Wicket-keeper batsman Matthew Wade, who led Australia to the final of the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, has had a roller-coaster journey in his decade-long career.
The 33-year old is known for his grit, determination, and mental toughness. At the age of 16, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and required two cycles of chemotherapy to defeat the illness.
Returning to the game, Wade went on to represent Australia in international cricket as a wicket-keeper batsman and produced many match-winning performances. However, he suffered the biggest setback of his career before the 2018-19 Ashes series when he was dropped from all three formats.
But, Wade didn’t lose heart and with his fine performances in the domestic cricket, he eventually earned a spot for the Ashes series during which he scored two centuries, and has since also returned to the ODI and T20 set-ups. Not only did he earn his place, but he also stood in as captain of the Australia T20 team.
It has been a cycle of reinvention for Matthew Wade as he went from Test wicketkeeper to specialist middle-order batsman via a prolific run in domestic cricket when it appeared his international days were over.
The southpaw also had to adjust to batting at six or seven position, which presents a markedly different challenge to the opening role he has excelled in for the Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL. He has always been a complete team-man and did whatever role was assigned to him at different points of time in his career.
After guiding Australia to the final on Thursday, a humble Wade said that he is happy to get the opportunity to reinvent himself.
“I’m just happy that I got the opportunity to reinvent myself, to go away and come back with more confidence and really feel like I belong at international level now. I reinvented myself into a batsman and then all of a sudden now I’m playing as a keeper-batsman again and batting down at seven,” said Wade.
“The older I am, the more eyes-wide-open I am about the opportunity I got. It didn’t worry me to go down the order, it hasn’t worried me at all whether I captained or not. I don’t know when my last game is going to be, I treated every game like it potentially could be.
“I’m sure when it’s all over when I get the tap on the shoulder I’ll look back on the last three or four years and be really proud of the way that I came back. It’s not the first time that I’ve come back — I’ve been dropped four or five times. It might be the most ever in Australian cricket,” he added.
Over the years, Wade has played at different positions for Australia. In the ongoing World Cup, he is batting at No 7 and playing the finisher’s role.
Against Pakistan, the veteran wicketkeeper produced an incredible innings under pressure that lifted Australia into the T20 World Cup final, and eased his worries about his short-term future in Australia’s T20 side.
During his match-winning innings, Wade played a few fine lap shots off Shaheen Shah Afridi. Asked whether lap shots were always part of his game or has he developed it over some time, the batsman said he had those for a longish period of time.
“I’ve had those for a longish period of time. I’ve been playing them from early on in my career as well. But, yes, certainly something, when I spoke to you guys, was something I needed to tap back into a little bit more when I’m batting down the bottom,” said Wade.
“It’s easy to have the fine-leg up a lot of the time in the end, but someone that laps, it kind of opens up the whole field for you. You’ve got to either have mid-off up or third-man up or one of the fielders on the offside. It kind of opens the whole field up for you a little bit,” he added.
FUTURE WITH AUSTRALIA
There had been question marks over Wade’s place in Australia’s T20 team in recent years, with Alex Carey, Tim Paine, and Peter Handscomb all having been tried as the wicketkeeper in the years since the 2016 tournament.
The squad’s backup keeper, the uncapped Inglis, with strong performances in the BBL and domestically in England this year, is also competing with Wade for a place in the Australian side.
Going into the game, finisher Wade feared that the semifinal would be his final outing for Australia.
“I was a little bit nervous coming into the game and knowing that potentially this could be the last opportunity I get to represent Australia. I just wanted to do well and really wanted us to win this game to give us an opportunity to win the whole thing,” said Wade, who finished with 41 not out from only 17 balls.
“We’ve got a great bunch of guys in that dressing room and guys that I’ve played for a long, long period of time with. So, yeah, just really — I feel like this game was probably hard on my nerves than maybe what the final will be because now we’re in it. We’ve got nothing to lose. We’re going to go out there, do our absolute best.
“It might be my last game too. As I’ve said to you before in the past, I’m comfortable with it. If it is it, then it’s it. I’ll play as long as they need me and hopefully, we can win some games while I’m there,” he added.