I've deliberately not written anything about Middlesex's T20 campaign on here this year, partly because we've been so awful and we've been trying to keep it on the down low, and also because I've been writing exclusively (and officially) about it here. However, this piece is going to reference it slightly, so be warned.
Today at Southgate, Middlesex took on Somerset. Turning out for Somerset was Craig Kieswetter. Having played a big part in winning the ODI series against Sri Lanka for England yesterday at Old Trafford, Craig hopped in the Kiesmobile (that picture there)
and got down to the picturesque outground for the T20.
I've seen Craig keep wicket on a few occasions, and the jury's often been out. Picked for England purely on the basis of him being a big hitting opener rather than for any fancy glovework, I'd always felt Kieswetter's keeping wasn't quite up to standard. And he probably felt it too. You can always tell immediately when a wicket-keeper is actually any good, because he exudes a confidence that radiates around the field. You just know that if the ball goes up, it's going to land safely in his gloves. If the batsman strays even momentarily from his ground, you know the keeper will have whipped off the bails before he regains his safety. At the level Kieswetter is playing, anyone given the gloves will be good enough, but every now and again you come across someone with that little something special.
My first sighting of Craig Kieswetter keeping wicket was last summer in an ODI against Australia. The highs of the World T20 were long forgotten as Craig's struggles at the top of the order in English conditions had taken hold, and the press were targetting him. He hadn't scored many all series, and the spectre of Steve Davies loomed large. And as such, while his keeping wasn't terrible, he clearly didn't command the field. A couple of spills were soon followed by a couple of drops, and suddenly he looked very miserable. His poor batting continued, and he was not long later dropped for Davies and forgotten.
Fast forward to today's T20. Kieswetter's keeping had been impressive through the ODI series against Sri Lanka - the first time he'd been in the side since being dropped 12 months ago. But at Southgate, everything went through him. Whatever was happening in the field, everyone was looking at him. While it wasn't a faultless display he exuded a confidence that suggested he wasn't going to spill any chances or muff up any run outs. And he took a couple of excellent catches which ultimately swung the momentum back towards his side. He didn't score many runs but he still seemed the main attraction.
It just goes to show what a bit of confidence can do. Doing well in one of his disciplines has given a boost to the other, and as such is in fine form. Being told by Andy Flower that he is to be the first choice ODI keeper gave Kieswetter the freedom and confidence to excel in the ODI series, and the high score has given him far more confidence in the field. Which will then rub off on his batting. Which will then give him more of an aura whilst keeping. It's a continuous cycle of self-belief that can only benefit Craig and England going forward.
The difference between Kieswetter against Australia last year and Sri Lanka this is huge. Last year he struggled immensely against the moving ball and the requirements of a 50 over opener compared to a twenty20 one. This year (albeit against a weaker Sri Lankan attack) he's looked composed, assured, and has scored a weight of runs that suggests he's going to be around for a long time. This may have started as a post about Middlesex's hard-earned point (from a tie, nonetheless) against Somerset, but it's mostly been about Craig Kieswetter. Something that England's ODI cricket might be all about for quite a while to come...