Wade set for promotion to No.6
Matthew Wade is confident he can do the No.6 position justice in the Sydney Test after the captain Michael Clarke declared Wade would likely move up in the absence of Shane Watson. Usman Khawaja is on standby for Clarke, who is still carrying a hamstring niggle, but is not expected to replace the injured Watson, with the allrounder Glenn Maxwell more likely to take Watson's place.
Clarke said after the Melbourne Test that if Maxwell played he would most probably bat at No.7, with Wade to shift up to six and Clarke and the retiring Michael Hussey also moving up the list to Nos.4 and 5 respectively. That means extra responsibility for Wade, who has scored a hundred and two half-centuries during his eight-Test career, but he said his experience in the top six for Victoria would hold him in good stead.
"I'd be comfortable moving up to No.6 if that's what the team needed me to do to win a Test match," Wade said in Sydney on Monday. "I've been lucky enough to bat at six for Victoria for a couple of years now. In terms of impact on keeping, it doesn't make too much of a difference coming one up the order. I'm happy to bat at six if the team needs me, or stay at seven."
Traditionally, No.7 has been the position occupied by Australian wicketkeepers. Even the great Adam Gilchrist only batted at No.6 on 14 occasions in his Test career, while Wade's predecessor Brad Haddin filled the role seven times. Gilchrist had success in the No.6 spot, scoring 645 Test runs at 49.61 including two centuries, but Haddin managed only 126 runs at an average of 18.
But more often than not, Gilchrist had the luxury of coming in with plenty of runs already on the board. Australia's average four-down total when Gilchrist came to the crease as a Test No.6 was 223; for Haddin, the average was 110. Given the lack of experience in Australia's batting line-up, Wade shouldn't be surprised if he walks out with relatively few runs on the board, but he does not believe he will be under any extra pressure.
"My personal expectation if I'm at six or seven is to contribute runs to the team," Wade said. "Personally that doesn't change for me. Maybe outside expectation is that the No.6 needs to get a little bit more runs, but I'm trying to get runs every time I bat.
"I'll bat exactly the same. If I get the opportunity to bat at six, I'm guessing Pup will talk to me a couple of days out and he'll just want me to bat the same but in the No.6 position. I wouldn't be changing my game plan at all."
Wade, 25, has proven himself a consistent scorer at first-class level during a career spanning six seasons. After 92 first-class innings, Wade has scored 3055 runs at 40.19, very similar figures to those of Gilchrist at the same stage of his career. After 92 first-class innings, Gilchrist had made 3080 runs at 41.06, while Haddin had 2971 runs at 35.79.
Whether a move up the order could become permanent after Hussey's retirement remains to be seen, but if Watson chooses to give up bowling such a change would allow Australia to pick an extra bowling allrounder for each Test. Regardless of where he bats, Wade's role in the coming months is likely to include greater leadership, for the absence of Hussey and Ricky Ponting has left the Australian line-up lacking experience.
Over the past year, Wade has become a permanent presence in the Australian line-up in all three formats and only David Warner, who hasn't missed a match, has represented Australia more times in the past 12 months than Wade, who has played 46 of a possible 49 games. In that time, the only matches he didn't play were during last summer's Test series against India, when Haddin remained the first-choice gloveman.
Wade's heavy workload could mean he is asked by the selectors to rest during the upcoming ODIs or Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka or West Indies, especially with a big year coming up, including a four-Test tour of India and two Ashes series. Wade said he was not keen to take a break but would do so if the selectors insisted.
"I don't want to stop playing cricket for Australia, not at all," Wade said. "But I don't think that will be my decision, that will be a decision that will be made higher up, if I am going to rest any games. I want to play every game that I can for Australia, but I fully understand where the people are coming from above.
"Going forward with how much cricket we are playing, the rest of the fast bowlers and if I end up having a rest, it will be beneficial down the track. But at the time, no cricketer wants to rest. I'm not expecting it, but if it comes along I've got to be open to that discussion."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here