The ball hisses past the bat and rears like a cobra raising its hood. And you got to be quick… in fact, very fast. You need to be an artist with an incredible skillset to stand up to spinners in the sub-continent.
Catches go down in a millisecond and a match changes course. It’s a job of a specialist. One of the finest wicketkeepers of our times, England’s Jack Russell rates Ben Foakes the ‘best ’keeper in the world while standing up’. India’s Wriddhiman Saha would disagree but it still is high praise for the 27-year-old Foakes.
With Jos Buttler slated to fly back after the first Test, Foakes is looking at three Tests as a wicketkeeper-batsman, considering England is looking at Jonny Bairstow as a specialist batsman these days.
Foakes’ brief career with England is interesting. He started his Test journey in Galle, 2018, and scored a hundred (107) on debut. He then travelled to the West Indies in 2019 where he was less successful with the willow, and found himself in international wilderness. He still averages 41.50 in five Tests while his keeping has always been exceptional.
In a chat with the media here on Sunday, Foakes spoke about the “excitement and anticipation” about playing in India. “It is an incredible place to play,” he said. “I have spent a lot of time in the sub-continent. Had success in Sri Lanka. India is a bit different,” he added.
Foakes dwelt on the intense competition for the slot of a wicketkeeper-batsman and talked about working with Buttler, his competitor, “You got to help each other out and do your best when you get your chance. Healthy competition is good.”
On the challenges of keeping wickets in the sub-continent, Foakes said, “You got to stand up for long hours, concentrate for long periods, and you know that the ball will turn sharply and you got to react quickly.”
And he understands the nature of the beast when it comes to selecting a wicketkeeper. “However good you are as a ’keeper, you got to contribute with the bat.”
Watch Foakes behind the stumps. You will see an artist in action.