Chief selector George Bailey declared there was “zero discussion” on whether Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey was at risk of losing his Test spot despite a lean run with the bat.
Carey, who has donned the gloves for Australia’s Test side since former captain Tim Paine stepped away from cricket in 2021, became the centre of a global cricket controversy during this year’s Ashes tour after stumping England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow at Lord’s.
The South Australian’s performance with the bat and gloves dwindled as the Ashes series progressed, registering scores of 8, 5, 20, 10 and 28 after the Lord’s Test. His form slump continued into the ODI format, losing his position in the white-ball team to West Australian gloveman Josh Inglis during the recent World Cup camping in India.
Between March 2022 and June 2023, Carey averaged 37.90 with the bat at international level, but since July, that figure has slipped to 16.76.
“We know how dangerous Alex can be. I don’t think he’s looked the same since the Jonny Bairstow stumping,” Paine told SEN recently.
After returning to Australia last week, Carey said he was confident of retaining his Test spot despite watching most of the World Cup from the sidelines.
“I don’t feel like one-day and Test cricket probably overlay,” Carey told reporters in Adelaide Oval.
“I’m smashing them in the nets; I think I’ve scored about 500 in the nets, so I’m feeling good.”
Carey backed up those remarks last week, top-scoring for the Redbacks in the second innings of a Sheffield Shield contest against Victoria, notching a classy 81 at Adelaide Oval. Perhaps more importantly, the 32-year-old was exceptional behind the stumps, pouching eight catches and leaking just four byes across 148 overs in the field.
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On Sunday morning, Carey was named in Australia’s 14-player squad for the first Test of the home summer against Pakistan in Perth, with Bailey brushing aside any concerns about his position as the nation’s premier Test gloveman.
“We’ve consistently said that we separate the formats, so there’s no link at all between the one-day team and the Test team,” Bailey told reporters on Sunday afternoon.
“Kez has spoken about the fact he found it a bit of a weird World Cup, and at times he was frustrated, and we fully respect that. I imagine anyone who was in that World Cup squad who ended up missing out playing in the final XI would have been disappointed.”
Bailey emphasised that Carey “worked his backside off” to improve his cricket throughout the World Cup and continued having a positive impact on the team environment while running drinks.
“I thought that spoke volumes of Kez, the way he did that throughout the tournament, and anyone that knows Alex probably would say that’s what you’d expect. That’s the type of person he is, and that’s the player that we love,” Bailey continued.
“He batted beautifully this week (in the Sheffield Shield), and we fully expect that he’s going to have a wonderful summer.”
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Legendary wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist confessed he was surprised Carey was dropped from the ODI side after one World Cup match, backing the South Australian to rediscover his best during the home Test summer.
“(Carey’s axing) was puzzling for mine. I’m not the only person to have said that. It was an interesting tactical move after one game,” Gilchrist told Fox Cricket last month, adding he “hadn’t considered” Carey not playing the Perth Test against Pakistan.
“If anything it will allow Kez to cleanse himself of everything and turn his focus purely to that first Test match. That will be a great opportunity to show his value to Australian cricket.
“Through his one-day career, he’s been prepared to do whatever the team has asked of him and has been needed – open the batting, bat in the top five, be a finisher, bat at No. 6 or No. 7. In a short space of time, he’s covered a lot of bases.
“I love the guy, and I love blokes like that around team setups, and this Test summer will be where he really shows and proves his worth to the Australian Test team.”
Gilchrist was impressed with Inglis’ performances throughout the World Cup, particularly the West Australian’s glovework on the tricky subcontinent wickets. He encouraged the 28-year-old to continue pushing for a Test debut and creating a “healthy” rivalry with Carey moving forward.
“It was inevitable that (Inglis) would become a regular international cricketer,” Gilchrist continued.
“His wicketkeeping is absolutely sound. I think he’s got a really, nice natural pair of hands … I’ve been really impressed with him.
“He’s a wonderful all-round cricketer, and epitomises what modern players are. He’s got all the hallmarks and foundations of traditional cricket, really well supported by the trick shots and creativity of modern cricketers.
“He may well put some pressure on Kez if Kez slips up, but I think it’s a nice, healthy situation where we’ve got bases covered.
“No position’s sacred or safe beyond someone having a crack at it if they mount up some sizeable pressure.”
The series opener between Australia and Pakistan gets underway at Perth Stadium on December 14, with the first ball scheduled for 1.20pm AEDT.