Not much fazes Alex Carey. But 2023 has tested his mild-mannered nature more than any other year.
The Test tour of India was a series of ups and downs. He produced one of the best wicketkeeping performances by an Australian ever on an Indian Test tour. But he was bamboozled with the bat by Ravindra Jadeja and co which somewhat overshadowed his glovework.
The subsequent England tour started spectacularly with a sensational performance with bat and gloves in the World Test Championship final. He also played brilliantly at Edgbaston to help put Australia 1-0 up in the Ashes.
But Lord's and that incident seemed to change the course of his year.
Later at the ODI World Cup, having been a bedrock of Australia's ODI side for four years and even captaining them in three matches in 2021, he was axed after one match. The axing was yet another thing to process in what has been a difficult year.
"I was surprised," Carey said on Monday. "Obviously really disappointed to lose my spot there. But, I guess once that news was delivered it was, I guess process it, try to learn from it and then go to work in the nets."
Returning home for a Test summer has offered a chance for a reset. There was some external noise about his Test place but he was never in any danger with coach Andrew McDonald confirming he is Australia's No.1 Test wicketkeeper without doubt despite his ODI omission.
"He's our number one choice in Test cricket," McDonald said on Sunday. "Our view on that hasn't changed for a period of time and don't see it changing in the immediate future."
The two formats and the roles he plays in each are not intertwined. His ODI axing was as much about the overall composition of Australia's World Cup winning top seven as it was about Carey's form. The dynamism and flexibility of Josh Inglis was a better fit to complement a middle order that ended up featuring two anchor-type players in Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne.
Alex Carey remains Australia's "number one choice" in Test cricket•ICC/Getty Images
Carey said the axing in India allowed him a chance to reset his goals and rebuild his game with the help of former Zimbabwe wicketkeeper batter Andy Flower and Australia's batting coach Michael Di Venuto.
"The silver lining is I had a mini pre-season over there as well," Carey said. "Always being ready to play but I was able to, I guess pick my game apart and work with some new faces and with different minds in the game. Having Andy Flower over there was great as well.
"Now he's a fantastic bloke. And working alongside Michael Di Venuto was great. Different ways to look at the game. Certain areas to score.
"It was nice just to get different opinions and talk to different people."
Carey was able to parlay that hard work into a well compiled 81 on return to Sheffield Shield cricket last week. He was pleased he was able to make an adjustment in-game after failing in the first innings.
"It was nice to get back out in the middle and play and compete," Carey said.
"First innings to second innings, I probably a little bit of a tweak as well just in the mindset of playing again. It was good to get out and play a game after two or three months in the nets. It's a little bit different out the middle."
Carey looked in good touch at WACA ground on Sunday in Australia's first training session back together as a Test side. He worked one on one with Di Venuto in the nets looking to hit as straight as possible, a long-held batting philosophy on Perth's bouncy pitches.
He handled a very brisk spell from Lance Morris in a centre-wicket net and looked as comfortable as anyone against the high pace.
While Carey's batting returns in the Border-Gavaskar series and his diminishing returns in England were cause for alarm, it's worth remembering that he made a century in his last Test innings in Australia against South Africa in Melbourne. He insisted his self-belief has not wavered.
"My self-belief has always been really strong," Carey said. "All I can do is sort of control what I can do and continue to prepare and find ways to get better. I'm excited to get out there and play."