Any sport needs characters who appear larger than life.
A recent article by Ronan O’Connell highlighted the importance of the second half of the 2019-20 Sheffield Shield season.
He rightly pointed out that there should be no need to make significant changes to a team which has compiled a 9-2 win/loss record, stretching back to the home series against Sri Lanka.
Joe Burns was singled out for comment as one batsman whose opening spot may be up for grabs, but no mention was made of Matthew Wade, which indicates he’s flown under the radar to some degree.
Wade was rightly brought back into the Test team based on weight of first-class runs, especially in Sheffield Shield. He’s now played in three series against England, Pakistan and New Zealand and his results to date have not exactly been overwhelming.
He’s batted 17 times for twice not out and made 554 runs at an average of 36.93. His Test batting average is stuck below 32 and more to the point, because he’s now a specialist batsman, his average is still below his Test skipper.
Included in Wade’s 17 innings since his recall are three scores of 60 or better with two centuries, but his next highest score after that is 38, which for a specialist number 5 or 6 is not a great return.
In fairness, his batting teammate Travis Head has fared little better during the same period, making only 428 runs at an average of 32.92, but Head had fewer chances to bat, averages 41.96 across his Test career and importantly, is only 26 as opposed to Wade who has just turned 32.
There’s no question Wade will tour Bangladesh, barring some mishap, which will potentially give him four more opportunities to cement his place in the Australian middle order.
He’s also lucky on three counts; the Test side is winning and winning well, the batsmen above him are making plenty of runs (which takes the pressure off him to perform) and Wade has virtually no serious competition for his spot, mostly because the other Test hopefuls have been injured.
At some point though, Wade has to start to deliver consistently if he wants to prolong his Test career as a specialist batsman. He has maybe three or four more seasons of Test cricket ahead of him and it would be great to see him finish up with an average approaching 40.
Wade needs to start taking his chances now. Will Pucovski and Kurtis Patterson will not remain injured forever. Both have shown enough to suggest they could be very successful Test batsmen if Wade gives them a sniff.