Wade targets next game, next score
LONDON: Behind all the talk and beneath the abrasive exterior, Matthew Wade hid a well of anxiety in each of his first 22 Test matches as a wicketkeeper-batsman.
It’s only in the aftermath of his 23rd, and first as a specialist with the bat, that Wade has been able to reveal the fact that, in reality, Edgbaston 2019 was the first Test in which he was able to actually enjoy himself — a sensation writ large across a second-innings century that played its part in setting up Australia’s resounding victory.
First chosen for Australia’s Test team a few months after his 24th birthday, Wade was in many ways seen as part of the new breed, selected by a set-up led by a captain and selector in Michael Clarke and a coach in Mickey Arthur, who were aggressively pursuing results in the wake of the Argus review the year before.
When he was chosen to keep wicket for Australia a second time, in late 2016, Wade’s was the selection of a desperate national panel, trying to find fighters after the loss of five consecutive Tests. Both these circumstances, while not altering the competitiveness instilled in Wade from his earliest days as a backyard cricket opponent of Tim Paine in the Hobart suburb of Lauderdale, certainly enhanced his feeling of needing to be striding, competing, fighting all the time.
“When I was batting out there (at Edgbaston), I was looking at the crowd and I was just enjoying being in the moment. I don’t think I’ve ever done that at Test level,” Wade told Cricinfo.
“I’ve probably been chasing the next game, chasing the next score, feeling anxious and feeling the pressure. But I really enjoyed the other day, it was cool to be back out in the middle of a Test match with a big crowd. It’s a little bit different to playing first-class cricket when there’s not too many people around.
“When you’re a younger player you’re chasing every game, you’re chasing every tour, selection’s always on your mind and you think that’s the be-all and end-all, to be honest. You never want to be on the other side of being dropped — it’s a fear factor. I’ve been on that side and it’s not as bad as what you put in your mind. You get dropped, you go home, you go and play cricket, you make yourself better. I’m not scared of that anymore, and I’m really relaxed off field. So it’s been a cool two years to reinvent myself as a person and as a player.”
The reinvention had its roots in the circumstances around Wade being discarded from the national team in 2017, ironically for Paine’s return as part of that year’s home Ashes squad. He had spent much of his playing life trying to fit a model of player — the Adam Gilchrist-inspired batsman-keeper — that Australian cricket fervently desired, only to find diminishing returns the older he got.
Those who saw and were critical of some of Wade’s performances behind the stumps, notably his struggles at times to hold chances presented off Nathan Lyon, did not see the mental strain Wade experienced each time he tried to fulfil the role. At Edgbaston, able simply to run around the field and even bowl, Wade could not help but notice the difference.