Top 5 wicket-keepers produced by New Zealand
It is often insinuated that quality wicket-keepers form the nerve centre of teams in all formats of the game. Apart from concentrating their energy on grabbing stirring catches as well as effecting match-turning stumpings, they also have to contribute with handy runs lower down the order and offer useful pointers to captains who desperately seek assistance.
Extra Cover: Top 5 Test all-rounders from New Zealand
In order of quality, here are five of the best wicket-keepers produced by New Zealand across all formats. It is pertinent to note that the list has not been compiled based on statistics alone and batting ability has not been accorded as much weight as prowess with the keeping gloves.
#5 Ken Wadsworth
Ken Wadsworth was a cricketer considered to be way ahead of his time. Aside from being a gloveman who kept improving with each passing game, he was also a batsman capable of calibrating his strategy according to the situation. Debuting at the de facto home of cricket, Lord's, in 1969, he enjoyed a seven-year career at the highest level.
Be it Hedley Howarth's nagging left-arm spin or Dick Motz's express pace, Wadsworth was at ease behind the stumps. Not many would know that he was the first wicket-keeper batsman to score a century in ODIs. Were it not for a fatal bout of Melanoma, he could have added plenty more to his 33 Test caps.
#4 BJ Watling
Since making his Test debut as a specialist opening batsman against Pakistan in Napier during the 2009 season, BJ Watling has made giant strides to become New Zealand's premier wicket-keeper in the game's traditional format. Even as his gritty batting has bailed the Kiwis out on numerous occasions, the Durban-born cricketer's neat work behind the stumps has made him an indispensable part of the Kiwi set-up.
Watling's dismissal per innings ratio of 2.01 is the best ever by a Kiwi gloveman in Tests. Having accumulated 167 dismissals from just 44 matches, he is rapidly climbing up the echelons in New Zealand's history. By the time he hangs up his gloves, the dependable cricketer should leave the more exalted countrymen in his wake.
#3 Adam Parore
With as many as 201 dismissals from 67 Tests, Adam Parore perches on top of the list encompassing all New Zealand wicket-keepers. When limited-overs numbers are also brought into the equation, only Brendon McCullum has managed to eclipse his tally of 337 dismissals comprising 305 catches and 32 stumpings.
Parore's tactical acumen can be discerned from the countless occasions during which the strategically accomplished Stephen Fleming turned to him for ideas. While his glovework was tidy for the most part, the right-hander also chipped in with vital contributions from different positions in the batting lineup.
#2 Brendon McCullum
The outpouring of myriad emotions during his final Test appearance exemplified Brendon McCullum's contribution to New Zealand cricket. Before he transformed the playing style of the Kiwis with his astute captaincy and flamboyant batting, the Dunedin-born cricketer made a lasting impression through his compact wicket-keeping skills.
Even though Parore's all-time New Zealand Test record lay in his sight, a recurring back problem forced McCullum to give up the gloves in the latter stages of his career and consequently made him shift his focus to the other aspects of his game. Combining all three formats, his wicket-keeping record of 452 dismissals (418 catches and 34 stumpings) is comfortably the best ever numbers among all Kiwi glovemen.
#1 Ian Smith
With his swift footwork and a safe pair of hands, Ian Smith arguably remains New Zealand's greatest ever wicket-keeper. An impeccable game awareness made him stand out from the other glovemen of his era. When compared to the likes of Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling, his batting numbers might not look particularly remarkable. However, considering the fact that he played in the toughest decade in cricket history, the right-hander's record is certainly commendable.
Right throughout the 80s, Smith was an integral part of the New Zealand team in both Tests and ODIs. His combination with the legendary Sir Richard Hadlee accounted for numerous opposition wickets. In addition to his 85 dismissals from 97 ODIs, he also took 168 catches and effected 8 stumpings from 63 Tests.