Jack Russell, Wicket-Keeping Genius

Watching a genius at work is always great. But as much as I’ve enjoyed the exploits of a Lara, an Akram, a Laxman, a Tendulkar, a Warne or a Ponting, it’s the quirky, unusual players and personalities I’m often drawn to. Sometimes it’s their unorthodox techniques. I find it mesmerising watching Shivnarine Chanderpaul bat with his weird but highly effective stance. The round arm pace of Lasith Malinga. The “frog in a blender” bowling style of South African Paul Adams. Other times it’s the personality of the player. Phil Tufnell and his laid back persona mixed with his wonderful left arm orthodox deliveries and his woeful batting and fielding. Jonty Rhodes with his chirpiness and amazing fielding. Colin Miller and his “Funky” hair.

Robert Charles “Jack” Russell was one of my favourite players. He batted reasonably well but ugly. This cost him many Test’s when Alec Stewart was preferred to keep and bat top 6 in ordinary England teams. Had his quirks. Wore the same white hat all the time. Drank copious amounts of tea. Soaked his weet-bix for exactly 8 minutes everyday. A renowned painter of cricket scenes. He was an amazing wicket-keeper. In the top two I’ve seen. Here is a clip of Jack stumping Dean Jones in 1991 while keeping up to Gladsone Small at the SCG.

Clean. Fast. Brilliant. The other keeper I rate as high is former Victorian keeper Darren Berry. No-one did the leg-side stumping off a medium pacer better. Berry keeping to and stumping players off the bowling of Ian Harvey made the trip to Shield and State One-Day matches memorable. But nothing will top the stumping I saw Berry make keeping up to Paul Reiffel to dismiss David Boon at the MCG in the mid 1990’s. What a pity pure keeping skills now come second to batting ability and being an adequate keeper.

Back to Jack and despite being rotated in and out of the team he managed 54 Tests and 40 ODI’s. Scott Oliver has written a superb piece on the Gloucestershire and England keeper for the Cricinfo site.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/794427.html

 

About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134

Comments

  1. Jack was a great Keeper and should have played more. Stewart was better when not keeping similar top Wayne Phillips.

    Did you see Ludeman’s stumping off Sayers? Interesting to see who gets the gig in Brisbane. 6 possibel candidates.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    G’day Raj,
    Yes saw Ludeman’s stumping off Sayers, very very good.
    Will be very interesting to see who plays in Brisbane if Haddin’s not fit. Any of the 6 keepers would be a good selection.

  3. I always think that Alan Knott is the best wicket keeper I saw. Jack Russell with a similar big floppy sun hat always looked like he tried to emulate Knotty. High praise – a very elegant gloveman.
    I recall a Test at Adelaide Oval where our batsman snicked it head high to second slip who juggled it and knocked it up to third slip, who fumbled and the ball headed to the ground.
    “Phew, lucky break,” I sighed. Then there was Knott hurled sideways to snatch it full stretch inches off the ground.
    Amazing reflexes, and Jack Russell was close.
    Australia has had ‘glove men’, but we haven’t had a keeper since Grout and Tallon.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic keeper and a coin toss between , Knott and Russell and incredible he didn’t play more test cricket . Raj is correct would have been better for Stewart and Flipper if neither had ever kept . I rated , Anderson very highly who ironically in breaking his finger keeping up to Botham in a shield game gave , Healy his chance . Healy was a very good keeper especially to , Warne and a long way in front of Marsh in my opinion . Greg Quinn in sa district cricket was a fantastic keeper who should have played shield cricket is still going strong keeping for Para Hills in A 1 grade of Adelaide turf at the age of 60 . Interestingly enough footballers in Phil Gallagher , Tony Hall and Chris McDermott were all good keepers . Thanks Luke

  5. Seb Gotch will be Australia’s next long term keeper. Can bat too.

  6. Very interesting article and a subject close to my heart.

    Australia has struggled with great keepers, since I have been viewing cricket, with Rod Marsh the first keeper in the Oz team during my life time.

    Watching back over old footage, Marsh was pretty average with hard hands and worse footwork. Since Marsh, Healy is the only keeper who was good with the gloves and his work to Warne was brilliant. Not sure he did a lot of keeping up to the medium pacers but could be mistaken on this point.

    I also recall that Gilchrist was a shocker behind the stumps early in his career but certainly got better as time went by. His batting was phenomenal though.

    Haddin is not too bad but I note he has effected 6 stumpings in his entire career. Strange really. Maybe it says something about the quality of spin bowling as much as his keeping.

    For pure glove work, I liked a West Indian keeper by the name of Junior Murray. He had really soft hands: the ball made a really nice noise then it hit his gloves. I remember him stumping Mark Waugh in an ODI off Carl Hooper in the early 90’s. Hooper bowled a really wide leg side thunderbolt that was a half volley about 3 foot wide of leg stump. Murray had bails off in a flash.

    Not sure what happened to him.

  7. Dr Goatboat says

    Barry Jarman’s catching down the leg side remains memorable….he had a tough time of it waiting in the wings…would have been a wonderful test career I am sure

  8. Hi Marc, to my recollection Junior Murray originally came from Grenada, playing in the caribbean domestic competition for the Windward Islands. He played 33 tests, made 102 dismissals, as well as scoring one test ton. What happened to him ? I don’t know.

    Glen!

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Peter & Malcolm, Knott must have been something special.
    Interesting call Dips. There’s big wraps on his batting. Hope he gets a chance with Victoria soon.
    Marc- remember that Junior Murray stumping well. Think he played about 30 Tests, like Russell his batting saw him omitted. Agree with your assessments of the Aussie keepers that I’ve seen (Healy onwards).
    Dr G- only one spot for a keeper sadly. Jarman would be one of many fantastic keepers to receive limited or no opportunities.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Thanks Glen, thought it was about 30 Tests. Was he the first Grenada player to represent the Windies?

  11. Hi Luke. Junior Murray was from Grenada, though i’m not sure how many other players have hailed from there.

    Glen!

  12. On dismissals per innings alone for Australian keepers with more than 20 tests Gilchrist is first then Haddin then Marsh, followed by Grout and Healy. They’re all ahead of Russell and Knott. Keeping ugly, perhaps.
    Considering that Healy also let through 6 byes per match and Haddin lets through about the same, on purely objective grounds Gilchrist and Marsh are ahead of all-comers in the modern era.Uncovered pitches made Don Tallon’s bye tally much higher. Bradman put him in his Australian XI.

  13. Luke
    Agree with you re Darren Berry. He was a magnificent keeper.
    I saw him plenty of times in Shield games doing wonderful work
    behind the stumps.

  14. In this era of multitasking it’s a shame that keepers must be swashbuckling batsman first, and mostly competent glovesman second.
    I love stories of these now almost forgotten characters. Thefe must be little left to say on The Don or SKW but lots on Richard.Chee Quee. Or Roger Harper.
    Thanks Luke. I look forward to more of your cricket insights.

  15. G’day Mickey, Rrichard Chee Quee, there’s a blast from the past. What more can be said about him ?

    Glen!

  16. Andrew Starkie says

    Luke, I love the way cricket produces little eccentrics eg Dicky Bird and his grilled chops everyday for lunch. I suppose it’s an idiosyncratic sport perfect for humans with idiosyncratic ways. I recall a photo of him in the paper with his kit spread out on the ground. Literally hundreds of little bits and bobs. And everything so lovingly and proudly kept clean and white.

    Jack was kept out of the England side by Alec Stewart whose dad was the COS at the time. What a waste.

    Good win for Victoria in the SS. Good to see some new names. We should catch up this summer for a game at the G. Interesting how Finch can’t get a game, however is captain of the national 20/20 side.

  17. Fair play Andrew Starkie your the only one to talk the truth…He should of gone down to the shops and purchased a tie from the old school…There was no internet they couldn’t have checked and he would have played for as long as he could..Love the Jack

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