Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo
Australia wicketkeeper Matthew Wade is preparing to bat in the middle-to-lower order in the T20 World Cup despite not yet receiving any indications from the selectors or captain Aaron Finch as to what his role will be.
Wade is currently on the second day of his six-day hotel quarantine in Abu Dhabi along with the large majority of the Australia squad that was not involved in the IPL.
He hasn't played any cricket since Australia's disastrous tour of Bangladesh in early August where he captained the side in the absence of Finch. He batted at No.5 in the first two games but was moved to the top in the last three matches in order to simply give him time in the middle due to the difficult nature of the surfaces.
Finch confirmed last week that he and Warner were set to open the batting at the World Cup despite Warner's struggles in the IPL this year and Wade knows where he sits in the pecking order.
"[I'm] preparing more to nail down a middle-order to lower-order role at the moment," Wade said. "Obviously with Davey [Warner] coming back and Aaron didn't play the last series so when I've opened the batting it's been when one of those guys have been missing. It's no secret that they're the best two opening batters that Australia have ever had so those two are going to go up the top. Just reading the between the lines with the way that Mitch [Marsh] played last series he'll probably slot in at the top of the order.
"I suppose my role at the top of the order maybe if we want to go a little bit harder and if they want a left-hander, maybe I'll go in then, but apart from that, I'll see myself settle in probably in the middle-to-lower order.
"I haven't had extensive conversations with Finchy and JL [coach Justin Langer] and Bails [selector George Bailey] about this yet but I've been around long enough to know where I probably sit within the team and that's why my training has been tailored towards getting used to that lower order.
"I've known for a long period of time that they want me to be versatile in the position that I can play and that's what I'll do."
The role of Australia's wicketkeeper has been a problematic one in the Finch-Warner opening era. Australia's four best T20 wicketkeeping options in Wade, Josh Inglis, Alex Carey, and Josh Philippe have all had most of their success in domestic T20 cricket as openers.
Since Wade's reintroduction into the T20I team in early 2020, he has batted outside of the top three just six times in 22 innings. In the 14 innings, he has opened he struck at 144.33 with two half-centuries against India. In all T20 cricket, he has opened 60 times in 149 matches striking at 149.48 with one century and 13 half-centuries. He has batted at every other spot in the order down to number 8 but does not strike at above 125 in any of those positions.
The selection of Inglis in Australia's World Cup squad, without having made his international debut, has added another dynamic given his good domestic record in the middle-order for the Perth Scorchers, particularly against spin. Albeit, Inglis has only batted 17 times in the middle order and 13 of those have been at No.3-4.
But if Inglis played in front of Wade, Australia would have just one left-hander in their top seven. Wade does not believe the pair will be switched in and out of the role throughout the tournament depending on conditions or the opposition and he expects to be the first-choice wicketkeeper in the World Cup.
"No I wouldn't have thought that we'll be swapped in and out from game to game," Wade said. "They'll make a decision at the start of the tournament and that player will play the tournament I would have thought. I played the last series and I'm confident that I'll play this series. We'll wait and see. But I don't think it will be a horses for courses type thing."
Despite Wade's modest statistical record in the middle-order, he is comfortable his experience in the role in ODI cricket for Australia and at various times across his career will hold him in good stead, particularly if the surfaces in the UAE throw up some challenges, as they did in the recent tour of Bangladesh.
"We're not sure if we're reusing those [IPL] pitches or if they've got new pitches for us so the first week in our prep is going to be really judging what the conditions are going to be like and then obviously that dictates how we'll go about at the end," Wade said. "There's plenty of ways to get it done at the back end. A lot of guys have power. I feel like I've got the power if I need to find boundaries but obviously, if conditions are going to be hard work, then it's going to be, you know like a Mike Hussey type role. You've got to try and hit it over those box men [midwicket and cover] and run as hard as you can."