Is there more to the non-selection of Matthew Wade than Cricket Australia is saying?
Is there more to the non-selection of Matthew Wade for the upcoming two Test series against Sri Lanka than meets the eye?
How could there not be?
Even the most armchair of experts know that at a time when Australia’s middle-order is screaming out for stability, Wade fits the bill in more ways than one.
He’s made 571 runs at 63.44 to lead all comers in the Sheffield Shield.
He’s faced the second-most balls this season, second only behind fellow Tasmanian Jordan Silk, and he’s done so on the extremely volatile Bellerive wicket.
When quizzed on Wade’s non-selection yesterday, selector Trevor Hohns said he’d like to see Wade “bat higher up” for Tasmania, rather than at five or six. But why?
Wade hasn’t only made runs on a swinging green Bellerive deck, he’s come to the crease, on average, when his side has been placed at four for 121.
Wade has salvaged the Tasmanian innings on multiple occasions this season, scoring five half centuries and a ton along the way.
Even if Wade was picked for Australia, he’d be filling a middle-order void, which is precisely what he’s been doing for the Tigers.
Why does his current place in the batting order matter, when it hasn’t for other players?
Reasoning doesn’t pass sniff test
Selectors said they already had a keeper-batsman like Matthew Wade in fellow Tasmanian Tim Paine. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
In the wake of David Warner’s ban for his part in the ball-tampering scandal, Aaron Finch was promoted to Test opener off the back of one first-class half century batting at three for Victoria.
Last season, Finch batted 15 Sheffield Shield innings, shifting between six, five and four.
Victorian selectors deemed Travis Dean a better opening partner for Marcus Harris, yet Australian selectors were happy to have Finch open with Harris at Test level against India.
That’s despite CricViz stats that show Finch averages just 11.5 runs against deliveries moving more than 0.75 degrees off the pitch.
In Australia, 32 per cent of all deliveries move that much. It’s no surprise Finch made just 97 runs at 16.16 and was eventually dropped.
Hohns also stated the team already has a keeper-batsman in Tim Paine. So what?
Peter Handscomb is a keeper batsman who was awarded a Test recall following a 70 run stand in the Big Bash. He fields in the slips at national level and numbers wise, while solid, has been inferior to Wade at first-class level this season.
Nothing against Finch and Handscomb, but Hohns’ reasoning doesn’t pass the sniff test.
Wade’s ‘bit of mongrel’ sought after in 2017
At a state-level, Matthew Wade has been trusted to step into the shoes of George Bailey. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
Could Wade’s non-selection be at least partly, political?
Against the backdrop of the culture review, the Tasmanian’s at times aggressive and high-octane approach is suddenly not in vogue.
In 2017, it was.
When he was called into the side off the back of the disastrous loss to South Africa in Hobart, selector Allan Border said at the time: “I just think the side lacks a little bit of get up and go, a bit of mongrel was my terminology and he certainly brings that to the table.”
If Wade has been snubbed based on character, it would be at odds with state-level officials who deemed Wade worthy of filling the shoes of the lauded George Bailey as captain of Tasmania, a role he is so far thriving in.
He’s also been handed the reins of the Hobart Hurricanes who he has guided to a record of five wins and one loss.
Against Sri Lanka later this month, Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and young gun Will Pucovski will get their chances.
Renshaw and Burns could join fellow Queenslander Marnus Labuschagne in the top order for the first Test at their home ground, the Gabba, while 20-year-old Pucovski is every chance to make hay on a flat Canberra wicket if he is selected, which would provide Cricket Australia with a desperately needed PR boost and a fresh-faced hero in the lead up to the Ashes.
At the conclusion of the Big Bash season, Wade will ease back into Tasmanian colours and ply his trade in front of near non-existent crowds at first-class level.
Where he bats will become a point of interest as he fights to make a last gasp case for an Ashes call-up, but at this stage, it appears his papers are well and truly stamped.