Kieswetter dons England gloves again following 'biggest setback'

World T20-winning wicketkeeper responds to being dropped by refashioning his game
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The Independent Online

England's perennial search for a limited-overs wicketkeeper has again alighted on Craig Kieswetter. No doubt he deserves the selectors' faith but he would be well advised not to pack his bags for any forthcoming World Cups, either the Twenty20 version next year or the 50-over variety in Australia and New Zealand four years' hence.

The position has long been the most vexed in the side. No sooner has the ideal candidate been found than he starts to lose form and the trust of the men picking him. The selectors have not been afraid to panic.

Shortly before the World Cup in 2007, they summoned the uncapped 36-year-old Paul Nixon as the answer to their prayers. Earlier this year, Steve Davies, having been effectively nominated, was suddenly jettisoned and Matt Prior, tried often before, was summoned once more. On neither occasion did it work.

Last year, Kieswetter himself came up on the rails from nowhere to earn the place in the World Twenty20 team. He justified it by being named man of the match in the final, which England won. Two months later he was dropped.

Prior has had more opportunities than any of the others – too many, it might be argued – but inexplicably, considering his Test form, he has never cut the mustard as a limited-overs batsman. He had to go and Davies' early-season form for Surrey paled besides Kieswetter's returns for Somerset.

"That kind of stuff [being dropped last year] happens when you are out of form," said Kieswetter after joining up with England in Bristol after marking his recall with a pair in Somerset's Championship match against Warwickshire. "But life takes certain curves at times and obviously I didn't perform and found myself out of the side."

England did not discard Kieswetter, a South African, altogether. He spent the winter with England Lions and that probably did him more favours than following England around Australia as the reserve Test wicketkeeper, the fate that befell poor Davies.

"I had a really good winter, I worked really hard with Graham Thorpe and Bruce French on the Lions trip and I'm really happy to be back," said Kieswetter. "There have been a few things, a few technical issues and mental things I've worked on in my batting with Graham Thorpe and then with Bruce French on the 'keeping."

In his first international incarnation, Kieswetter's 'keeping was not of the smartest and his batting, while it consisted of ferocious hitting down the ground, often lacked any defensive nous as he made room on the leg side.

It has become de rigueur for England's wicketkeeper to open the batting. Kieswetter is a confident soul, having come to England after already representing South Africa Under-19s, and he made a swift impression when he broke into the side.

He hit his first ODI hundred in Bangladesh and played a fearless role in the T20 triumph. On their return home, however, his form deserted him and England turned elsewhere.

Davies can perhaps feel mildly slighted. He was brought into the side last summer and although he never quite matched the 87 he made in his first match, he never disappointed.

Picked in the one-day squad for the series in Australia, he was dropped after one match because his batting was not thought sufficiently versatile, and Prior suddenly came back. Kieswetter has had a year to dwell on his omission.

"It is probably my biggest setback without a doubt," he said. "In your career, every season you get ducks or pairs or no wickets. Mentally that was the biggest challenge I had to get through and I feel I've worked hard and learnt a lot of lessons from that."

The obvious conclusion, and Prior will have drawn it himself, is that Kieswetter's next port of call is the Test team.

Glove story: Recent England ODI keepers

Matt Prior (Jul 2007 to Mar 2011) 55 ODIs

Paul Nixon (Jan to Apr 2007) 19

Phil Mustard (Oct 2007 to Feb 2008) 10

Craig Kieswetter (Jun to Jul 2010) 9

Chris Read (Aug to Oct 2006) 8

Steve Davies (Oct 2009 to Feb 2011) 8

Geraint Jones (Jun 2006) 6

Tim Ambrose (Jun 2008) 5

Eoin Morgan (Sep 2009) 2

Prior was brought in and dropped five times, while Davies had three spells in the side.