Kumar Sangakkara looks on as Australia pile on the runs

Sangakkara: ace batsman snooze inhibitor

© Getty Images

High Fives

Artful dodging

If you think wicketkeeping is all about catching and stumping, these five acts of legerdemain should make you think again

Sidharth Monga  |  

Dhoni from the block
Some wicketkeepers are conmen's conmen. They practise grifting for grifting's sake. It is an urge that suddenly possesses them when they put those big gloves on. Take MS Dhoni for example. He walks before he is given out, he withdraws run-out appeals against dozy batsmen, but the wicketkeeper within doesn't allow him to give up on trickery. More than the gains, it is about devotion to an art form. It is not like claiming grounded catches or flicking the bail when nobody is watching and appealing for a hit-wicket; the big joy is doing it legally and in full view.

This one is from the back alleys of street cricket. It's anytown, India, during the hot summer, in one of those IPL matches that merges into many others. There is nothing to remember this match by, except this, the fifth ball of the last over of the first innings. Chennai Super Kings' Joginder Sharma bowls a yorker that squeezes under the bat of Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Kolkata Knight Riders' last recognised batsman. For some reason, Ishant Sharma, the No. 10 wants to steal a bye and take strike last ball. Shukla, on whose watch the first four balls have yielded 11, tries to send Ishant back but it is too late.

Dhoni sees that both batsmen are at the striker's end, so he lobs the ball over their heads to Joginder, at the non-striker's end. This in itself shows some presence of mind, but the really shrewd thinking is yet to come. As Dhoni walks towards the stumps, he sees Shukla step out of his crease to pat Ishant on his shoulder, perhaps just to reassure him that it's okay, that his intention was noble but not its timing. Dhoni raises his left hand, asking Joginder to wait before breaking the wicket. Only once he sees Ishant cross Shukla does Dhoni gesture with his right hand, like a traffic policeman, telling Joginder to break the wicket. Knight Riders have lost Shukla. Dhoni has waited till the last moment to take the slightest advantage.

Thanks for the false alarm, Sangers!

Thanks for the false alarm, Sangers! © AFP

Saint Sanga
Kumar Sangakkara has fooled much of the world with his polished accent and Spirit of Cricket lecture. He is not fooling me. Not if he does this to poor Ahmed Shehzad. This is 2013, a Pakistan-Sri Lanka ODI that could be any other, and perhaps Sangakkara knows Shehzad is going to become a selfie-taking menace soon. Shehzad looks to take advantage of the big boundaries in Dubai, and plays a nice chip over cover. He turns blind for the second, trusting Misbah-ul-Haq's call.

Sangakkara knows Shehzad doesn't know where the ball is because he hasn't bothered looking, so well before the throw arrives, he mock-collects the ball as a prelude to pretending to whip the bails off. Shehzad panics and dives awkwardly. Sangakkara then collects the lobbed throw from the deep with the satisfied air of one who has robbed a man at gunpoint, except as Shehzad, looking on sheepishly, now understands, it was done with a stick not a gun. He needs treatment after hurting himself in the dive. Even Misbah smiles. Danny Morrison, on air then, sums it up: "Oh Sangers, you old dog."

Boucher's slick flick
Mark Boucher rarely got to stand up to the stumps, so when he did, as in this case, he might have thought, "I don't care if it is the genial-looking Marvan Atapattu. All I care is about is entering the wicketkeepers' trickery Hall Of Fame."

Sri Lanka are chasing 264 in Adelaide. They need 147 off 143 with seven wickets in hand. Atapattu and Tillakaratne Dilshan have added 49. Johan Botha turns an offbreak past Atapattu's inside edge. The ball lobs up towards the leg side. Boucher starts appealing for lbw even as the ball is in the air and he is moving towards it. It will probably land about a foot off the pitch. The appeal comes first. Then Boucher, his arms still up in appeal, catches the ball.

Look behind you, chum

Look behind you, chum © Getty Images

Now as a batsman made nervous by an appeal - and it is a pretty good shout - you often look for a leg-bye, especially because if the wicketkeeper had collected the ball, he would already have done something with it. But Boucher keeps appealing, hands in the air. So Atapattu takes one step out to look for that leg-bye. He sees Dilshan looking at the umpire, so panics and looks to return. Exactly one second passes between that first step out and him looking to return. It is enough. Without even looking at the stumps or the batsman, Boucher flicks the ball down onto the base of leg stump. Botha is still appealing for lbw when Boucher, pissing himself, goes and tells him he has run Atapattu out.

Sri Lanka go on to lose by nine runs. Dilshan was clean-shaven back then and, clearly traumatised, is still recovering by growing weird beards.

The reverse Sanga
If Sangakkara did what he did to Shehzad just for kicks, Dhoni often does the opposite to get run-outs. Here Mitchell Marsh should really have known better because Dhoni was doing this sort of thing to South African batsmen as far back as 2006-07.

MS Dhoni: Head, Dept of Wool-Pulling

MS Dhoni: Head, Dept of Wool-Pulling © Getty Images

Nearly a decade on, chasing 296, Australia are cruising at 204 for 4 after 35 overs when Glenn Maxwell drives Barinder Sran past mid-off. Umesh Yadav gives spirited chase and fires in a throw at the keeper's end. Marsh, running back for the third - which is, quite frankly, on - has his back to the action. He has no idea the throw is headed to his end because Dhoni looks like he might be conjuring his latest weird analogy to rubbish the DRS rather than getting ready to collect a throw. Suddenly, though, he springs into action, collects the ball without any preparation, and whips the bails off to catch Marsh short. Marsh can be blamed for not knowing that Dhoni is capable of this, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, no other wicketkeeper pulls the wool over batsmen's eyes like Dhoni. At the least give him a walk-on part in The Sting if it is ever remade.

The old dog
This is actually one of the more famous cases of absent-minded running by the batsman than pure trickery by the wicketkeeper. Virender Sehwag slashes to third man and strolls through for an easy single. Except that the stroll becomes a little too leisurely. He practises the shot as he goes, turns around and looks to take guard at the non-striker's end.

Suddenly, to his horror, he hears his partner, Sourav Ganguly, shout "Viru, Viru!" but before he understands what is happening, he is out. To be fair, Sehwag has done what many do, but he has forgotten who is behind the stumps. The old dog, Sangers, has collected the lob where first slip would be and is about to send the ball to cover, when he notices that Sehwag is ambling. He takes off a glove and, as inconspicuously as possible, sends in a throw, which misses Sehwag by inches and hits the stumps to run him out.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo