Have you ever come across of an instance when frustrated fans come together, sign a petition, to get a player removed from a national cricket team?
I can’t recollect of such an anecdote in the past few years, at least. Yes, Australian fans are this exasperated that one of them has started a petition on Change.Org to get Matthew Wade and Usman Khawaja dropped from the Australian side, following their 20-run loss to No. 9-ranked Bangladesh. The humiliating loss marked Bangladesh’s maiden Test win over Australia and the hosts are just a win away from completing a historic whitewash against these same opponents. While former Australian cricketer, Michael Hussey, has offered a piece of support towards the struggling Khawaja, Wade has not received any kind of sympathy from anyone. Moreover, the Australian Coach Darren Lehmann’s statement has only pushed Wade’s career on a knife’s edge.
Australia, anyway have to make at least one change in the side, as the pacer Josh Hazlewood has flown back after suffering a side injury on Day Three of the first Test against Bangladesh at Sher e Bangla Stadium. Lehmann, however, has indicated that a change in the bowling attack might not be the only change Australia will make ahead of the must-win second Test. By saying that, Lehmann, certainly, has hinted at Wade’s soon-to-come trouble.
When cricket.com.au’s journalist pressed on whether Wade – the only specialist keeper in the side at present – would lose his spot, Lehmann said, “It is not ruled out with any of the XI really. Of the 14 here, anyone could play.”
Wade digs his own grave
It’s been five years since Wade made his Test debut during Australia’s tour of West Indies in 2012. He began with scores of 28 and 18. He needed just six innings to reach his maiden Test century. He impressed the selectors with his Player of the Match knock of 106 off 146 balls that laid the foundation for the visitors in the match. He scored his second Test hundred after five matches, joining the club of players who scored a ton in their first Test at the prestigious Sydney Cricket Ground. In his first nine Tests, Wade had averaged 42.5, which was more than decent for a new comer in the longest format.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, Wade, made his debut when veteran Brad Haddin was already in the team as their regular wicketkeeper. Next came the crucial India tour in 2013 and both the keepers were in the 17-man squad. However, considering Wade’s form then, he was picked ahead of Haddin in the first two Tests. The Tasmanian missed the Mohali Test due to the injury he suffered while playing basketball but returned to the playing XI in the fourth Test in Delhi. In the six innings he batted in India, he managed only 113 runs at 18.83, that included one fifty.
Wade was immediately dropped and he never wore the Baggy Green for the next three years. When Haddin had to pull from the squad after the first Test in the Ashes 2015 due to personal reasons, the selectors picked Peter Nevill ahead of Wade for the rest of the series. Meanwhile, Nevill went on to play 17 Tests and eventually got dropped for his poor average of 22.28 between 2015 and 2016. Nevill was axed after Australia’s two back-to-back Test losses at home to South Africa and that resulted in Wade’s recall for the final dead rubber Test at Adelaide.
Ever since Wade has made a comeback in the Test side in November 2016, he has averaged just 21.25 with the bat.
Wade has batted in 15 innings so far, since his return, and has managed only a half-century which he scored in India earlier this year. It was a great chance to make some repair work, before it was too late, in the first Test against Bangladesh but the keeper-batsman went on to only worsen his situation. Let alone any scoring runs, he produced some pathetic performance behind the wickets too. Although he took a terrific catch off Ashton Agar’s bowling in the second innings, he had a torrid time with the bounce produced at Sher e Bangla Stadium. He conceded 30 byes in the match: the number was way more than the total runs he scored in the match (5 and 4).
If that was not enough, Wade faced heavy criticism for his review howlers. In Australia’s first innings, apart from Matt Renshaw on the top, no batsman managed to stick around for a long time. Wade, who came at No. 8, was trapped leg before wicket by Mehdi Hasan but the batsman never looked confident enough to discuss a potential review with Glenn Maxwell, who was on the other end. The replays showed the ball was missing stumps and with two reviews remaining for Australia, Wade’s mistake was far more than a blunder, considering Australia was already in trouble with six batsmen sent to the dugout. In the second innings, when Australian lineup suffered a batting collapse during their chase of 265, they were left with one review and Wade again had Maxwell’s company out in the middle.
When Shakib Al Hasan trapped him LBW, which was certainly a plumb dismissal, Wade chose to challenge the on-field umpire’s decision and exhausted Australia’s reviews, just during the vital end.
Now that Australia have a part-time wicketkeeper in Peter Handscomb, Australia can well afford to drop Wade, hand the gloves to Handscomb as a temporary option and rope in an extra batsman or an all-rounder in the playing XI. If Cricket Australia wants to stick to their decision of Handscomb purely focusing on scoring runs, they can let him do a bit of keeping on a tour until they find a suitable replacement for Wade.
Considering the fact that Handscomb also has not been dominating with the bat, the selectors would not want to take a chance by imposing the keeping burden on him. He made 33 and 15 in Dhaka, and while his Test average remains just a tad below 50 and he has passed 50 just once in five Tests on the subcontinent in 2017. Australia could let him be behind the wickets in the second Test in Chittagong, starting Monday, but they will have to look at other options like Tim Paine for the future.
Former Australian Captain Allan Border, a couple of days back, had proposed Nevill and Tasmania’s Paine’s name for the wicketkeeping job.
Nevill, who was dumped by the national team, has been top notch for New South Wale Blues in Sheffield Shield with 625 runs in nine matches and has 26 catches and three stumpings to his name so far this season. On the other hand, Paine has played only three matches for Tasmania this season. Inspite of his numbers from the four Tests he played in 2010 being average, he still can be tried. He scored 287 runs at an average of 35.87 in four Tests and was never recalled after that. Like Wade, Paine should be given enough chances to prove himself and you never know, he might click.
Must-win Chittagong Test
Australian skipper Steven Smith has suggested that Steve O’Keefe could feature in the second Test and complete the spin trio with Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar. The visitors, who already are without the services of Mitchell Starc and now with Hazlewood gone, will want to include a fast bowler for the Chittagong Test. Tasmanian pacer Jackson Bird, who has 34 wickets from eight Tests, can replace Wade with Handscomb keeping the wickets.