Ramdin still best ‘keeper
Praise should always be given when it is merited.
Whether you like it or not, Denesh Ramdin remains the best and most productive wicketkeeper/batsman in the West Indies.
His record is superior to nearly everyone else who is in contention for his position.
Yet almost every time a West Indies team is about to be selected, numerous armchair cricket pundits, most of them without the necessary background information and career records of the players, unjustifiably call for his exclusion.
Similar sentiments are now being echoed as the West Indies selectors are on the verge of naming a 16-man team for a two-Test away series against India in November, which wasn’t originally on the ICC’s Future Tours Programme.
Whereas Ramdin’s Test batting average of 26.30 after 51 matches is nothing to do a song and dance about, his stats are superior to those challenging him to wear the big gloves for the regional team.
In fact, Ramdin’s batting average in Tests against the best bowlers in the world is better than the first-class averages of most of those contenders who are playing at a lower level in the regional competitions, where the bowling is not of the same quality.
Ramdin has scored three Test hundreds and ten half-centuries, while effecting 150 dismissals behind the stumps.
Overall, he has scored 4 912 runs in 112 first-class matches at an average of 30.89, with 11 centuries.
Some specialist batsmen in the West Indies, whose names have been bandied around for senior team selection, still average lower than 30 an innings.
But, far too often, the skeptics look only at the wicketkeeper’s performance with the bat and ignore his work behind the stumps, where Ramdin has proven to be very reliable.
Ramdin has been compared with England’s Matt Prior (72 Tests, 3 813 runs, average 42.36, seven centuries), but apart from the experienced Shivnarine Chanderpaul, only Darren Bravo (44.56) and Chris Gayle (42.45) of the current West Indies’ specialist batsmen, have marginally better averages.
Significantly, Ramdin has started to raise the level of his batting over the past 18 months, if his performances in his last nine Tests can be used as a gauge after he was recalled to the Test team after a two-year break. In that period, he scored unbeaten away centuries against England and Bangladesh while amassing 491 runs in 12 innings at a commendable average of 49.10. He scored 62 and 86 in his last two innings versus Zimbabwe.
But let’s look at some of those other Caribbean glovemen whose names have been advanced as replacements for Ramdin.
Chadwick Walton played two Tests against Bangladesh in 2009 when the first-choice players went on strike and is now in India for the first-class segment of the West Indies’ “A” Team tour.
In 53 first-class matches, he has scored 2 087 runs at an average of 25.76 with two hundreds and ten half-centuries. In 38 List A (50-over) matches, he averages a mere 15.96.
The experienced Carlton Baugh averaged 17.94 in 21 Tests with three 50s, while in 47 ODIs he averaged 20.08 without a half-century.
His first-class stats are much better, with 12 centuries in 102 matches even though his current average of 32.87 has dropped significantly over the past three years. In 99 List A matches, Baugh averages 22.01 with two 50s.
Antiguan Devon Thomas, who is 23 years old, has been fast-tracked but in 21 One Day Internationals he has only averaged 14.00 with a strike rate of 65.38 and is yet to record a 50.
In 35 first-class matches, Thomas has 1 288 runs and averages 22.20 with one century, while in 47 List A matches he averages a mere 17.87 with two 50s.
Barbadian Shane Dowrich, who averages 27.46 in 25 first-class matches and just 14.33 in 15 List A matches, has seemingly fallen out of the reckoning for the time being.
Leeward Islander Jahmar Hamilton, who has a first-class century but averages 23.94 in 21 matches and 24.35 in16 List A matches, is now in India with West Indies “A”.
Whereas statistics seldom lie, the above information should show to all and sundry that Ramdin is still ahead of those vying for his position as West Indies’ Test wicketkeeper.
It is noteworthy that Ramdin’s illustrious compatriot Deryck Murray didn’t score a Test century in 62 Tests while averaging 22.90. Of the two other unrelated Murrays, David averaged 21.46 in 19?Tests and Junior 22.39 in 33 Tests, while current selector Courtney Browne averaged 16.12 in 20 Tests and David Williams 13.44 in 11 Tests.
The two most productive West Indies wicketkeeper/-batsmen in the last four decades were Jeffrey Dujon, who scored 3 322 runs in 81 Tests at an average of 31.94 and hit five centuries, and Ridley Jacobs, who scored 2 577 runs in 65 Tests at an average of 28.31 with three hundreds.
It should be noted that Dujon also has the most dismissals by a West Indian wicketkeeper with 270, followed by Jacobs (219) and Deryck Murray (189), with Ramdin (150) next in line.