‘Dhoni had quick hands but Foakes has quickest hands in the game’, says Alec Stewart

Monday, April 22, 2024

Former England wicketkeeper Alec Stewart believes though the legendary MS Dhoni had quick hands as a keeper, Ben Foakes possesses the quickest hands in the game currently.

In the first two Tests against India, Foakes has earned plaudits for his exceptional wicket keeping skills in conditions which present a tough examination for overseas keepers. As of now, he’s taken six catches and effected two stumpings on tour of India so far, including taking two superb catches off leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed’s bowling at Visakhapatnam.

“He does things that no one else can do. His hand speed is second to none. MS Dhoni had quick hands but he (Foakes) has the quickest hands in the game and the ball stays in them,” said Stewart to The Times.

Stewart, who was wicketkeeper in 82 Tests for England in his playing days, had helped Foakes prepare for the Test tour of India in his capacity as director of cricket at county club Surrey. He explained about the preparation work Foakes did under his watchful eyes in his ten weeks of preparation for the India tour, including having sessions between Christmas and New Year.

“He’s got massive natural talent but his work ethic, and attention to detail, is as good as I’ve come across both when I played and since I’ve been in this role. He leaves no stone unturned. He works specifics and the quality of the work is impressive.

“He knew there would be a lot of spin bowling so it (his training) was 80-20 in favour of his standing-up stuff, which he’s brilliant at anyway — the ball bouncing, the ball turning, the ball keeping low. That’s why I was so pleased for him, (after) all the hours he’s put in, and then he gets rewarded with some of the catches he took.

“We’d discuss the position of his feet, the height he gets, where his hands are. He leads it. We used the Merlin spin machine, mats that spin or one with holes cut in them, so that some spin and some bounce. We do it from 22 yards, or from ten or 11 yards. He knows what he wants to work on and we’ve done that since he joined us (in 2014 from Essex).”

At Hyderabad, Foakes had played a crucial hand with the bat, sharing a sixth-wicket partnership of 112 with Ollie Pope, who made a magnificent 196. Though he had missed a stumping of KL Rahul early in the first innings, Foakes has been a reliable keeper behind the stumps for England in the series.

“I said a while ago he’s the best in the world and, but for circumstances, he could be coming up to playing 50 or 60 Tests, but I get the need to balance the side and that’s why he’s not played (more). People should not underestimate his batting.

“He averages just shy of 40 in first-class cricket and when he’s played for England he’s been involved in some match-winning partnerships. You need to be not only physically fit and strong, but mentally fit and strong. The biggest thing is, if you miss a chance, how do you deal with it? He’s good at that,” concluded Stewart.

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