‘I can help the younger guys’ – Wade
In the days when Australia’s cricket team were all-conquering, Adam Gilchrist was frequently referred to as the side’s allrounder, for his batting carried that kind of weight. On his recall to the national side in far grimmer times, Matthew Wade’s allround responsibilities appear to be threefold: batting, wicketkeeping and “presence”.
While Wade insists that his glove work has gone up a notch or three since he was dropped for Brad Haddin ahead of the 2013 Ashes series, ending a run of 12 Tests behind the stumps, he also acknowledged his role around the team will be much more multifaceted than simply adding to his tally of dismissals.
At a time when Australian batting could not be at a lower ebb, Wade must bring plenty of runs, after the fashion of his two commendable Test hundreds against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. In particular he must help to fashion lower-order partnerships to extract more value from the home side’s tail – something he enjoys.
“I enjoy that part of the game, I enjoy the scrap,” Wade said on Monday. “I enjoy getting out there when our backs are to the wall. Hopefully that doesn’t come in this Test, but if it does I’m looking forward to getting out there and having a scrap, yeah.”
That liking for a “scrap” has not always paid off for Wade. He has got himself in trouble on the field for aggressive verbal exchanges, most recently in South Africa during the ODI series that preceded these Tests. But in the wake of the captain Steven Smith’s plea for cricketers prepared to fight for the national team cause, a more pugilistic presence behind the stumps has helped push Wade ahead of Peter Nevill.
“I think I just bring what I bring for Victoria week in, week out,” he said. “Obviously I’ve been picked for a reason and I’ll just come and play my way. I’ve been picked to come in and be a bit of a presence hopefully I suppose. I feel like being around one day international team for a while I can really lead as well.
“I’ve been around for long enough it doesn’t feel like I’m coming in for my first game. I can come in and contribute and help the leaders out on the field. I don’t go into any game looking to really get into anyone’s head. I just go out and play the way that I play.
“I’m competitive. I like the contest. If an opportunity comes where I feel like I can contribute in that way to get benefit for the team then I will. I certainly don’t go out looking to target people, it just develops out on the ground.”
Underpinning all this will be Wade’s effectiveness or otherwise behind the stumps. Intriguingly, he has not worked specifically with any one mentor to improve his technique, whether it be footwork, softer hands or anticipation. But he acknowledges now that it was the art of wicketkeeping that got away from him at the time he was dropped from the Test side, meaning that much more emphasis on it this time around.
“There’s no doubt when I played Test cricket last time my wicket keeping was not where it needed to be so I’ve worked hard on it and improvements have come,” he said. “So I feel confident in my game that I can make a contribution in the team. That’s what it’s all about.
“The good thing about wicket keeping is that everywhere you go generally you find a keeper. I’ve done work with Heals [Ian Healy], I’ve done work with Rod [Marsh], I’ve done work with Tim Coyle. I’ve worked with everyone. But in the end when you’re out there and things aren’t going well you’ve got to try and work it out yourself and if you don’t know your game 100% it’s going to be hard to get back.
“I just needed to keep better that was basically it. Three years ago was a long time ago so hard to remember exactly what the selectors told me at that time. But I knew I needed to work on my keeping at that stage, it was no surprise I was out of the team. But I’ve worked hard on it and I’m confident in it that I can contribute. It’s not about my wicket keeping or my batting. It’s about trying to find a way as a team to get some wins out.”
Winning culture is something Australia desperately need right now, in whatever form it takes. As Victoria’s captain, Wade has helmed consecutive Sheffield Shield triumphs for his state and just yesterday helped oversee a crushing win for the Bushrangers over their longtime rivals New South Wales at the SCG. It all helps.
“I’ve played enough first-class cricket now and been around the Australian setup long enough to feel like I can go out and lead,” he said. “Whether it’s helping young guys, or helping the more experienced guys. Whatever the team needs, I’ll be there to help out.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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