'Super-excited' Carey wins race to be Australian keeper for Ashes

By: AFP      Published: 10:16 AM, 2 Dec, 2021
'Super-excited' Carey wins race to be Australian keeper for Ashes
File photo of Alex Carey.

Alex Carey called it "a boyhood dream" as he won the race Thursday to be Australia's wicketkeeper for the first two Ashes Tests against England after scandal-hit Tim Paine stepped down.

The 30-year-old Carey has played plenty of limited-overs cricket for Australia and stood in as the one-day captain in the West Indies this year, but is yet to feature in a Test match.

That will change in Brisbane next week, barring any late mishaps, after he was added to the 15-man squad.

"Alex has been a regular member of the national side in white-ball cricket, particularly in the one-day game," said chief selector George Bailey.

"He is an excellent cricketer and a fine individual who will bring many great strengths into the team."

Carey and fellow gloveman Josh Inglis were in a showdown for the role, but the writing was on the wall after Inglis returned home to Perth this week when Australia's planned intra-squad match in Brisbane fell victim to rain.

Carey has long been considered the understudy to Paine, but Inglis' superb domestic form in recent seasons saw him vault into contention.

"I am incredibly humbled by this opportunity. It's an exciting build-up for what is a huge series ahead," said Carey, adding that he had "a smile from ear to ear". 

"We all know there is a lot going on at the moment and my first thoughts are with Tim (Paine) and his family. Hopefully we see him back here soon. The full squad is with him and his family."

Carey got the nod after Paine quit as Test captain and then last week stepped away from cricket over a text-message scandal, leaving selectors scrambling for an alternative just ahead of the December 8 first Test.

While Carey was overlooked for Australia's T20 squad that won the World Cup last month, with Inglis preferred, it ultimately worked in his favour with plenty of domestic red-ball cricket under his belt in recent weeks.

"I feel like my lead-in has been pretty good and super-excited to get the call," he said.

"To hopefully have full stands, an Ashes series on home soil, it's really boyhood dreams coming true and excited to prepare as best I can."

Australia's starting eleven is now largely locked in, although selectors need to decide between Usman Khawaja and Travis Head at number five after incumbent Matthew Wade was axed from the squad.

There has also been some chatter that paceman Jhye Richardson might be preferred to Mitchell Starc.

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (capt), Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner.

Warner thrives on criticism

David Warner might be a polarising figure but the aggressive opening batsman is rarely boring and his heroics for Australia at the Twenty20 World Cup signalled he is back to his explosive best.

Now 35, the larger-than-life Warner boasts an average just shy of 50 from his 86 Tests, with his swashbuckling presence able to turn a game.

Even England bowler and fellow veteran Jimmy Anderson, who will go eyeball to eyeball with his old foe when the Ashes begin on December 8 in Brisbane, has grudging respect.

"We've played so much cricket against David Warner, we know you can never say you're actually on top of him -- he's that good of a batter, he's got that much quality," Anderson told Fox Sports.

"His record in Australia is ridiculous, so we know it's going to be a different animal to the one we faced in 2019 in our summer."

An attacking left-hander, Warner will feel he has unfinished business after a miserable Ashes on English soil in 2019 where he tallied just 95 runs at an average of only 9.5.

Stuart Broad was his nemesis, dismissing him seven times.

But as Anderson alluded to, his form in Australia is ominous.

Warner has scored 4,551 of his 7,311 Test runs at home, smacking 18 centuries at an average of 63.20 from his 45 Tests, plundering a highest score of 335.

Former Australian captain Greg Chappell warned that he should never be underestimated.

"Many had written him off before the T20 World Cup, only to have him prove how important he is at the top of the order," he said, referring to Warner finding form again in leading Australia to the title last month.

"I think he is even more important in the Test line-up," added Chappell.

"A skilful, fast-scoring opening batsman can be invaluable in setting up the game. Teams with aggressive openers cause opposition captains and bowlers to toss and turn at night."

- 'Poking the bear' -

Warner made a modest debut in Brisbane 10 years ago but then carried his bat with a career-defining century in his second game at Hobart to signal his arrival.

He went on to establish himself as one of the best all-format openers in the world, before it all came crashing down and his reputation was trashed.

Warner was cast as the villain in the "Sandpaper-gate" ball-tampering scandal against South Africa in 2018, having conspired with Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith to alter the ball during the third Test in Cape Town.

He became a pariah, widely seen as a central figure in the cultural crisis that engulfed Australian cricket. He was stripped of the vice-captaincy and banned from ever holding a leadership role again in the team.

Warner served a 12-month ban before being called up again, and promptly picked up where he left off, enjoying a prolific one-day World Cup before his poor Ashes series in 2019 that again had the critics writing him off.

But in typical fashion, he bounced back emphatically by scoring an epic unbeaten 335 against Pakistan in Adelaide later that year.

Another lean spell this year cost him his place on his Indian Premier League team, but once more he proved the doubters wrong with his T20 World Cup exploits.

Aaron Finch, skipper of Australia's triumphant T20 team, said Warner thrived on criticism.

"Can't believe people wrote him off," he said. 

"That's when he plays his best cricket. It was almost like poking the bear." 

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.