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December 20, 2012
Wicketkeepers are like umpires: the less you notice them the better. Just as spectators recall an umpire's howlers and forget the correct decisions, a wicketkeeper is remembered not for his catches, unless they are spectacular, but for his grassed opportunities or missed stumpings. Matthew Wade knows that over the past few weeks, he has been a little more conspicuous than Australia would like - and not just by virtue of unexpectedly bowling an over of medium-pace in Hobart.
As Wade prepares for his first Boxing Day Test, he has tried to put behind him a pair of missed stumpings this summer that have stuck in the minds of onlookers. In Adelaide, Wade gave Graeme Smith a life on 46 when he advanced to the spin of Michael Clarke, and Smith went on to score 122. At Bellerive Oval, he denied Nathan Lyon a wicket when he couldn't grasp the ball cleanly while Nuwan Kulasekara was down the pitch.
The Smith chance was costly, the Kulasekara one not so much. But they were both occasions when Wade couldn't hide from the spotlight that comes with Test cricket, especially having been chosen over Brad Haddin at the start of the summer. Wade said his primary challenge was to maintain concentration over the course of a Test match; unlike the other fielders, who can get away with drifting off mentally every now and then, a wicketkeeper must always be switched on.
"I'm disappointed, I don't need to read what's printed or what's said in the media for me to get disappointed or thinking about my glovework," Wade said at the MCG on Thursday. "You can't miss chances behind the stumps, it's as simple as that. I'm thankful that this [Hobart] one didn't cost us as much as what it probably did in Adelaide. When I wake up in the morning I've got to be looking forward, if I'm looking back all the time I'm not going to be improving at all and stuff like that is going to keep happening.
"It's probably concentration, that's probably what it comes down to. I've definitely done enough technically, I do enough training. That's all I can go back to is finding a way to concentrate for a longer period of time and working on it at training. Every keeper misses chances, I know I'm going to miss chances, but I would like to have a little bit bigger gap in between missed chances than one Test match."
Wade conceded that the pressure of Test cricket had become greater when playing at home, after he made his Test debut in the West Indies earlier this year in a time zone that meant few Australian fans were watching. That certainly won't be the case on Boxing Day, the biggest day in Australia's cricket calendar, and under such pressure he will need to find ways to prevent his mind from drifting away from the task at hand.
"You don't know that you're not concentrating," Wade said. "Once the moment is gone that's when you think 'was I there 100%?' That's the question you keep asking yourself. There's lots of pressure in Test match cricket. I knew that coming in. I suppose it's more than what I thought it was going to be, as in ... home Test matches there's a little bit more pressure on the players.
"It's little things. I get nervous a lot, so I tend to not eat enough during the day. Little things like that, nutrition ... concentration is something you've got to be able to switch on and off. I'm learning every day that I play a Test match how to do that. As long as I can continue to learn and improve things can be right."
Wade spoke to Adam Gilchrist in the lead-up to the Perth Test against South Africa, seeking advice on how best to handle the pressure of Test cricket. Like Wade, Gilchrist took over from an established gloveman, in his case Ian Healy, when he arrived on the international scene. Gilchrist's batting quickly won over critics who wondered if his glovework was of Test standard, and Wade's batting has been encouraging enough to suggest he has the temperament for Test cricket.
A strong performance at his adopted home ground would do Wade's confidence the world of good. Although he grew up in Hobart, Wade has played the vast majority of his state cricket with Victoria, and has been part of 23 Sheffield Shield matches at the MCG - usually in front of near-empty stands that make the cavernous ground feel like a completely different venue to the one that appears for Boxing Day Tests or AFL grand finals. It will make Wade's 25th birthday a very special one.
"It's my birthday as well, on Boxing Day, to cap it all off," Wade said. "I didn't think a few years ago I'd be driving in to the MCG on my birthday to play a Boxing Day Test. I thought I'd probably still be down in Lauderdale having a couple of beers with my mates watching the Test match. It's all going to come true Boxing Day morning."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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