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Gear This Week: Do You Need Wicketkeeping Pads?

Are wicketkeeping pads here to stay in their current form? Ed Kemp asks the question in Gear This Week.

Those of you who followed England Women’s progress to the final in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka will have seen England’s star keeper-batsman Sarah Taylor in action behind the stumps, with no traditional wicketkeeping pads strapped to her legs.

She had told AOC all about the tactic in the summer for our women’s special issue (available for free on iPad here). Taylor, noted around the world by commentators male and female for the quality of her glovework, says: “I wear hockey pads inside my trousers, they come right up to the bottom of my knee – so not too bad. I’ve got a few bruises, but it’s good because the girls buy me nice socks for extra padding! There isn’t the pace in the women’s game… I’m not saying that Katherine [Brunt] is slow, it’s just that, if I’m getting hit on the knee, bar an inside edge or a bottom edge, if I get hit then it’s my fault, it’s my bad hands and stuff like that. I like it: I feel like I’m a fielder with gloves on, I’ve got more movement. There were occasional times when I’d hit my pad on the way through when I was trying to move my gloves as quickly as possible. So I just said: ‘Well, why don’t I get rid of the pads?’”

Is this something that could catch on? No one’s suggesting Matt Prior should start strutting out to keep against Steven Finn with no more than a pair of shin pads to protect him – pads are an extremely important part of the wicketkeeper’s kit bag, particularly at elite level, standing back to 80-90mph bowlers. But could there be a few amateur players who’ll be tempted to follow Taylor’s lead and leave their full keeping pads in the pavilion?

The main reason not to is simple. Most wicketkeepers don’t complain that their pads are restricting. In fact, on many up-and-down club wickets – where the consistency of bounce can’t necessarily be relied upon (here speaks a disgruntled batsman…) – the use of the pads to stop balls when standing back can be pretty crucial. But one thing’s for sure, modern pads are as light as ever and keepers are keen to be able to move their legs and their arms with complete freedom. If you brush the top of a pad with a glove and it means you drop their opening bat it’s going to make you think about a change. That’s why keeping pads need the above-the-knee section to be narrow and tucked in tight to the leg, out of the way, all the while remaining comfortable. Modern keepers expect lightness, and that’s what manufacturers are striving to deliver, so they feel as much as possible like “a fielder with gloves on” whilst being properly protected.

The new range of keeping gear from Slazenger, displayed at the recent gear trade show at Lord’s

That said, there is a real chance that the odd hockey-playing club cricketer whose teammates aren’t the fiercest bowlers around might be tempted by the old hockey-pads-under-trousers ruse. You obviously have to back your hands to be good enough (quite a big consideration, that one), but maybe these smaller alternatives are items that more cricket brands might start to develop for themselves? Maybe the shin pads used by close fielders will morph into understated wicketkeepers’ pads?

The game is always moving forward, and it certainly seems to work alright for Taylor.

Have your say on the matter over at the Custom Bats Forum

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