Cricket is a team sport but one spot on the cricket field that is perhaps the most important is the wicketkeeper. He not only has to be able to bat but when in the field he has to inspire the rest of the team with constant talk and stop the ball to set the fielding standards for rest of the team.
When it comes to wicket keepers, Australia has been blessed over the years. Rod Marsh, Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist are three of the best wicket keepers cricket has produced.
Gilchrist is regarded by many as the greatest wicket keeper to ever play international cricket.
He was a great batsmen (played over 30 ODI's as a batsmen when Healy was still in the team). Gilly was an amazing stroke maker who could work the ball anywhere and hit the ball with tremendous power.
Looking at Gillys stats tell some of the story but watching his highlights over and over never gets boring he was a joy to watch and I doubt either Brad Haddin or Tim Paine will ever forget the great man but people cannot expect any following keepers to play at his heights.
Haddin and Paine are players gifted with different styles and techniques with both their batting and keeping, but both of them could have long careers if given the chance to stay injury free. Haddin though is almost 33 and has had a few injuries which is giving Paine more chances at Test level than he expected.
Having said that Ricky Ponting has said a number of times recently that he regards Haddin one of the most vital members of the current side.No matter who played after Marsh, Healy and Gilchrist, everyone was expecting the new keeper
to be a star player as well.
So when Brad Haddin made his test debut in May of 2008 in Jamacia against the West Indies, cricket fans and media all over the world were expecting big things and Haddin made a fine debut with his 1st catch being a brillant diving effort off Stuart Clark's bowling. Haddin factured his finger in that test but showed great courage to battle on and complete not only that test match but also the following 2 tests of that series.
BJ, as Hads nickname goes, had to wait many years before being given a chance to play test cricket behind the great Gilchrist.
Haddin made a fine 169 against New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval in 2007. It was a knock that showed his full class as a batsmen.
Tim Paine got his chance earlier than expected at test level with the injury to BJ. Paine made his debut at the home of cricket and what better place to debut? Paine is the 1st Tasmanian wicket keeper to ever represent Australia.
Paine, in 2000, became the youngest ever contracted Australian cricketer at just 16 when Tasmania signed him on a $10,000 contract. Paine, like Shane Warne, was a talented AFL player at young age and his signing by Tasmania at a young age convinced him to choose cricket over AFL.
At Lord's, Paine made a fine debut even though he has admitted to being nervous infront of family and friends who had made the trip over to see his debut. Paine showed his class and maturity beyond his years in the 2nd Innings with a fine 47.
Paine is a patient batsmen at test level who can bat for long periods and puts the bad ball away with ease and fine stroke-play.
Paine has the right attitude and you could see how annoyed he was when got out in the 2nd test at Leeds. It reflected what it meant to him to represent Australia as he also tried to get us back into that particular match.
His wicketkeeping was almost flawless and when you consider the fielding of Australia during the series, Paine was one of the form players in the side
One interesting fact that Paine, Gilchrist and Healy all have in common is that they all debuted at test level aganist Pakistan. So if thats anything to go by Paine is set for a fine career given that Healy and Gilchrist are the two best keepers Australia has had.
When you consider Paine is only 25 still he could have a very long test career given that BJ is almost 33. Paine could play more than 100 tests if his form and desire keeps up. He may have a baby face but Paine is a class act.
No matter who plays out of Haddin or Paine, Australia's wicketkeeper will always give a fine account of themselves, and just like the competition we are seeing between spin bowlers Nathan Hauritz and Steve Smith, one thing we realise is that competition for one spot is always healthy.
2010/9/4 Daniel Stapleton (http://twitter.com/Dan_Stapo)