Who should be Australia’s next Test wicket-keeper?

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19 Nov 2021 | 08:20 AM
authorAnirudh Suresh

Who should be Australia’s next Test wicket-keeper?

In the wake of Tim Paine quitting captaincy, we look at the candidates who can succeed him in the XI should the 36-year-old be dropped altogether

With Tim Paine quitting captaincy weeks prior to the commencement of the Ashes, the Australian selectors have little to no time to zero-in on a successor, at least a temporary one. But the problem could very well get compounded should the management also decide to move on from Paine as a player. It is not unthinkable, given the Tasmanian has, to date, held on to his place in the XI primarily due to being the captain.

So, should Paine be axed altogether from the XI, who will be his successor? We look at the potential candidates and evaluate their pros and cons.

The key candidates: Alex Carey, Josh Inglis and Jimmy Peirson 

Evaluating the candidates

Alex Carey

Australia’s long-term number one wicket-keeper in the 50-over format, Alex Carey is the front-runner to take over the gloves from Tim Paine, should the latter be axed as a player. The previous selection committee made it clear that Carey, in their eyes, was the successor by naming him in the Test squad for the canceled series versus South Africa, and now he will have a chance to prove himself representing Australia ‘A’ prior to The Ashes.

Overall first-class record

2461 runs @ 35.66, 5 hundreds

Sheffield Shield record in last 2 seasons

12 innings, 447 runs @ 44.7, 1 hundred and 2 fifties

The Argument for

Having already played 83 times for Australia in international cricket, Carey is a well-tested, well-experienced, ready-made fit. He already knows the ins and outs of the Australian environment, having now spent nearly 4 years in the white-ball set-up, and hence would need no time to settle. 

He is also arguably the best batsmen of the lot, and his credentials were on display in the warm-up game at the SCG last year, where, in testing conditions, he scored 32 and 58 against an Indian attack that featured Shami, Bumrah and Siraj. 

Needless to say, he has a sparkling record as a batter in ODIs, something that also serves as a good indicator of his ability. 

The Argument against

The biggest argument often made against Carey is the fact that his glovework in red-ball cricket is not great. Or at least nowhere near some of the other contenders. Thereby his selection might depend on whether the management will be willing to give precedence to batting over keeping.

With regards to batting, meanwhile, Carey is not a natural No.7, having predominantly played at No.5 for South Australia. Across the last two Shield seasons, all of Carey’s 12 innings have come at the No.5 position. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for it clearly indicates that he is a reliable batsman, but it might work against him should the selectors see other keepers as better fits for the No.7 role. For all we know, Carey might be in the selection mix as a batter, not as a keeper.

Josh Inglis

Part of Australia’s T20 World Cup winning squad, Inglis had a breakthrough Shield season last year, and has been earmarked by many, including the great Adam Gilchrist, to be the country’s long-term all-format wicket-keeper in the future. The last twelve months have seen fans and experts alike clamour for the 26-year-old to be in the Test side, and he, like Carey, will have the chance to impress in the Australia ‘A’ games prior to the Ashes. 

Overall first-class record

2246 runs @ 34.03, 3 hundreds

Sheffield Shield record in last 2 seasons

14 innings, 626 runs @ 62.6, 3 hundreds and 2 fifties

The Argument for 

The youngest of all contenders, Josh Inglis has been lighting up Australian cricket since the start of 2020, and he showcased his red-ball credentials in the Shield last season. A 585-run season where he averaged 73 with the bat, and finished with 25 dismissals to his name, saw Inglis be named in the Shield team of the season, and he has been in the Test conversations ever since. 

Where Inglis edges out Carey is two areas: one, his glovework and two, the brand of cricket he plays. Inglis is renowned to be one of the best keepers in the country, and his glovework alone has seen a portion of people push for his selection. And unlike the incumbent Paine or the rumored front-runner Carey, Inglis is from the Adam Gilchrist school of batting, where he habitually counter-punches and decimates bowlers batting at No.7. 

The right-hander has an overall FC strike rate of 62 but this rose to a staggering 85.02 last season. He is your quintessential aggressive keeper who bats lower down the order and has the ability to change the course of matches in the span of a few overs.

The Argument against

The single biggest argument against Inglis is the fact that all this clamouring has come on the back of one great season; we are yet to see if he can sustain this consistency. Inglis had an astonishing campaign with the bat last time around, yes, but it is worth noting that he averaged below 25 in first-class cricket prior to the commencement of the 2020/21 season. 

Therefore, with age on his side, the management might expect a couple of more good seasons before pulling the trigger on Inglis. And they will be justified, given it has only been 18 months since he has gotten his breakthrough. 

Jimmy Peirson

An outside-candidate to take over the gloves from Paine, Queensland’s Jimmy Peirson is arguably the most well-established keeper in the Australian domestic circuit. Having now played first-class cricket for more than half-a-decade, Peirson is an experienced-campaigner who is currently in the prime of his career.

Overall first-class record

2116 runs @ 33.06, 3 hundreds

Sheffield Shield record in last 2 seasons

15 innings, 667 runs @ 47.64, 3 hundreds and 4 fifties

The Argument for

Jimmy Peirson is essentially everything that Josh Inglis is, except he is more experienced and more established. And, to add to that, he is also a leader figure. At 29, Peirson fully understands his game and his numbers across the last two seasons are reflective of a player who is at his very peak.

Peirson had an outstanding season with the bat last year, averaging nearly 45, but most impressively he’s been able to back it up this year, as his average of 53.00 suggests. He is one of just three batters to have struck multiple Shield hundreds this season, and what also makes his claim strong is his approach, which, like Inglis, is aggressive (as his SR of 65 suggests). 

Peirson is also regarded as one of the best keepers in the country. Across the last two Shield seasons, no one has more dismissals than his 37. 

The Argument against

There are a couple of factors that go against Peirson. For one, he is the same age as Carey but with absolutely no international pedigree or experience. And unlike Inglis, he has not broken the door down with a ground-breaking season that demands selection. Peirson, across the last two seasons, has been a very good wicket-keeper who has showcased great consistency, but that is about it. 

There has, at least to date, been no great incentive for the management to take a leap of faith on him. For that to happen, he might have to endure a kind of season like Inglis did in 2020/21, a campaign that will turn heads and attract eyeballs. 

The Wildcard Option: Matthew Wade

Barring the aforementioned three, there is also the outside chance of the management potentially going back to Matthew Wade. But such a scenario is very, very unlikely, given Wade has not kept wickets in first-class cricket for more than two seasons. 

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AustraliaJosh InglisJimmy PeirsonAlex CareyMatthew WadeTim Paine

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