Uncontracted wicketkeeper and middle order clean-up man Matthew Wade is Australia’s back-up captain for the home World Cup, should injury or further low scores befall Aaron Finch.
First endorsed to lead Australia when Finch missed a Twenty20 against India at the SCG in late 2020, Wade’s chequered disciplinary record and past use as an agitator against opposition teams has faded next to his value as a seasoned state captain and one of the most critical members of the side.
Matthew Wade has made Australia’s number seven T20 spot his own.Credit:AP
His evolution, too, may be a worthwhile pointer towards the fact that even David Warner, another cricketer who had at times been pushed into “attack dog” roles for the Australian men’s team leading up to the 2018, should not be beyond fresh consideration.
Cricket Australia’s directors will consider white-ball captaincy candidates to replace Finch after the World Cup at its next meeting in October.
Matthew Wade on the attack for Australia against India.Credit:Getty Images
Prior to the 2018 cultural review of Australian cricket, Wade had been selected on at least one occasion for his “mongrel” and verbals from behind the stumps, replacing Peter Nevill in the Test team in November 2016. It was a move that left then-selector Greg Chappell aghast.
”I stated, ‘that’s never been a criteria for picking a Test team that I have ever heard of, and we shouldn’t be starting now,” Chappell wrote in his book, Not Out. “As the idea developed in the meeting I just shook my head, saying ‘no, we cannot go down this path’.
“Wicketkeepers are very important parts of a team. But not for their yapping, rather for their ability and commitment.”
After playing the next 10 Tests, Wade was, himself, dropped ahead of the 2017-18 Ashes to make way for Tim Paine. Wade won a Test recall as a specialist batter in 2019, before losing his spot again during the 2020-21 season. But in T20 terms he has remained very much in the picture.
After being denied a Cricket Australia deal earlier this year, Wade will only receive an incremental contract – worth about $350,000 – after playing 12 T20 internationals. Including the just-completed India series and excluding the World Cup semis and final, the Australians are scheduled to play 13 games.
But without a contract, Wade also has greater flexibility to play in T20 leagues around the world, after the fashion of the recently selected power hitter, and follow Hobart Hurricane, Tim David.
Wade’s emergence as a key team leader with a clearly defined role at seven in the batting order was completed in the modest circumstances of last year’s tour to Bangladesh, where he led the Twenty20 side in a series won 4-1 by the hosts on a fiendishly difficult Dhaka pitch.
What mattered more than those results, however, was a clear decision to enlist Wade as Finch’s stand-in skipper, while the team also pivoted to a plan featuring seven specialist batters and four bowlers – finally giving up the five bowler model preferred by the former coach Justin Langer.
When a much stronger team went to the UAE for the World Cup with the aforementioned blueprint in place, a succession of victories followed when chasing a target, with Wade, Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh playing particularly key roles behind the consistency of David Warner at the top of the innings.
Aaron Finch shakes hands with Rohit Sharma after game three of Australia’s Twenty20 series against India.Credit:Getty Images
“We’re always pretty positive because we play seven batters now – that’s a shift we made just before the World Cup last year – genuine batters and make up the fifth bowler in the top six,” Wade said during the India tour. “We’ve got a lot of depth in our batting and confidence that we can chase big scores.”
After he made his T20 reputation in Australia as a percussive opener for the Hobart Hurricanes, Wade’s successful adaptation to the role of middle-order merchant has underlined his willingness to take on occasionally unpopular roles for the team.
Wade explained his thought process when facing a steep target after the winning pursuit against India in Mohali in the opening match of a series where all three games were won by the team batting second.
“You break it down more into sixes that we need to hit really,” Wade said. “Three or four sixes in those last four overs were going to give us a pretty good chance to win the game.”
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