The secret behind the resurgence of Australia’s Matthew Wade that made him find place in Australia’s Ashes squad as pure batsman is something that many wouldn’t believe.
It has been remarkable journey for the Wade who only sometime back found himself out of favour in Australia team as wicketkeeper batsman to find place only as pure batsman.
As per a report in Cricket Australia official digital platform, Of the three factors that Matthew Wade cites as pivotal in his remarkable rebirth from spurned Test wicketkeeper to dominant middle-order batter, perhaps the least likely is England captain Joe Root.
While Root’s influence is less tangible than the impact of Wade’s wife, Julia, and his daughters, or the effect of his return to play in Tasmania under the eye of Tigers batting coach Jeff Vaughan, it has played its part in a curiously circuitous way.
According to Wade, it was Root’s decision to change bat manufacturers and to trial a shorter blade with a slightly longer handle that led the Tasmanian to follow suit.
Wade used the carpentry skills he deploys in his outside-cricket occupation to pare back the length of blades in his kit bag, and during a stint with the Birmingham Bears in the UK’s Vitality Blast T20 competition in 2016 he was introduced to a professionally made version used by teammate Sam Hain.
Over the next few Australian summers, as he was recalled to the national men’s team and then overlooked, he found the right balance between longer handle and shorter blade to suit his batting style in all formats.
The result has been a vein of batting form so irresistible that Wade now offers Australia what Jonny Bairstow has brought to England’s world champion ODI outfit – a keeper-batsman so adept in the latter skill that he earns selection regardless of his abilities with the gloves.
Wade hasn’t played international cricket since October 2017. But a tally of 1021 runs at 60.05 – the second-highest in the season – in the 2018-19 Sheffield Shield has proven to be a shot in the arm for the wicket-keeper batsman, who has been named in Australia’s 14-man squad for the first Ashes Test.
Even so, Wade is unlikely to feature in the XI, with Test captain Tim Paine set to take up the first ‘keeper’s slot, while Alex Carey has made rapid strides in limited-overs cricket with his performance in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
“I don’t feel like I’m pushing for that [wicket-keeper] spot too much anymore,” Wade said. “I think [Alex Carey] is going to be the next wicket-keeper for Australia. I think everyone knows that, it’s just a matter of time for that to happen. It’s just a luxury that I’ve played 20 Tests and a lot of one-dayers as a ‘keeper that if something happens to Tim on the morning of a Test, then I can stand in and ‘keep. I’ve got no issues there. I’ve been away for a long time and I am excited to be back.”
Wade has carried his splendid Sheffield Shield form over to the tour of England, where he has already spent substantial time as part of the Australia A squad. Wade slammed two centuries in four one-day games against Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and Gloucestershire, including a career-best List A score of 155, before picking up a first-class century in the four-dayer against England Lions.
“I see myself as a batter on this tour,” he said, “and if there is an opportunity to bat at five or six, wherever it is, I am comfortable to step into it. Fingers crossed I get an opportunity.”
Wade almost didn’t make the tour of England, with him and his wife expecting their first child. He credited his family for eventually taking the flight for the A tour. “I was probably going to pass on the Australia A tour because we were going to have the baby and I rang Julia [his wife] during the [final] Shield game and basically told her I was a chance to get picked in that Australia A tour and she told me to go. So all credit to her, to be honest. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”
The first Test begins at Edgbaston on Thursday, 1 August.
With Inputs from ICC and Cricket Australia