Cricket: Laidback style is just not Krikken

Stephen Brenkley says Derbyshire can swear by the ways of their wicketkeeper
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AFTER Karl Krikken appeared on television the other night he discovered that his fiancee back home was refusing to speak to him. She had watched him playing floodlit cricket at The Oval and leading Derbyshire to victory. Unfortunately, the novelty was outweighed by what she and her sisters could hear. The stump microphone picked up Krikken constantly encouraging and cajoling his colleagues, driving them forward. He did this partly by repeated use of choice Anglo-Saxon adjectives.

"You get pumped up, don't you. I wanted them to stay calm and it just came out I suppose," said Krikken a couple of days later, without once using a four- letter word, strong or mild. "It was only when I called home later on to see that everything was all right that I realised. Dreadful, she said it were."

By common consent Krikken is perpetually the noisiest player in English cricket. It is never an advantage to be a shrinking violet when your trade is wicketkeeping but Krikken is always in stentorian bloom. If anything he has become louder since he assumed the vice-captaincy at the start of the season and, because of Dominic Cork's regular absences with England, frequently the captaincy. "I think it helps me concentrate more," he said. "I like to encourage the team and the bowlers, let them know they're doing all right and I think it makes me concentrate more. My team have got used to it by now but I hope the opposition haven't. The swearing isn't directed at them, I just get involved."

It is a fair prediction that Krikken will be at his loudest during Derbyshire's semi-final tie in the NatWest Trophy against Leicestershire on Wednesday. They will start as huge second favourites but an attack with Cork, Phillip DeFreitas and a suddenly improved Kevin Dean should not be dismissed lightly. If the batting relies heavily on the unbridled panache of the Australian Michael Slater and the seasoned accumulating of Kim Barnett it has what their keeper called a powerful one-day boilerhouse of Cork, DeFreitas and Krikken capable of plundering opposition attacks quickly.

At the start of the season Derbyshire, another winter of unrest and mutiny behind them, could hardly have expected to be a match away from Lord's. Cork and Krikken were unknown quantities as leaders, their star batsman Chris Adams had left following hard on the departures of the Australian coach-captain combo, Dean Jones and Les Stillman.

They have survived the turmoil remarkably well. Although they are 17th in the Championship that is all they could have reasonably expected given Cork's England calls and a win here or there would swiftly hoist them up the table. Perhaps they have been fortunate in the NatWest competition in having Cumberland and Scotland to play in the opening rounds but they cast aside Surrey's all-stars in the quarter-finals.

If Krikken, 29, is noted largely for his verbal persistence, his wicketkeeping style cannot escape attention either. He goes through a peculiar ritual of bending and touching his gloves and when back to the seamers he stands almost upright instead of being on his haunches as the text books stipulate. It works with astonishing effectiveness. Not much escapes his clutches as indicated by the total of 400 first-class catches he reached the other day. He copied the style from his father Brian, a keeper before him who played for Lancashire and Worcestershire, making two appearances and one respectively. "I started out as wicketkeeper at the age of eight and that was my style almost from the start," he said. "It wouldn't work up to the wicket where you've got to rise with the bounce of the ball, but when I'm back it's fine. Don't forget my weight's forward and my eyes are actually quite low and in line with the ball.

"After Alan Knott and Bob Taylor everyone kept like them, and Knotty's said since that he might have done it like I do if he'd have thought about it at the time he was playing. I think it's a bit different and we don't want everyone to just have the same style, do we? I couldn't imagine doing it any differently and while I don't teach kids in that style I mention it to them. The important thing about wickies is to have good hands and spot that young."

The voice and the silences from home come later.