Matthew Wade: Australia’s new Mr Fix-It

As Tim Paine’s men usher in another summer of Test cricket, this time against the touring Indians, Matthew Wade sets the stage for what he thinks will be an emotionally charged Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.

Matthew Wade has never shied away from a challenge, on and off the field.   -  Getty Images

While scouring through Cricket Australia’s YouTube page, one stumbles upon a video titled “Wagner goes head-to-head with Wade, Smith, Warner.” It is a linear montage of the three Australian batsmen, and Matthew Wade in particular, copping a series of blows to their bodies off New Zealand’s short-ball exponent extraordinaire, Neil Wagner.

Wagner’s intensity and challenging length were captivating, but it was Wade’s unflinching courage and determination that made the showdown in Perth one of the most enthralling contests of Australia’s last home season.

Now, as Tim Paine’s men usher in another summer of Test cricket, this time against the touring Indians, Wade sets the stage for what he thinks will be an emotionally charged four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy series. “People can say whatever they like off the field, but once people step over the boundary rope, the emotions of the game take over,” Wade said.

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At different stages during India’s tour to Australia in 2018-19, both captains, Virat Kohli and Paine, were involved in heated exchanges. Matters reached a head during the second Test in Perth, where words were exchanged on multiple occasions, especially when Paine was batting in the second innings, and the umpires were forced to intervene. India eventually claimed the series 2-1, becoming the first Asian side to win a Test series in Australia.

“I don’t think anyone will go out there to chatter, but it will no doubt happen at some stage throughout the series. We are two countries that play the game very hard. So it will be a very competitive series,” Wade said. “Time will tell [how Kohli responds to sledging]. I have copped it my whole career and I really embrace it. It motivates me to perform better for the team.”

Wade has never shied away from a challenge, on and off the field. He defeated testicular cancer when still 16, had to fight for a place in the squad, and was almost lost to Australian cricket before a barnstorming revival in the summer of 2018-19.

That season, he became the second player after Marcus Harris to rack up 1,000 runs in a Sheffield Shield season. He also slammed 592 runs for the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League (BBL) at a strike rate of 146.89, his sparkling form earning him a recall for the 2019 Ashes, where he scored twin hundreds.

“Matthew Wade is becoming Australia’s new Mr Fix It!,” exclaimed a smiling Australian head coach Justin Langer. “He is so well-respected, he is very tough mentally and physically. He has got a great attitude toward the game and is an unbelievable team man.

“His development within Australian cricket over the last few years [has been amazing]; he did what I talked about two years ago: ‘You got to bang so hard on the door to get a chance [in the XI]’... Where he had come from to where he is now, in all three forms of the game... Who would have thought!”

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Wade’s transformation from a Test wicketkeeper to specialist middle-order batsman has been so heartening that Langer opted to open the batting with Wade in Adelaide, where Australia beat India by eight wickets to go 1-0 up in the series.

"He could… he could handle anywhere," Langer said of Wade walking in first. "He's mentally tough, physically tough, he's got good footwork, he can counterattack like David Warner.”

Matthew Wade copped a series of blows off New Zealand’s short-ball exponent extraordinaire, Neil Wagner, during Australia’s last home season. Wagner’s intensity and challenging length were captivating, but it was Wade’s unflinching courage and determination that made the showdown in Perth an enthralling contest.   -  Getty Images

 

Wade failed to impress in the first innings but scored a confident 53-ball 33 in the second. However, the southpaw isn’t looking too far into the future. “From this tour, I just want to play the best cricket I possibly can and cement my spot in the team,” he said.

Australia’s top order is maybe far more settled than it was in 2018-19, but Wade expects India to be the toughest challenge this current outfit has had to contend with, even without Kohli, who returned home after the first Test for the birth of his child. “It’s Test cricket, so I don’t think it matters who is in the team. They are the best cricketers in their country at that given time. Virat is a special player, but I don’t think the tactics will change for us once he leaves,” Wade said.

It’s likely Wade’s remark about the “best cricketers in their country” is indeed true and that India will find someone to fill Kohli’s void for the remaining Tests. As for Australia, they will perhaps rest easy knowing that should a problem arise, one of their best will be at hand to “fix it.”