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Opinion

Worth keeping around: No way Carey’s spot should be in jeopardy despite recent lack of runs

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Expert
28th December, 2023
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A wicketkeeper should only get dropped if they’re making too many mistakes with the gloves or enduring an extended form slump with the bat.

Alex Carey ticks neither of those boxes. 

His place in the Test team should not be in jeopardy even though he hasn’t made many runs since a certain incident in June when a certain someone certainly was out. 

You could tell by the way Carey scratched around until stumps on Thursday evening that his batting is not in synch right now. 

But he at least managed to survive the tricky 13-over stint in trying conditions to be unbeaten on 16 and charged with the task of eking out as many runs with the tail on day four so Australia can build on their lead of 241. 

They are by no means out of the woods but if they can set Pakistan a victory target of more than 300 then it will be mightily difficult for the tourists to chase that down at the MCG. 

Carey’s spot has been called into question after he has managed just 125 in his past eight trips to the crease in the Test arena. 

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The 32-year-old managed scores of just In 8, 5, 20, 20 and 28 since absolutely nothing at all happened at Lord’s or was there any controversy afterwards which put Carey firmly in the crosshairs of the English crowds and media hacks. 

He was surprisingly dumped from the ODI side after the first match of the World Cup after a run of low scores either side of a 99 in South Africa. 

Josh Inglis didn’t set the world on fire during the tournament but after blasting a ton for Australia in the T20 series against India that followed the Cup, his stocks with the national selectors are clearly rising. 

For their part, the selectors are staunchly behind Carey. Chief selector George Bailey was asked at the Test squad announcement for the Pakistan series about whether there had been any thought given to Carey’s position in the side and he was unequivocal that it hadn’t been considered. 

The selectors have made a rod for their own back with the David Warner saga – if their persistence with him through his lengthy form slump is any guide, an incumbent player needs to have the roughest of trots before they’ll get punted.

CHENNAI, INDIA - OCTOBER 06: Alex Carey of Australia fields during an Australian training session during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 at at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on October 06, 2023 in Chennai, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Alex Carey. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

And even though Carey hasn’t been as reliable as last summer with the bat, his glovework has been excellent.

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He rarely misses a catching or stumping opportunity and for the most part, gets his job done with a minimum of fuss. 

The difference in runs conceded from his keeping compared with someone else who did the job for the other team turned out to be one of the decisive factors in the Ashes series result. 

It’s not quite like the trail of spinners who followed Shane Warne before Nathan Lyon but the problem for the keepers who have followed Adam Gilchrist is that he set the bar so high with his unprecedented record of 5570 runs at 47.6 with 17 hundreds in his 96 Tests. 

Carey is averaging 31.42 with the bat after 26 baggy green appearances. Gilchrist’s predecessor Ian Healy never averaged over 30 while the great Rod Marsh’s career mark was 26.51. 

Brad Haddin was Australia’s next best run-scoring keeper, averaging 33, while Matthew Wade managed 28.58 in the 22 Tests when he was behind the stumps and Tim Paine notched 32.63 but never reached triple figures in his 35 appearances. 

Inglis, at 28, is considered the next in line for the Test gloves but he averages 32.9 at first-class level and is not as clean behind the stumps so it’s not like he’s making an undeniable claim for a look-in. 

Carey made an encouraging 34 in the First Test in Perth but was out for one in the first innings in Melbourne. 

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Gilchrist on Fox Cricket commentary on Thursday said he had been in regular contact with Carey. 

“On face value he seems the same person, the same buoyant personality, the hard worker – you can certainly rely on that. He puts in ridiculous hours working on his glovework standing back, standing up to the stumps and incorporating that same ethic into his batting. 

“His batting yesterday, he would have been so disappointed to miss out when he had an opportunity. 

“But I don’t feel any need to have pressure on Alex Carey. I don’t see that there’s any extra burden or expectation that he has to do something. He’s reliable, his opinion is highly respected within the team set-up in a number of areas. 

“The runs will come. And I think as long as he’s doing his job with the gloves there doesn’t need to be any expectation or external pressure on him.” 

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