Wicketkeeper Wade jumps the queue
When Matthew Wade got the call to replace Tim Paine in the Australia A side this week, it was nothing new. He's been following Paine all his life. The two wicketkeepers who are next in line behind Brad Haddin have a history together, from their childhood days of taking each other on in backyard cricket in the Hobart suburb of Lauderdale.
"We've known each other for years," Wade told Cricinfo. "We used to play games every summer in the backyard. Him and his brother and me and my two cousins used to have some pretty gruelling cricket matches in the backyard. The loser always had to go and get fish and chips at the local shop."
Wade, 22, is three years younger than Paine, which meant that when he was looking to break in to first-class cricket in Tasmania, Paine was already there. It encouraged Wade to move to Victoria, where he eventually overtook the incumbent gloveman Adam Crosthwaite in both formats, and now the childhood friends are grabbing their opportunities.
"He's a couple of years older so I've always been behind him and to a certain degree have always looked up to what he did," Wade said of Paine. "Moving was a really tough decision but I didn't want to be sitting back three or four years down the track wishing that I had have gone. I knew that Tim was always going to be a really strong player down there and I knew that I probably would have been sitting behind him."
It was a good decision for Wade, who in 2008-09 claimed a Victorian record 57 Sheffield Shield dismissals and averaged 49.54 with the bat. Last summer he tallied 677 Sheffield Shield runs at 48.35, and his strong batting combined with his youth has made him an attractive prospect for the national selectors.
Over the past two years, the list of keepers behind Haddin has seemed like a game of snakes and ladders. Luke Ronchi was the No. 2 in 2008 but was then dropped by Western Australia, before Graham Manou played the Edgbaston Ashes Test and then lost his Cricket Australia contract
The consistent Chris Hartley provided cover on the Ashes tour and had an outstanding summer for Queensland, finishing fifth on the competition run tally, but Paine is the man who has seized his chance to become first reserve for Australia. In this environment, it is credit to Wade that the selectors have chosen him to take on Sri Lanka A later this month, after Paine replaced the injured Haddin in the ODI team.
"It was a bit of a shock and I was really excited when I got the news," Wade said. "The keeping is really strong in Australia at the moment. Everyone who takes the gloves is doing really well - Manou and Hartley are really good players at first-class level. I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing."
If that allows Wade to stand in line with Paine in for national honours, it's better than waiting behind him in the Tasmanian squad. Or in the Lauderdale fish and chip shop.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo