Australia needs a new ‘keeper, but it’s not Peter Handscomb

Asher England Roar Rookie

By Asher England, Asher England is a Roar Rookie

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    Since the retirement of Brad Haddin, Australia have simply not had a wicketkeeper of Test standard.

    For the proudest and most successful nation in the history of Test cricket, this is a difficult truth to swallow. The days of Rod Marsh, Ian Healy and the legendary Adam Gilchrist are long gone.

    The burden of succeeding these phenomenal performers fell first to the capable Haddin, before settling on the shoulders of Matthew Wade, then New South Wales’s Peter Nevill, then Wade again after the calamitous defeat at Hobart in late 2016.

    Nevill was a major casualty of that disaster, having mostly kept tidily during his brief Test career but posting only two fifty-plus scores with the bat to average a disappointing 22.28 from 17 Tests. With Australia desperate for a stronger batting line-up, having just crashed to a brutal defeat in which they were shot out for a ghastly 85 in the first innings, Nevill’s modest performances with the willow brought him undone.

    The man to replace him was Matthew Wade, considered a quality batsman and already possessing two Test centuries from his previous stint in the side. But Wade, too, has been a major disappointment. In nine Tests since his return to the side, he’s made just 255 runs at 21.25 and has thoroughly failed to justify his selection as a batting keeper.

    It’s also his lack of polish behind the stumps that has endangered his place. Though he kept reasonably well in difficult conditions in India, he is clearly not among the best pure glovemen in the country. The difficult truth is that Australia’s glovemen have been close to the bottom of the Test pile since the retirement of Haddin.

    Matthew Wade keeping

    (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

    The great difficulty for Australia is that there is no obvious replacement. Among the veterans, Chris Hartley has retired after a stellar final season for Queensland, while the prodigiously talented Tim Paine looks unlikely ever to add to his four Tests after struggling with a finger injury and failing to recover enough form even to hold a permanent place in Tasmania’s Sheffield Shield side.

    Some have raised the possibility of giving Australia’s incumbent No. 5 batsman, Peter Handscomb, the gloves. The usual argument is that he would be much better with the bat than Wade and surely no worse with the gloves.

    There is, however, little basis for such an assessment. As a part-time keeper who, according to his own account, considers himself a batsman, there is no guarantee whatsoever that his keeping would be an improvement on Wade’s.

    Indeed, with limited match practice since his early Victorian career, it is highly probably that his glovework would be significantly worse. Having, essentially, a gully fielder with gloves on behind the stumps would be hugely detrimental to the confidence of Australia’s bowlers in addition to costing them wickets.

    Peter Handscomb of Australia looks at the wicket keepers gloves

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Advocates for Handscomb to take the gloves often cite his batting prowess as an opportunity for the side to play an extra batsman or bowler. Handscomb does have, on the surface, an impressive record from his short Test career thus far, averaging just under 50 with two hundreds to his name from his debut home summer.

    Since leaving Australia’s shores, however, Handscomb has struggled for impact in admittedly difficult conditions. In ten innings since the end of the home series against Pakistan, Handscomb has managed 246 runs at 27.33 with only one fifty-plus score (a brilliant fourth innings 72 not out).

    Handscomb is certainly worth persisting with as a specialist batsman. Close watchers of his fluent footwork will know that he has the technical tools to succeed in spinning conditions, if only he can capitalise on his frequent starts.

    To give him the gloves, however, runs the risk of seriously undermining his ability to contribute with the bat, especially having experienced a lean recent run and not quite succeeding in cementing his place at No. 5. Australia should not endanger his confidence with the bat by asking him to bring his part-time keeping to the Test arena.

    Where to, then, if not Wade or Handscomb? Peter Nevill responded to his axing with an excellent Shield season for the Blues, but questions remain about his ability to transfer that success to Test level.

    The promising Sam Whiteman is likely to be out of contention for some time with injury. His fitness issues have made it difficult for him to build any really momentum as a challenger for the Test gloves.

    Alex Carey, having last season supplanted Tim Ludeman as South Australia’s first choice wicketkeeper and later been selected for Australia A, appears to be the most likely replacement for Wade. Despite talent with the bat, however, his first class record thus far leaves a great deal of room for improvement.

    A consistent second season at state level, and a chance to actually play with Australia A, is likely to be the best thing for his development.

    Of the genuine options, Nevill inspires the most confidence. He has Shield form and a very good first class average of 40 on his side, and is well regarded among selectors, fans and pundits as a wicketkeeper. If he could truly harness his batting ability he would add a great deal of stability to a Test side desperately in need of it.

    But whoever takes the gloves for Australia in the upcoming Ashes, the shades of Marsh, Healy and Gilchrist will haunt their every crouch.

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    The Crowd Says (42)

    • Roar Guru

      September 4th 2017 @ 7:47am
      Ryan H said | September 4th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      Yeah well said. While the cynic/realist in me thinks Handscomb would be a bit tidier behind the stumps than Wade, adding that sort of pressure would not help. Handscomb’s batting needs to be his sole focus, his ceiling as a genuine bat is far greater than it would ever be as a keeper/bat.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:36am
        jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        The thing is, he’s an unknown. I haven’t seen enough of him. And how much (if any) time does he spend pracrtising his keeping? I assume he would do some rpactice to be ready in case Wade got injured during a test, but what we don’t know is:

        1. With some specialist work, how good a keeper would Handscomb be?

        2. How much (if at all) would keeping affect his batting (assuming he moved to 6)?

        We cannot comment on whether Handscomb should be our our test keeper till we know the answers to those questions. As of today, he wouldn’t be the right option.

        • September 4th 2017 @ 12:56pm
          Ross said | September 4th 2017 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

          Guys the best judge on this is Gilchrist and he also said make handscombe the keeper , we are so Lucky to have such a good batsman who can keep so just go with handscombe as keeper

          • September 4th 2017 @ 1:04pm
            jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

            Gilly knows more about it than I do and has seen him keep a lot more.

            • Roar Guru

              September 4th 2017 @ 1:24pm
              Rellum said | September 4th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

              Well Heals says don’t pick him as keeper, I think he is even more qualified to judge.

              • September 4th 2017 @ 2:03pm
                jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

                Heals also has a record of speaking with a vested interest…

              • Roar Guru

                September 4th 2017 @ 2:54pm
                Rellum said | September 4th 2017 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

                What vested interest? Do you think he is getting a cut of Wades endorsements or something?

    • September 4th 2017 @ 7:58am
      john ham said | September 4th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Wade needs to go before the Ashes but the selectors wont have the stones to remove him and put Nevill back in or give Carey a crack at the big time

      No point wasting time on debating it.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:56am
        Nathan said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        I hope they do and I hope it’s Carey. Current Aus A keeper after all. Let’s move forward.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 11:45pm
        Don Freo said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:45pm | ! Report

        Where better would you spend your time, John? “Waste of time”…Pffft!

        I have enough time to debate it…not really a waste at all. Carey will play the ashes.

        Paine, Triffitt, Doran, McDermott and Dunk are all better keepers than Wade in the Tassie team. Triffitt would be on a par with Wade with the bat but the other 4 are all ahead of him.

    • September 4th 2017 @ 8:24am
      Rob JM said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      Considering handscomb is also proving to be a valuable shot leg fielder, we are much better off with letting him focus on his batting.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:37am
        jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        Nah we’re better off with him keeping if he can become a solid keeper and it won’t affect his batting much.

        • September 5th 2017 @ 6:15pm
          JohnB said | September 5th 2017 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

          2 big ifs

      • September 4th 2017 @ 12:56pm
        Ross said | September 4th 2017 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

        We need him to keep not do short fielding, what kind of a reason is that

        • September 4th 2017 @ 11:47pm
          Don Freo said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:47pm | ! Report

          Interesting that the best short leg in Oz, Bancroft, also started as a keeper.

    • September 4th 2017 @ 8:59am
      jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      Last minute prediction for the Aussie team – SOK in for Hazelwood and Cartwright in for – not Khawaja – Wade.

      So starting team to look like this:

      1. Warner
      2. Renshaw
      3. Khawaja
      4. Smith (c)
      5. Cartwright
      6. Hanscomb (wk)
      7. Maxwell
      8. Agar
      9. Cummins
      10. SOK
      11. Lyon

      • Roar Guru

        September 4th 2017 @ 9:55am
        Giri Subramanian said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        I think this sounds about right. I read somewhere that if O’Keefe plays, Australia might play Handscomb as the keeper. Isn’t Handscomb the wicket keeper for his state side?

        • September 4th 2017 @ 10:08am
          Asher England said | September 4th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          No, Victoria’s first choice keeper was previously Wade but now that he’s moved to Tasmania it’s the 20-year-old Sam Harper. Handscomb only keeps as a backup these days.

          • Roar Guru

            September 4th 2017 @ 10:11am
            Giri Subramanian said | September 4th 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

            Okay saw his cricinfo profile showing his fielding position as Wicket Keeper, so thought he is a regular keeper for the side. Anyway, worth the shot for one test I guess.

      • Roar Guru

        September 4th 2017 @ 10:19am
        Rellum said | September 4th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        I am half expecting to see this side.

      • Roar Rookie

        September 4th 2017 @ 11:10am
        Lancey5times said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        Wouldn’t playing a more experienced keeper be even more likely in the event that 3 spinners are picked on the subcontinent? Wade wasn’t letting too many byes through of the pacemen. Don’t get me wrong, Wade is not good enough but keeping to 3 spinners on a turner is asking a lot of a guy we know little about when it comes to keeping.

        And I usually agree with just about everything you write 😉

        • September 4th 2017 @ 11:27am
          jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

          That’s my prediction for the team (based on an article I just read). Not necessarily what I would pick.

          I’m 50/50 – but I haven’t seen enough of Handsomb’s keeping to be able to say.

    • September 4th 2017 @ 10:16am
      Ross said | September 4th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      I agree with everything except your first line. Chris Hartley was easily test standard, and was available when Haddin retired. While not an explosive bat like Gilchrist and Haddin, Harts glovework was second to none and was a solid number 8.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 10:21am
        Asher England said | September 4th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        Yeah that line was in reference to the keepers who have actually played Tests since Haddin. I’ve no doubt Hartley could’ve been an excellent Test keeper.

      • Roar Guru

        September 4th 2017 @ 10:28am
        Rellum said | September 4th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Yeah, can’t agree with that statement.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 4th 2017 @ 11:07am
      Lancey5times said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

      Ive always felt Nevill was particularly hard done by. Spent just about his whole career batting directly behind Mitch Marsh and a rather raw top order. Came in at 5 for not many quite a few times which I can’t help but think impacted on his run scoring

      • September 4th 2017 @ 12:19pm
        Ouch said | September 4th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        Agree completely. Burdened too many time with trying to save an innings after another collapse of the top order.

        • September 4th 2017 @ 11:55pm
          Don Freo said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:55pm | ! Report

          Surely, if it’s a collapse, you can’t just blame Marsh. That’s called “the fall of a wicket”. I get the Marsh hate but that is ridiculous.

          I can just imagine Nevill coming back to the change rooms, chucking the bat and crying, “If Mitch didn’t get out, I’d still be waiting for my turn to bat and won’t have failed…yet!” Mitch, of course could have blamed Vogesy who would have been dirty at Smithy who’d be calling for Warner’s head.

          I wonder how many times Nevill and Marsh batted together. I’ll bet it was many and it wasn’t Marsh’s departure always that brought Nevill to the wicket. It is such a silly line of argument.

          • Roar Rookie

            September 5th 2017 @ 7:24am
            Lancey5times said | September 5th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

            I wasn’t implied that it was ‘always’ Marsh but my initial post simply highlighted that he batted behind a very raw top 6 and in particular a guy at number 6 who had particular struggles. Marsh’s time in the side also overlapped very closely with Nevills

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