The fierce rivalry between Moin Khan and Rashid Latif, two hugely talented wicketkeeper-batsmen, produced a golden period in Pakistan’s wicket-keeping history
In the 435 Test matches that it has played so far, Pakistan has deployed 23 wicket-keepers. The first was Hanif Mohammad who kept wickets for the initial three Tests of the inaugural series against India in 1952-53, and the latest entrant to this select group is the present wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan.
Seven of these keepers have gone on to captain the side with varying degrees of success. Moin Khan and Sarfraz Ahmed captained Pakistan in 13 Tests each , while Hanif led the side in 11 Tests, but in only one of these did he perform duties behind the stumps. Rashid Latif has the highest success rate as a captain, winning 4 out of the 6 Tests in which he led the country.
Wasim Bari had the longest stint with 81 Tests, and two other keepers, namely Moin with 66 caps and Kamran Akmal, with 53, played in over 50 Tests each. Eight of these 23 wicket-keepers participated in at least twenty Tests while four, namely Shahid Israr, Atiquz Zaman, Humayun Farhat and Zulqarnain Haider played in just a solitary Test. Of these Humayun Farhat has the unenviable record of being the only Test wicket-keeper of Pakistan without a single Test dismissal to his name.
Mohammad Salman played in just two Tests and both Nadeem Abbasi and Zulqarnain Zaidi played three Tests each.
The top eight wicket-keepers, with at least twenty Tests each against their name, are depicted in the chart below.
The performances of these glovemen make interesting statistics. Wasim Bari has the highest number of dismissals with 228, while Kamran Akmal is the only other keeper with a tally that exceeds 200 victims. Sarfaraz Ahmed is third on this list with 167 dismissals and Moin Khan with 148 is fourth, missing out on the 150 milestone by just two. Rashid Latif and Saleem Yousuf are also credited with over a 100 dismissals each.
The figures also show Kamran Akmal with the highest tally per match of 3.88, followed by Rashid Latif with 3.51 dismissals in each Test. Wasim Bari has a surprisingly low average of only 2.81 dismissals per match and the famous Imtiaz lags even further behind with just 2.24 victims in each Test.
Of these top eight keepers, four also scored more than 2000 Test runs. The highest tally was Moin Khan with 2741 runs , closely followed by Sarfaraz Ahmed with 2657 runs and Kamran Akmal with 2648. Imtiaz was the other keeper who crossed the 2000 runs mark with 2079. Sarfaraz had the best average of 36.39 runs per innings with Kamran Akmal the only other keeper to average over 30 runs per knock.
Kamran Akmal is the only Pakistani Test wicket-keeper to achieve the magic double of 2000 Test runs and 200 dismissals. Sarfaraz Ahmed reached the lower double of 2000 runs and 150 victims while Moin Khan’s double included scoring 2000 runs and 100 wicket-keeping dismissals. Rashid Latif, Wasim Bari and Saleem Yousuf also had doubles, of over 1000 Test runs to go with more than 100 dismissals each.
Kamran Akmal and Imtiaz could both have played on the merit of their batting alone, and Imtiaz was in fact initially selected for the 1952-53 Indian tour exclusively for his batting prowess. Though, at first, he assumed wicket-keeping duties only to allow Hanif to focus on his batting, his ability ensured that he made this position his own on a permanent basis.
Pakistan’s most successful wicket keeper/bowler combination has been Kamran Akmal and Danish Kaneria , with Kamran taking 24 catches and 15 stumpings for a total of 39 dismissals off Kaneria’s bowling. The Wasim Bari/Imran Khan combination produced 36 victims, and Bari also had 35 dismissals in tandem with Sarfaraz.
The performance of Pakistani Test wicket-keepers against each Test playing nation is as follows:
Wasim Bari with his extended run of Test matches is the top performer against four out of Pakistan’s ten opponents in the Test arena, while Rashid Latif heads the list against two.
Five Pakistani keepers have the honor of not conceding a single bye in innings with over 500 runs scored. In the 1962 Edgbaston Test, Imtiaz had a clean sheet in England’s first innings score of 544/5 declared. In 1998 Moin Khan did not concede a single bye in Australia’s score of 513 in the Rawalpindi Test. Moin repeated this performance in the Hyderabad Test of the same series when Australia amassed 599/4 declared. Kamran Akmal did not let a single bye through in Sri Lanka’s huge total of 644/7 declared at the National Stadium Karachi in 2009. Sarfraz Ahmed achieved this feat twice, first against Bangladesh in their total of 555/6 in Khulna in 2015 and then again versus England at Manchester the following year in an English score of 589/8 declared. Lastly, in 2019 Mohammad Rizwan had a clean sheet at Adelaide, when Australia totaled a huge 589/3 declared.
Sarfraz Ahmed, with 10 catches in the 2019 Test against South Africa in Johannesburg, holds the record for the second highest number of catches in a Test match by any wicket-keeper in Test history. Rashid Latif held 9 catches versus New Zealand in the Auckland Test in 1994 and Kamran Akmal achieved a similar number against the West Indies at Kingston in 2005.
Wasim Bari holds the record for the highest number of dismissals in a Test innings, when he snared 7 batsmen versus New Zealnd at Eden Park, Auckland in 1979. Rashid Latif and Adnan Akmal have both obtained six dismissals in an innings, the former against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo in 1998, and the latter against New Zealand at Wellington.
In ODI cricket most of the same names dominate the figures. Moin Khan heads the list with 287 dismissals, with Rashid Latif also snaring over 200 victims behind the stumps. Kamran Akmal, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Saleem Yousuf follow with over 100 dismissals each.
Four out these seven have also achieved the double of making 1000 runs and 100 dismissals in ODI’s. They are Moin Khan, Rashid Latif, Kamran Akmal and Sarfaraz Ahmed. Umar Akmal comes close with 3194 runs and 90 dismissals.
In T20’s the leading wicket-keepers are Kamran Akmal with 60 victims and Sarfaraz Ahmed with 45. Umar Akmal has 52 dismissals in this format of the game, but not all his catches were taken behind the stumps.
Comparing players across different eras is always a matter of personal opinion. Imtiaz’s heroics off Fazal’s bowling were instrumental in many of Pakistan’s early test successes, including the famous Oval victory. Wasim Bari was a supremely, naturally gifted keeper, who was often compared with his great contemporary Alan Knott. The fierce rivalry between Moin Khan and Rashid Latif, two hugely talented wicketkeeper-batsmen, produced a golden period in Pakistan’s wicket-keeping history. Kamran Akmal was remembered as much for his aggressive and attractive stroke play, as for his performance behind the stumps, while Sarfraz, too, had great batting ability to back his keeping skills. The present incumbent Mohammad Rizwan may well turn out to be the best yet. His brilliant, acrobatic wicket keeping is allied to superb stroke making with the willow, that has already led to centuries in all three formats of the international game.
Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books. firstname.lastname@example.org