There are probably other examples in domestic cricket around the world, although possibly not at first-class level, but South African cricket is unique just below international level in that its first and second choice reserve wicket keepers are both genuine all rounders.
Wicket keepers are expected to bat, of course, but in Heino Kuhn and Daryn Smit South Africa have two excellent glovemen who also happen to open the batting and bowl very decent leg spin, too.
Sadly, both have been told to put their extra curricular contributions on hold if they want to succeed Mark Boucher in the national team. What a pity.
Kuhn has opened the batting all his wicket keeping life and admitted this week that, should he ever fulfill his dream of playing Test cricket, he would love to be given the chance to do so again. “But I guess that won’t be possible. I suppose I’ll have to bat at six or seven…” he said, with obvious regret.
Smit has been told by countless experts that his dream of reaching the highest level with two strings to his bow is “impossible” and that he should give up the bowling – or even the ‘keeping if he was convinced he could cut it as a frontline spinner. What an enormous pity. His determination to keep fulfilling both roles for the Dolphins should be applauded and celebrated as an example of exactly the kind of unconventional and adventurous thinking which South African cricket has been accused of lacking for decades.
Test cricket has been around for over 130 years and, say the experts and historians, history will tell you that it is impossible for wicket keepers to be effective opening batsmen or bowl anything other than ‘joke’ stuff. Oh really? That’s not what the Proteas’ highly regarded performance coach (psychologist), Jeremy Snape says.
“Cricket history does not tell us that anything is impossible. All it tells us is that it hasn’t been done before. History did not tell us that it was impossible to chase 414 in the last innings in Perth – it just told us that it hadn’t been done before. ‘Impossible’ only exists in the head.”
Probability suggests that Kuhn wouldn’t be able to do both jobs for an extended period of time, but he might be the exception because his mind is strong. To him, opening and ‘keeping is normal.
And imagine if Smit was selected for a Test match on a dry, turning pitch in India. South Africa could pick three frontline seamers and two spinners rather than juggling and compromising the balance of the team in conventional fashion. And please don’t tell me that anybody would have a problem with AB de Villiers taking the gloves while Smit took aim at the rough outside leg stump. In so many ways it would be like playing 12 men against 11.
Anything is possible. Even in Test cricket. The challenge for provincial coaches, administrators at every level and the national selection panel is to break free from conventional thinking and think about positives rather than negatives.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.