Which keeper is a keeper?

SIMON DOULL
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2012
Reece Young
Photosport
SWITCHING ALLEGIANCE: Reece Young is returning to Auckland after a stint playing for Canterbury.

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The biggest talking point in cricket circles this week has been the decision by the national selectors to drop Reece Young as the test wicketkeeper.

This time next week, either BJ Watling or Kruger van Wyk will be playing against Zimbabwe in his place and that must be a bitter pill to swallow.

After just five tests, Young has paid the price for some indifferent displays with the bat.

But when it comes to test cricket, how important is it that a wicketkeeper is scoring runs?

To me, it's imperative that the best wicketkeeper – not batsman – is picked.

The problem right now, however, is that it's not entirely clear who that is in this country.

In recent times we've seen Young make some glaring mistakes with gloves.

Just this week in the HRV Cup, he performed poorly behind the stumps for Canterbury but, to be fair, he had just been dropped.

The problem, though, is he's not on his own.

In the past three weeks or so, we've seen some pretty average performances from our domestic glovemen and that makes it hard to determine who the right man is for the test team.

That said, I don't believe for an instant that van Wyk will be selected for the test against Zimbabwe.

Watling, by all accounts, has the position locked down and I can't help but feel that van Wyk has been thrown into the mix simply as a gesture to make the process look contestable.

With that all said and done, the question remains – is Watling the right man for the job?

There has been a lot of uneducated comment that he is nothing but a makeshift option behind the stumps, but I think that's unfair.

Watling, despite having only kept intermittently for Northern Districts in recent years, is not a part-timer.

He was, by all accounts, a very good wicketkeeper right up to under-19 level and that should hold him in good stead this summer.

While his test batting average in six matches is a disappointing 24.5, Watling probably offers more with the bat than Young.

He started his test career as a top order batsman and with the keeping duties might feel a degree of pressure off his shoulders to perform with the willow.

With his new responsibilities, Watling is likely to bat at No 6 or 7 in the batting order and is better equipped to handle the second new ball than the other options.

Some will say Young has been hard done by in the sense that he's only had five tests to stake his claim for the role behind the stumps.

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But the reality is that this New Zealand team needs a gloveman who can perform with the bat.

And another thing ... This afternoon in Auckland, the HRV Cup domestic Twenty20 competition comes to a close.

Aside from some early hiccups with abandoned matches thanks to some temperamental weather, it's been a wonderful spectacle. If you talk to the players, the general consensus is that they've really enjoyed playing in it and have been impressed with the standard of the competition.

The Aces and Wizards were definitely the two best teams throughout the season and both deserve their places in the final.

During the week when they last met we saw both sides bring up scores in excess of 200.

But we shouldn't forget that with both teams already assured of a place in the decider they were effectively playing for nothing.

I'd love to see a similarly big scoring contest today but suspect, given the title is on the line, we might see more reserved displays from both teams.

Simon Doull is a former Black Cap.

- Sunday News

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