Former Surrey man hopes comprehensive guide will inspire next generation of keepers.

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James Knott has co-written and published a new book, Wicket Keeping: A Comprehensive Guide for Players and Coaches, and hopes it will inspire a new generation of wicketkeepers to improve their skills behind the stumps.

The former Surrey man, now Head of Cricket and Assistant Director of Sport at Stowe School, partnered with longtime friend and fellow cricket coach Andrew O’Connor to produce the guide which offers insights into every aspect of wicketkeeping for players of all abilities.

Knott was able to draw upon his own experience behind the stumps in writing and publishing the book – the 45-year-old made 31 professional appearances across all formats throughout his playing career, during which he claimed 44 dismissals behind the stumps.

Speaking to the PCA, Knott explains how the idea for the book came about, how he was able to use free time during lockdown to his advantage, and the reception that Wicket Keeping has received since being released on 18th March…

  • Tell us about Wicket Keeping: A Comprehensive Guide for Players and Coaches.
  • The first lockdown provided myself and Andrew O’Connor, a self-employed cricket coach who I met on a course five or six years ago, with the opportunity to get started on this book which we’d had in mind for a little while. We had the time and the opportunity to get it written, and it actually ended up coming together pretty easily! I had been recommended a sports literary agent called David Luxton, who put us in contact with Polaris Publishing who signed us up for three books, and we just went from there!
  • Can you give us a bit more detail on the content of the book?
  • There’s not a lot currently out there in terms of wicketkeeping books. I’ve chatted to a lot of coaches and they say that they don’t know much about the subject and that they are reluctant to tackle it in depth. This book is for players and coaches who don’t have a wicketkeeping background. We want to break it down entirely and make it relatable, in the hope that it will become a bit less of a scary topic than they think.

“The main thing for us is that wicketkeepers themselves seem to really like it - that’s a very satisfying feeling.”

  • So it’s a pretty unique offering on the market?
  • The subtitle of our book is ‘a comprehensive modern guide for players and coaches’, so we go into a lot of depth and there are a lot of photos which expand on the words themselves. We managed to get the likes of my dad (Alan Knott), Jack Russell, Ben Duckett, Tom Moores and Peter Moores to contribute their own quotes and tips throughout the book. It’s definitely unique in that sense.
  • How did you find the writing process?
  • To be honest, it wasn’t too painful at all. I produced a first draft and Andy and I revised it between ourselves into the book that you see now, and the whole process only took around one month. We weren’t working at the time due to the pandemic, so we were able to commit a fair bit of time, and we had already made a lot of notes over the years. I was nevertheless surprised by how quickly the whole thing came together, however.
  • Were you able to draw upon your own experiences as a keeper?
  • Obviously it helps, but we’ve been careful to try and not talk about our own personal experiences too much, instead giving as many options to people as possible to illustrate how many different ways there are of doing things. If we’re talking about diving, for example, we’ll give a variety of different methods that people can try, as well as any benefits and drawbacks of each one. We try to give options rather than telling people how it’s done, which I think is really important within the role of a coach.
  • There are some great photos in the book. How did you source them?
  • I approached a photographer, Jonathan Glyn Smith, who was doing a photography project at Stowe at the time, and luckily he said he would do our photos for us. What we thought would take three-and-a-half hours ended up taking the same number of days! He gave us all of that for nothing so we really were very lucky. We got these incredible photos, all shot in the wonderful landscape at Stowe, which look amazing and complement what we wrote very well.
  • How have you found the publishing process?
  • I knew very little beforehand as the one short story I had got out there had been self-published. The people at Polaris have been very easy to deal with and have made the process very simple, and I’d also like to thank my literary agent David Luxton for putting me in touch with them in the first place. If we had self-published, we wouldn’t have been able to make as good a quality book. For instance, they designed a unique front cover which we hadn’t envisaged beforehand, but it’s turned out to be really popular.
  • How has the reception been since 18th March?
  • It’s been really positive. We wrote the book completely before finding a publisher, so a few people had already seen it and given us good feedback before we got the deal with Polaris. Since the release, we’ve sent out the final copy to ex-keepers, coaches, and others who have given us some really nice feedback, and we’ve had some good reviews on Amazon, too. The main thing for us though is that wicketkeepers themselves seem to really like it – that’s a very satisfying feeling.

Wicket Keeping: A Comprehensive Guide for Players and Coaches is available to purchase from Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwell’s and other major retailers.

More information on Wicket Keeping.