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Matthew Wade: 'When you go in feeling like every tournament is your last, it's funny how open-minded it makes you'

The Australia wicketkeeper-batter talks about finding a second wind as a finisher, even as the end of his international career looms

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Once more with feeling: Wade is hoping to reprise his star turn as finisher this T20 World Cup  •  Getty Images

Once more with feeling: Wade is hoping to reprise his star turn as finisher this T20 World Cup  •  Getty Images

Matthew Wade took on a new role in Australia's T20 side shortly before the last World Cup and went on to play one of the innings of the tournament in the semi-final against Pakistan. Now, a year later, he has enjoyed a golden run as a finisher and will look to do it again on home soil. He spoke about the unexpected route the latter stage of his international career has taken.
Let's start, maybe, at the end. Is it safe to assume that this tournament will be your final weeks in Australian colours?
We'll wait and see. I'm just excited to be able to play a home World Cup so late in my international career. I'm not really thinking too far forward now - every tournament in the last couple of years has felt like it could potentially be my last - so if that's the case with this one, all good, if not, we'll see what happens.
Have the last 12 months or so felt like a bit of a bonus late in your career, a chance you thought you might not get, particularly with the way it's played out in a new role?
Yeah, probably. I was opening the batting for a few years for Hobart [Hurricanes] then came back into the T20 team and opened in a few games when Finchy [Aaron Finch] and Davey [David Warner] weren't available, so it felt like I was probably a top-order player. Then the last 18 months it's kind of swung around quite quickly - I've gone down the order and really enjoyed it. It was probably something I needed later on in my career, a different challenge. Partnering up with Stoin [Marcus Stoinis] down there has been huge, and now I've got Tim David as well, who I've played a lot of cricket with. We are starting to get some good camaraderie there - playing together quite consistently is helping that. I've enjoyed the last 12-18 months in a different role and watching some guys grow around me as well.
Going back to before the last T20 World Cup, at what point did the conversations start about taking on the finisher job?
It was probably the West Indies tour, where I batted down there in a couple of games, and then Bangladesh. You'll see it more and more: for experienced players that have had quite a lot of international cricket, it's probably a little easier to go down and try and establish a different role in the team. You've already played enough games and you aren't so worried about the misses you are going to have down the order.
It was more around how can we get Mitch [Marsh] into the team and get the best impact out of him. The people at the top felt his best role was going to be early in the innings and he did it terrifically well in the World Cup, and since then as well. So when Mitch went to three in the West Indies, it was, well, someone is going to have to go down the order. And the way I can lap and play behind the wicket helps towards the back end. They thought it was going to be a nice combination and it worked out pretty well to be honest.
What sort of mindset do you have in the middle during a chase? Some finishers like to break it down in a very detailed way, or base it on the number of sixes needed, for example.
I probably don't map it out as much. I know Stoin certainly maps it out, and Tim David - I've batted with him a few times - maps it out with how many sixes we may need to break down the run chase. I'm more... whatever the situation of the game I just need 100% commitment to what I'm doing, whether we are looking to go hard, or we are going to absorb a little bit of pressure or target this guy. As long as I have a pretty clear understanding and commit fully to what I'm trying to do, I'm usually pretty good. I'm not a big scoreboard watcher, although you know roundabout what you need. The other guys break it down a little more.
Do you train specifically for the middle-order role, differently than you would when opening?
I certainly train for lower-order hitting and am trying to develop a new shot every 12 months. I lap behind the wicket, I'm working on trying to do it the other way - go over the off side behind the wicket. They [oppositions] change the field, they change tactics pretty much every time you come up against a different team. So I'm trying to add to my game, which is something you don't have to do quite so much at the top of the order; you can just bank on watching the ball and hitting it. You only have to clear the infield and you can get away with it a little. Over the last 12 months I've had to develop some different scoring options and I'll keep looking to do that.
You mentioned Tim David earlier, he's the one new member of this squad. You know him well from Hobart Hurricanes. What has stood out for you as he's transitioned to the Australia side?
The most obvious thing is the tremendous amount of power he brings to the table. But he's not an out-and-out walk-out-and-hit-everything-for-six kind of player, he's got really good game smarts as well. We saw that against West Indies. He can bat normally and soak a bit of pressure up, then back his power.
I think every kid - and Tim's in this category - grows up playing T20s and thankfully they have opportunities coming thick and fast and they don't take failure like we used to, they move on quickly. Tim does that really well. It's been one thing that's impressed me when he's come into the international scene. If he misses out one game, he'll come out and hit the next ball for six. That's something that usually takes a lot of experience at this level, but the guys now playing around the world, they know their game so well.
Throughout your career across all formats you've taken on nearly every role possible - you've even bowled a bit. Is that versatility something you take pride in?
Yeah, it is. I think it's something that can happen more regularly, to be honest. A lot of players generally start at the top of the order and if you can face a swinging ball and a ball that nips around, then you can adapt anywhere in the order. You've got to have an open mind. A lot of players like to be in the one position and that's it, but to be very adaptable is something I'm proud of and happy to do. Can certainly see a lot more players now working their way up and down the order.
I think the days have gone where you can be a one-position player - you have to be able to cover all positions and it's probably more about situations of the game. There's some guys I play with that can do it really well. Ben McDermott is one - he started down the order at four and now he's opening so he's starting to get some experience up and down the order. Davey's done it, and you saw Finchy do it in the last series. So it's happening regularly and the more experienced players will find their way up and down the order to get those younger players in and give them the best opportunity at the top, like we did with Greeny [Cameron Green].
How would you compare Matthew Wade now to what he was like earlier in his career?
When I had my first daughter is probably when my life changed a lot, as everyone who has had a family knows. So I'm a lot more relaxed, cricket isn't the be-all and end-all. If it doesn't work out, I go home and thankfully I've got life sorted away from the cricket ground, which makes it a lot easier to turn up every day and enjoy what you are doing.
Every tournament in the last few years has felt like it could be my last. It's funny when you go in with that mindset how open-minded you are, and I probably take it all in more than I used to. You can get tunnel vision at international level and just worry about your performance, but now I feel like I have a better understanding of being able to find time to relax and soak in the atmosphere of these kinds of tournaments. This World Cup will be one of those moments that will be packed houses, hopefully. SCG [against New Zealand] and MCG [against England], they will be two really big games and I'm just excited to take it all in.
Are there things you wished you had known earlier in your career?
Absolutely. Once I gave up wicketkeeping in the longer formats, that was something that really relaxed my mind. I found the game a lot shorter and it was a lot easier to find time to switch off, which in turn makes you a lot fresher throughout the whole summer. At times I wish I knew to relax a little, but unfortunately, you have to go through all that - Stoinis talks about the scar tissue you've got to build as a player. A young player, or any player, is going to fail more than they succeed, and it's understanding how to learn from that and not take it too personally.
Coming back to this tournament, has it felt like a different build-up compared to a year ago?
We have been playing a lot. It feels like we've been in a bit of a grind. And we haven't had all the boys back, which is similar to the last World Cup. We've chopped and changed, so it's only really been the last game or so that we've started to settle down on the line-up, which is something we are familiar with. Last time we weren't sure until we got there basically. It's really important to take a lot of the pressure off. There will be a lot of external expectations, but you've got to have a lot of things go right and be peaking at the right times. Feels like we have the team to put us in positions to win games, it's just, we've got to take those moments. We want to make sure we are keeping it fun and relaxed. All you can do in T20 is really back your skill set. Some days it will work, some it won't.
If this tournament does provide a finishing point to your international career, have you thought about what's next?
I really don't know at the moment. I'm contracted with Tassie for another 12 months after this. I'll probably get to the end of this season and sit down to work out what it really looks like. I still really enjoy playing Shield cricket. I'd love to win another Shield, but I'll think about it towards the back end of the BBL. I've got a young family and have travelled for a long period of time now.
Overall, it sounds like you won't have any regrets.
Nah, not at all. I've been playing for 15 years and I never thought I'd get ten Shield games, let alone play as much as I have. When you are in the grind you don't really look back on it and it's something I'm trying not to do at the moment, but I'll take my career and run with it.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo