Equipment Guide - Wicket Keeping Gloves
Any wicket keeper will tell you the key aspects to selecting the perfect wicket keeping gloves are: comfort, grip and protection.
A good pair of wicket keeping gloves can be all that stands between a great diving catch and a damaged finger. In this guide we aim to identify all the key features that you should be looking for and how different designs and materials can influence the feel and performance of your wicket keeping gloves.
As the name suggests the palm lining forms the area within the wicket keeping glove that makes contact with the palm of the hand. Given that the lining is directly beneath the area that will be used most to catch the ball, and therefore subject to taking the most punishment, it is important that this inner area of the wicket keeping glove is soft and comfortable in order to avoid excessive rubbing and chaffing. A number of different materials are used to form the lining, with harder, more durable examples (cotton) at the cheaper end of wicket keeping glove ranges to softer more comfortable options (calf/sheep/kangaroo leather) towards the top end.
The padding in the palm area of your wicket keeping gloves is key to providing you with maximum impact protection, limiting the force transferred through your gloves to your hands in turn providing protection from injury. The padding is also an important factor in making a successful catch, with the shock absorption characteristics helping to slow down the ball and decrease the chance of the cricket ball bouncing out of your hands. The majority of wicket keeping gloves use cotton wadding as the key shock absorbing material in their palm padding, but in order to provide additional protection at the higher ball speeds experienced by top class wicket keepers, many top of the range wicket keeping gloves feature silicone gel padding inserts.
Finger End Caps
The ends of fingers are the most common areas for wicket keepers to incur injuries, which is why all wicket keeping gloves should feature reinforced finger end caps. The end caps are cylindrical objects, open at one end, designed to fit over the tips of your fingers and built-in to the end of all five glove fingers. Made from a rubbery material, finger end caps will absorb the worst of any glancing blows, but struggle to cope with the worst direct end-on impacts. In order to protect finger tips from the more dangerous end-on impacts, many wicket keeping gloves incorporate additional foam based padding to the end of the finger end caps. As well providing extra protection the foam padding adds an element of improved comfort and fit, preventing the finger tips from rubbing against the harder end caps. As you progress up through the wicket keeping glove ranges some brands start to introduce higher density foams to provide protection capable of coping with the potentially higher ball speeds and the associated harder impacts.
Due to the position adopted by many wicket keepers, crouched with gloves resting on the ground, the parts of wicket keeping gloves that show the most amount of wear are the areas on the back of the gloves above the last knuckle in your fingers. To combat this wear and ensure greater durability, many brands are incorporating what they call finger tabs. Sections of hard wearing leather of synthetic materials are stitched onto the back of the wicket keeping gloves to form an extra layer of protection.
When standing up to the stumps or receiving balls from fielders “on the bounce” it can be awkward to judge the flight into the glove. In these cases you may either miss the ball entirely or the ball impacts the wrist area. It is for this reason that wicket keeping gloves feature heavily padded cuffs. In the case of cuffs, the padding is purely to limit the damage and is not intended to help you control or catch the ball. The material is usually limited to cheaper cotton wadding and some high density foams. In a few cases brands will incorporate stiffer material into the padding of the wicket keeping glove cuffs as a means of protecting the wrist from particularly high speed impacts. This feature usually referred to as “caned cuffs” may not actually include cane, but a synthetic plastic offering similar characteristics. Wicket keeping gloves are generally thought to fall into one of two distinct styles. The English style is considered to feature longer (10-12cm), square cut cuffs. This design is believed to favour additional protection over flexibility and removability. The alternative “Aussie” style features shorter cuffs (7-10cm). A more recent addition to Aussie-style wicket keeping gloves is cuffs featuring a more rounded profile, which is believed to provide improved flexibility and allow the wicket keeper to remove the glove for throwing at the stumps more rapidly.
The webbing on a wicket keeping glove is an area of material joining the index finger and thumb which serves as additional surface area with which to catch the ball. Updated in 2003 following a period when some manufacturers where taking advantage of some the more ambiguous aspects of the rules, law 40.2 of the rules of cricket now states with respect to wicket keeping gloves:
They shall have no webbing between the fingers except joining index finger and thumb, where webbing may be inserted as a means of support. If used, the webbing shall be
(a) a single piece of non-stretch material which, although it may have facing material attached, shall have no reinforcements or tucks.
(b) such that the top edge of the webbing
(i) does not protrude beyond the straight line joining the top of the index finger to the top of the thumb.
(ii) is taut when a hand wearing the glove has the thumb fully extended.
The key element that the rules changes clarified was in regard to the size webbing. Previously some wicket keeping gloves featured large pockets of material between the thumb and index finger allowing the area to be used more like a baseball mitt. Manufacturers are now looking to maximise the performance benefits of their wicket keeping gloves whilst staying firmly within the clarified rules. Some wicket keeping gloves feature what is known as a twisted thumb design. In a normal construction the thumb is often formed from the same piece of material as the rest of the gloves and protrudes at roughly right angles from the main body of the hand. A twisted thumb design sees the thumb being constructed as a separate section attached to the palm side of the glove, with the thumb tip pointing away from the palm. The twisted thumb design allows the wicket keeping gloves to more accurately mimic your hand, whereby the thumb is able to extend further away from the index finger when it is twisted away from the plane of the hand. This in turn results in the glove being able to support a greater webbed area, whilst staying within the law, leading in theory to greater catching area and associated performance benefits.
The “fit” of wicket keeping gloves around the hands and wrist can vary dramatically, from extremely loose to tight. To many this is a personal preference, but in general it would seem that higher end Aussie-style wicket keeping gloves do seem to offer a closer, more fitted cut around the wrist, which ensure the gloves stay in place, giving the wicket keeper a greater feel for the ball.
In order to maximise comfort particularly during long periods in the field in hotter conditions, many wicket keeping gloves now feature ventilated sections which aim to increase air flow, wicking away moisture and cooling hands. These cut-out areas are normally covered in a polyester mesh and found either between the fingers or on the back of the hand, areas where durability and protection are not required.
Cricket balls can take on a variety of characteristics based on their age and weather conditions. New balls are harder and more likely to jump out of your hands, damp balls are often greasy and difficult to control and cricket balls with high amounts of spin are more prone to squirm out of your grip. It is precisely with these situations in mind that wicket keeping gloves feature a sticky, rubbery outer material on the palm, fingers and thumb/finger webbing. The tackiness of the material is dependent on the specific material used, such as natural rubber, neoprene as well as a variety of other synthetic rubbers. In many cases higher end wicket keeping gloves may offer particularly soft and sticky materials on the palm, but beware these materials will offer performance benefits at the cost of durability. Another key aspect when reviewing wicket keeping gloves is the raised pattern moulded into the surface of the rubbery material. Traditionally this pattern has taken the form of pimples raised 1mm off the surface, 1mm in diameter and spaced equally 1-2mm apart. A more modern pattern that often features on many higher end wicket keeping gloves derives inspiration from octopus suckers and is often referred to simply as octopus grip and was first introduced to the cricketing arena on bat grips. The pattern features raised ring like structures 1mm high and 2mm in diameter, evenly spaces 2-3 mm apart. The octopus grip offers a dual approach to improved grip. The ring structure provides an increased surface area working directly against the movement of the ball, helping slow the ball and reduce spin. Secondly, the octopus grip, like its namesake, can, when coming into contact with a smooth surface, create small pockets of vacuum, almost sucking the ball directly into the glove.
Unlike with cricket batting gloves where inner gloves are very much a personal choice, inner gloves are very much a necessity with wicket keeping gloves. This choice more often than not comes down to what type of inners are preferred, rather than to wear inners or not. Wearing wicket keeping gloves inevitably means you will get hot, sweaty hands. Designing a set of wicket keeping gloveswhich can deal with performance demands of the game, fit a variety of hand sizes as well as dealing with such large amounts of moisture is almost impossible, which is where wicket keeping inners step in. Wicket keeping glove inner will form the first barrier between your hands and your wicket keeping gloves, offering moisture wicking, additional shock absorption, and a more snug fit. Some top class wicket keepers may choose to change inners several times a day to maximise their comfort and performance. The choice of wicket keeping inners is normally between one of the following:
- Cotton Inners
Simple cotton gloves which offer improved moisture control and fit.
- Cotton Padded Inners
Simple Cotton gloves with additional padded sections on the palm and fingers for improved moisture control, fit and extra shock absorption.
- Chamois Inners
Gloves featuring Chamois leather on the palm of the hand due to its fantastic moisture absorbency therefore offering maximum moisture control and fit.
- Chamois Padded Inners
Gloves featuring Chamois leather on the palm of the hand due to its fantastic moisture absorbency as well as additional padded sections, therefore offering maximum shock absorption, moisture control and fit.
Leather is used in numerous different ways within the construction of wicket keeping gloves due to its combination of strength, flexibility and durability. The combination of the initial type of hide as well as the style of tanning can produce leathers with a broad spectrum of flexibility, strength and durability. The tanning process can involve the use of any number of chemicals and may include covering the leather surface with a top coat of paint or pigment to obtain a specific colour as well as cover any natural surface grain or imperfections. Some manufacturers will pride themselves on using “aniline” leather in the production of their wicket keeping gloves. Aniline leather is soluble dyes and does not allow for the painting of the leather’s surface, resulting in the material keeping its natural surface grain. Leather types include:
- Standard Leather
Cattle leather offers increased comfort and feel over basic cotton options, whilst maintaining a high level of durability.
- Calf Leather
Calf leather offers an even softer feel than normal cattle leather. However what you gain in comfort you may lose in durability as calfskin leather will tend to wear quicker than other options.
- Sheep Leather
Sheep leather takes the softer feel, comfort and flexibility to the next level, but once again you are compromising comfort for the sake of durability.
- Kangaroo Leather
Studies have confirmed that Kangaroo leather is one of the strongest leathers available, particularly when split into thinner layers, but also maintains a very soft feel. Kangaroo leather is also noticeably lighter than comparable leathers such as cow, calf or sheep, which means kangaroo leather can be used in thinner layers without compromising strength, allowing for a perfect combination of comfort, flexibility and durability.
- Chamois Leather
Chamois leather is a particularly porous leather that is favoured for its gentle, non-abrasive composition and absorption properties.
Natural rubber is manufactured from latex, a natural product derived primarily from the Para Rubber Tree. Natural rubber is primarily chosen due to its very stretchy, flexible and extremely waterproof characteristics.
Neoprene is a family of synthetic rubbers which mimic many of natural rubbers characteristics notably elasticity, flexibility and waterproof. Neoprene also benefits from the fact that it doesn’t contain latex, to which many people have an allergic response.
Cotton is a soft, strong and durable natural material made by spinning the fluffy staple fibre that grows in a protective capsule around the seeds of cotton plants, which is then woven into sheets of fabric. Cotton also offers significant moisture absorbency characteristics.
Silicone gel is a rubber-like material combining silicon with a number of other elements to highlight specific characteristics such as heat resistance, rebound or shock absorption. In the case of wicket keeping gloves, Silicone gel offers is a strong, flexible material with high levels of shock absorption which can be easily moulded and incorporated into the areas of the glove liable to face the most extreme impacts.
Cane is a fairly generic term used to describe a collection of tall grasses with woody stalks, which includes bamboo. Cane is used in some cases to offer extra stiffness in areas where reinforcement is required.
As with many products, the actual size and fitting of cricket wicket keeping gloves can vary dramatically between brands and it is highly unlikely that any guide will ever prove more successful than simply trying the product on. Unfortunately many of us don’t have the luxury of visiting a local cricket specialist, so we have compiled this table based on information from a number of different brands to provide you with an industry average guide to cricket wicket keeping gloves sizes. Please ensure you measure from the start of the wrist to the end of your longest finger.
|Hand Length (mm)||Wicket Keeping Glove Size|
Your first decision when selecting wicket keeping gloves is whether you want the added protection of the longer English-style wicket keeping gloves, or whether you prefer the greater flexibility and ease of removal offered by the shorter Aussie-style gloves. Once you’ve got that out of the way it is simply how much money you want to spend. As you go up through the wicket keeping glove ranges, you will notice the introduction of ever softer and more flexible (but not necessarily as durable) materials, which constitutes a considerable amount of the comfort of the glove. You will also see the introduction of features and materials, such as gels and high density foams that offer better protection from the higher speed impacts. Finally you may also see features designed to increase ventilation and make long term use more comfortable.
To maintain your cricket wicket keeping gloves, ensure that they are left to dry naturally immediately after use in a warm dry environment. Try and avoid leaving your gloves in your cricket bag or in other cold wet places, as the leather and other materials used can become damaged or affected by mould. Avoid particularly hot areas such as airing cupboards or on top of radiators as this is likely to dry out the leather and leave your wicket keeping gloves stiff and very uncomfortable. To clean, wipe with a warm, damp cloth and avoid cleaning products which may damage the leather.