two, there are a lot of good young wickies around, Andy Pratt, who's maybe the closest thing we've got to those two, Chris Read, Matt Prior and I thought Fossie did well. He had some very good games which weren't really noticed, they never are as a wicketkeeper."
Fossie, of course, is James Foster, tyro England keeper in residence, much (too much) maligned and centrally contracted. The words were those of yet another of the country's new batch of what might be termed proper wicketkeepers and perhaps Foster's closest rival. Mark Wallace was the solitary specialist keeper in the first intake of the new National Academy who wintered in Adelaide.
He is only 20, two years younger than Foster, and has had a marvellous start to the season. His keeping has been largely smooth, his batting has shone. In Glamorgan's opening Championship game he registered his maiden first-class century and followed that last week with another (non- first-class) hundred against the Cardiff Centre of Excellence.
Foster is the man in possession but that does not necessarily mean he is the keeper for keeps. As David Graveney, the chairman of selectors notes, it is obvious Foster will be picked for the Test matches at first, but that should not be taken as a guarantee of permanence.
Graveney has given enough wicket-keepers a go for us to know this is probably true. The last one he plucked from obscurity as a 20- year-old in 1999 was Read, who stayed for two Tests. But Wallace and the others supply solid evidence that there is not only a high standard but proper competition: men with quick hands for run-outs who will stand up to seam bowling, an enormous skill which could be the next big thing in one-day cricket (when Glamorgan get round to letting Wallace play one-day cricket).
It would be useful if England recognised the treasure trove they have unearthed by looking after it. Wicketkeepers need coaches. Foster struggled too often last winter because there was nobody on hand to lend expert guidance. Since Alan Knott was rather casually let go two years back - he has now emigrated to Cyprus - England's keepers have fended for themselves. At least at Glamorgan, Wallace can turn to Adrian Shaw, the county's former gloveman, who is now second team coach.
Wallace also, of course, now has the strength of the Academy around him. He is a perky, obliging lad who comes to life …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Cricket: Wallace the Third Man in Glove Affair ; the Debate Has Been about Foster versus Stewart, but Marsh's Protege May Have a Big Hand to Play. Contributors: Brenkley, Stephen - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 28, 2002. Page number: 12. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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