Jack Russell believes that England’s wicketkeepers are setting the standard for others around the world to follow.
Russell, who played 54 Tests and 40 ODIs between 1987 and 1998 and was widely considered to be one of the finest glovemen of his generation, argues that difficult keeping conditions in England necessitate a higher level of skill which sets them apart from the rest.
“In England you have to keep well or you get found out and that’s why we’ve still got the best keepers,” says Russell in the latest issue of Wisden Cricket Monthly. “I don’t want to sound biased but I don’t think the other keepers around the world are in our class. Even the great keepers have found it difficult to come here – I saw Gilchrist drop five catches in one Test match.
“We’ve got Jonny [Bairstow], [Ben] Foakes has come in and looks really natural, there’s Jos [Buttler] and you won’t get many better technically than John Simpson at Middlesex.
“And what makes me really pleased at the moment is that it’s both men and women. I watched Amy Jones in the World T20 and I thought she was brilliant. She’s a natural. So you’ve got Amy and Sarah Taylor looking after the ladies, and you’ve got Jonny, Foakes and Jos with the men – it’s looking good and they’ll all get better the more they play. I can just put my feet up and enjoy watching them.”
Russell picks out the recently retired James Foster as “a cut above the rest” during his time behind the stumps at Essex, and says Foakes, who was for a time Foster’s No.2 at Chelmsford before moving on to Surrey, is also a special talent.
“Stewie [Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket] has been on to me for several years saying this kid’s good and I studied him a bit in the Sri Lanka series,” adds Russell. “He’s quite a tallish kid actually, but his technique is very good. There’s one or two things stood back he can work on but he’s basically looking the business. He’s found his feet very quickly.”
In a wide-ranging interview the former stumper, who won seven one-day trophies with Gloucestershire between 1999 and 2004, recalls the moment he decided he wanted to keep wicket for England.
“Alan Knott caught Rick McCosker in 1977, diving to his right, one-handed, and that’s when I decided I was going to play for England. That was the moment: McCosker, caught Knott, bowled Greig.”
He also reflects on his favourite dismissals from his career, picking out a leg-side stumping off Australian seamer Ian Harvey in the first over of a County Championship game and a famous piece of work in the 1990/91 Ashes series.
“In a Test match it would be stumping Dean Jones down the leg-side off Gladstone [Small], who was still pretty quick. That would have been a rarity in Test matches at any time, but certainly then. It wasn’t planned at all. I never liked planning stumpings because I’d get in the wrong position so I’d just say, ‘Bowl it where you want to bowl it, and I’ll get it’.”
To read the interview in full pick up a copy of issue 16 of Wisden Cricket Monthly