Alan Knott England Cricket Player

Alan Knott was one of the purest wicketkeepers there can ever have been. I only
played alongside him in a couple of Tests during the 1981 Ashes but saw enough
of him over the years, as teammate, opponent or simply observing him on TV, to
get the very real sense of a genius at work. His departure for World Series
Cricket opened a door into the England team for Bob Taylor, with whom I
played many times, and Taylor’s own class as a glove-man was itself a clue as to
the quality of the man who had been preferred to him year after year. Knott’s
superior batting played a part in this; as keepers they were both outstanding. It
would feel wrong not to include someone in a list of this sort who was a
specialist wicketkeeper as opposed to those such as Adam Gilchrist, Kumar
Sangakkara and AB de Villiers who, fine keepers though they were or are, were
chosen for their sides as much if not more for their batting skills.
Knott had the silkiest of hands. People often say that you only notice a
wicketkeeper when he is doing things wrong and on that basis it was easy to
overlook how well Knott was doing his job. Keeping wicket standing back to
fast bowlers and standing up to the stumps for spinners are very different tasks,
but his technique and movement were always excellent. The ball just seemed to
nestle into his hands every time he took it. I can remember him taking a catch off
quite a thick edge while standing up to a left-arm spinner, probably Derek
Underwood, with whom he formed a great alliance; his hands just seemed to
glide into the right position and you were left wondering how on earth he could
have reacted so quickly. Very few keepers would have held that catch; most
would have seen the ball clatter off their wrist. Keeping does not get any better
than that. Taylor ran him pretty close, so I regard myself as very privileged to
have played alongside both

As wicketkeepers sometimes are, Knotty was a complete eccentric, but only
bonkers in an endearing rather than an irritating way. Concentrating intently on
every ball that is bowled for hour after hour probably encourages a certain
quirkiness and fastidiousness; they feel everything must be just right if they are
not to commit the inexplicable, costly error. One of Knotty’s obsessions was
keeping himself ultra-fit, this at a time when fitness was not quite the
prerequisite for England selection that it is now. Like Jack Russell – another
member of the wicketkeeping fraternity with oddball tendencies – Knotty looked
a bit of a shambles in his beloved floppy white hat, but you hardly cared about
that when the ball went so precisely and regularly into the gloves.
He was born to his work. He established himself as Kent’s regular keeper at
the age of 18 and having been chosen for his first Test at 21 cemented himself as
England’s first-choice glove-man within months, excelling on his first winter
tour of West Indies under his Kent colleague Colin Cowdrey in 1967–68.
England had been through several keepers in the previous couple of years and
were grateful for the stability Knott offered. He became a central figure in a
highly successful England Test side in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and also
helped Kent win multiple championship titles and one-day trophies.
He was also a very gutsy, pugnacious batsman who made a speciality of
digging England out of trouble in resourceful, unorthodox fashion. His strengths
as a keeper were his strengths as a batsman too. His agility and quick-footedness
made him nimble around the crease and therefore difficult to bowl to. His ability
to concentrate for long periods and watch the ball closely helped not only when
he was standing behind the stumps but when he was in front of them too.
It was a great testament to his batting skills that he coped better than most of
England’s specialist batsmen with the raw pace of Dennis Lillee and Jeff
Thomson in Australia in 1974–75. Only Dennis Amiss scored more runs for
England in that series; a defiant century at Adelaide was one of five three-figure
scores Knott made in Tests. He may have used unusual methods at times but he
would not have scored the runs he did in that series – with no helmet for
protection in those days, of course – had he not possessed a fundamentally sound
technique. He also took another century off Australia in a famous partnership
with Geoff Boycott at Trent Bridge in 1977 when they rescued England from a
desperate start that had seen Derek Randall fall victim to Boycott’s famously
erratic running between the wickets.
In 95 Tests he scored 30 half-centuries in addition to his five hundreds, which
suggests an impressive reliability. In later times, keepers were expected to offer
more with the bat than they were then, but his Test record of 4,389 runs at an
average of 32.75 definitely put him in the all-rounder class for his generation. He
finished with what was then a Test record of 269 dismissals, which would have
been many more had he not signed up with Kerry Packer and for a rebel tour of
South Africa, decisions that meant he appeared in only six Tests after 1977. He
was only 35 at the time of his last Test and could easily have kept going for a
few years beyond that.