A message to selectors: Keep keeping first

Jono Baruch Roar Rookie

By , Jono Baruch is a Roar Rookie

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    It is the most important position and title in any cricket team, yet at the moment the Australian cricket team is in a bit of a crisis without a clue who our best wicketkeeper in the country is.

    Leading into another highly anticipated Ashes series and determined to make amends for the slip-up in the UK in 2015, the unsettling reality for the Australian team is that not only is the XI shaky and looking patchy with indifferent form, but it is also increasingly obvious that whoever they pick in the wicketkeeping position, there won’t be a great deal of confidence in the selection.

    Following the South African series last year Peter Nevill was fairly or unfairly dropped and Matthew Wade returned to the side, the reason cited being that Wade talked more in the field and provided more energy than Nevill. Wade was also chosen because he had Test experience and because his batting prowess would be of greater value to the team.

    This is the problem in one hit. It is the constant position that the Australian selectors keep on maintaining as their argument when it comes to picking not just keepers but other members of the team. We all remember when Rod Marsh famously picked Joe Mennie over Jackson Bird because he offered more with the bat.

    So the simple message to whoever is on the selection committee and is making the final call about the wicketkeeper is: pick the best keeper, not the best batsman.

    (Ross Setford/SNPA via AP)

    If you want to talk about batting and place emphasis on the contribution to the team with the bat, in the nine Tests that Matthew Wade has played since returning to the national team, his highest score has been 57 and he has averaged just 21 across 16 digs. While his keeping has improved somewhat, his work with the gloves is a far cry from what some of his interstate rivals can do.

    For some time now Peter Nevill has been the best gloveman in Australia. He takes the ball cleanly right in front of his eyes and is sharp behind the stumps. Considering Australia’s first-choice bowling attack, his state teammates should also have him higher up in the pecking order as he knows how to keep to them.

    He has 17 Test matches under his belt and a Test batting average of 22, which shows he is no mug with the bat, holding his own and playing some important roles on a number of occasions in his short Test career thus far. He has another opportunity this week against Queensland to put some runs on the board after missing a golden opportunity to go on with it last week against Western Australia.

    If we were picking the best gloveman, then Alex Carey from South Australia has to be in the conversation. While no keeper has put their hand up with the bat thus far, Carey’s glovework over the past two shield seasons have pushed him up the pecking order with his clean work behind the pegs for South Australia. A record-breaking 59 dismissals last shield season and a sprinkling of starts would have Carey right in the frame for a dream Ashes debut in less than two weeks.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Among the other contenders is part-time keeper Cameron Bancroft, who is keeping the place of Sam Whiteman and showing off his batting prowess. He was selected for the cancelled tour of Bangladesh in 2015 and is looking the most promising option with his bat in hand. But do you take a punt on a part-time keeper who is making runs? The only part-time keeper I would be confident having behind the stumps would be AB De Villiers, and he isn’t an option.

    Elsewhere Tim Paine is still thereabouts in the selection frame, but it would appear that, barring a miracle, his name is nearly off the whiteboard given that the incumbent, Wade, is likely to take the gloves again this week for Tasmania in a bid to prove he is still the man for the job.

    While we all wait in anticipation for the squad announcement, we know there will be a few surprises, because it wouldn’t be an Australian squad without one. But when it comes to the position of the wicketkeeper, pick not the man with the most runs on the board but the man who you believe is the best with the keeping gloves on his hands crouched down behind the stumps.

    Of course, if they can’t make the decision and stick with the incumbent and back him in for the long haul, at the end of the day we are just going to have to get behind him and hope he delivers on the biggest stage.

    The Ashes is almost here, and we want to know who YOU think should line up for Australia against England in the first Test.
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