Equipment Guide - Wicket Keeping Pads
Cricket wicket keeping pads are an essential component of any wicket keeper’s protective equipment.
Cricket wicket keeping pads have traditionally been made in much the same way as cricket batting pads, but the slow introduction of modern materials has seen some major developments in recent years. That said, the same key factors remain important: protection, comfort and weight.
Cricket wicket keeping pads are traditionally considered to be made up of 7 different features. Each of these features offering various levels of protection, comfort and durability depending on the materials used and in some cases the complexity of their construction. Here we will aim to quickly outline the various features and highlight how variations may affect the player.
The face of cricket wicket keeping pads generally takes up the largest surface area of the pad and is usually made up of a number of vertically separated sections. These vertical sections allow the pad to wrap round the shin, making them easier to run and move around in. Traditionally each section would comprise a cane shaft for stiffness with any number of padding materials to act as shock absorbers.
A cricket wicket keeping pad’s knee roll has two main purposes. Firstly to offer improved protection around the vulnerable knee joint and secondly allow the pad to flex and bend in conjunction with the rest of leg. In order to achieve this, the knee roll is divided up into a number of horizontal sections, which unlike the face don’t usually incorporate a stiff material but do include the padding material. Unlike cricket batting pads, wicket keeping pads clearly do not have the historical association of umpires using the knee roll to help judge the height of ball in lbw batting decisions. This has led to the development of many new cricket wicket keeping pad designs that do away with the knee roll all together.
The area on the cricket wicket keeping pad above the knee roll is known as the top hat, which serves to protect the lower thigh from ball impacts. Being that this area has a lot more muscle to protect the bone; the top hat tends to offer only limited protection in comparison to other areas. In some cricket wicket keeping pads designs where the knee roll has been deem superfluous, the top is often inseparable from the face of the pad.
Cricket wicket keeping pads, unlike cricket batting pads do not need to be reflect a particular sideways on dexterity because the wicket keeper stands face on to the stumps. The wings are therefore placed on the outside of each pad to offer additional wrap-around protection.
Traditionally cricket wicket keeping pads were secured to the leg using leather straps and metal buckles, which proved heavy and in many cases uncomfortable. Modern straps are cushioned, much wider and make use of Velcro to provide a secure, comfortable fit.
The instep is usually designed to protect the lower shin and ankles, and in most cases is reinforced to protect the wicket keeping pads from wear as a result of contact with both the wearer’s shoes as well as in some cases the ground.
In order to maximise comfort as well as provide extra padding in the case of unusually high impacts many cricket wicket keeping pads incorporate additional bolsters on the interior to provide a softer contact as well as greater air-flow. In some cases to offer increased cleanliness, the inner padding can be removed and put in the washing machine.
Leather has traditionally been used to form most of cricket wicket keeping pads outer layer. However recent materials developments has led to the use of cheaper, lighter, more durable and easier to clean materials, but can be found on some retro styled examples.
PVC is a synthetic plastic material sometimes used as a replacement for leather due to the fact that it is exceptionally durable, cheap, easily worked and very easy to keep clean. In more recent years PVC has fallen out of favour due to its high chemical resistance which makes it very difficult to recycle.
Polyurethane has now been broadly adopted as the preferred replacement for Leather, offering many of the same benefits of PVC but being more readily recyclable. PU also forms the base of many of the modern high density foams used as light weight shock absorbers.
Cane as a stiff and fairly light wood has been the material of choice for providing more rigid support and protection since the game was conceived and is still in use today, particularly at the cheaper end of the market.
To add to the stiffness offered by the cane inserts, fibreglass reinforcement is sometimes applied. This addition results in greater stiffness and durability.
Often referred to by their trade names (Kevlar, Nomex, Technora and Twaron), these synthetic fibres are famous for their strength-to-weight ratios and Kevlar in particular is used in bulletproof vests. Their strength, shock absorption and light weight properties that make them particularly useful in cricket wicket keeping pads. Either used in conjunction with, or completely replacing the cane rods, these fibres can be mixed with glass fibre to create composite materials with both stiffness and superb shock absorption properties whilst being of very low weight.
Much of the protection in modern cricket wicket keeping pads comes in the form of cotton wadding. Made from the leftovers of the weaving industry and looking not unlike what you might find in your vacuum cleaner, this cheap option actually provides fantastic shock absorption and impact protection. The only downside being that it is relatively heavy compared to some modern materials.
High Density Foam
The term high density foam covers a large variety of materials with a range of different properties. Many HD foams are derived from PU or Polyethylene (sometimes referred to as Plastazote) based plastics mixed with blowing agents which create bubbles in the material. It is the size and density of these bubbles that create the unique properties of a particular foam. For example, a foam with very small bubbles which are very close together may offer great shock absorption from high speed impacts but very limited flexibility; where as a foam with large bubbles would offer greater flexibility but would have limited shock absorption. In many circumstances foams are used in combination to make use of a variety of characteristics. The single biggest benefit of high density foams are their exceptionally low weight as they are largely made up of air. All of these aspects make HD foam the obvious choice as padding for cricket wicket keeping pads and often features more frequently the higher up through the ranges you go. Unlike cricket batting pads where the sound that a ball makes when it hits the pads can be a factor in whether a batsman is given out, cricket wicket keeping pads, do not suffer from the same issue. This has led to some very recent developments of cricket wicket keeping pads which are almost entirely made from HD foam.
As with many products, the actual size and fitting of cricket wicket keeping pads can vary between brands and it is highly unlikely that any guide will ever prove 100% successful. Unfortunately many of us don’t always have the luxury of being able to visit our 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 pad sizes. Please ensure you measure from the top of your foot’s instep arch to the middle of the knee. Ultimately, when the pad is rested on the top of the foot, the knee roll should always be positioned over the knee. If this is not the case, the size is incorrect.
|Leg Length (cm)||Wicket Keeping Pads Size|
Like most protection products, as you go up through the cricket wicket keeping pads ranges and note the increase in price, you’ll be asking “so what am I getting for my money?”. In this case, as you spend more you will see some increase in protection to cope with the higher balls speeds, but in most cases what you will see is a weight reduction and increased comfort levels. Weight reductions will be achieved through the introduction of HD foam padding and other modern materials, while comfort levels will be increased using wide straps, improved ventilation and the use of softer, but not necessarily more durable materials. In addition you may see the introduction of some specialist features such as washable inserts as well as finer detailing and more expensive materials.
Most modern cricket wicket keeping pads feature PVC or PU faces which can be easily wiped clean with a damp cloth. The padded inners will slowly deteriorate, picking up a selection of dirt and sweat. In this case removable and washable inners are ideal, but in their absence we recommend ensuring the pads are left in a warm, well ventilated place until they are complete dry. Then initially brush off any surface dirt, then using a warm, mildly soapy cloth scrub out any stains. Fabric refreshers such as Fabreeze can help limit bad odours from long term use.