An understated influence on Australian cricket in recent years, it’s only now that Matthew Wade’s contributions to the national team are getting due recognition. None of Wade’s highlights have been better than the keeper-batter’s effort to persevere through injury in the recent T20 World Cup Final.
Although he may have looked like he was heading into the cut-throat decider against New Zealand at the peak of his powers after dominating Pakistan in the semi-final win, Wade was actually struggling to limp to the line, suffering a grade 2 calf strain the day before the final against New Zealand.
“The day before the game, on the second last ball before the end of the session I did my side, so I snuck off and got a scan,” Wade said.
“They never told me the results, so I played it by ear and managed to fight my way through the game, which was nice.”
“I strained my side, I’m not exactly sure how bad it was, but it’ll be two or three weeks off, which is totally worth it in the end.”
It may sound like Wade’s toughness was an easy choice throughout a stressful T20 World Cup period, but it was never simple. He spent the night before the final worrying he would wake up too sore to take part in the biggest game of his cricketing career.
“I hit some balls before the game and tried to bluff my way through that, which I managed to get through,” he said.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure I’d get up, I was worried if we batted first and I had to go as hard as I could, then if I tore it then I wouldn’t be able to keep, which would hurt the team a lot.”
“I was always going to go out there and play, they would have had to strap me to the bed to stop me.”
But the injury cloud surrounding Wade didn’t just prevent the keeper himself from getting a restful sleep – Australian captain Aaron Finch was also worried about how Wade would pull up.
Having been so instrumental in the semi-final in his partnership with all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, Wade would’ve been a massive loss, even if they could’ve gotten squad member Josh Inglis in to replace him as keeper during the contest.
“There was always a little bit of fear, after he played so well in the semi-final it was scary,” Finch said.
“He didn’t want to get a scan nor know the result, but I knew it, having a grade two tear in his side was always going to be tough, but if anyone was going to play it would be him, you’d have to cut his leg off for him to miss.”
“He did everything required of him, I saw him in pain with a couple of dives and throws, but he was never going to miss.”
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Pushing through pain may not always be the best way forward for an elite sportsperson, but for Wade, it has now gifted him his career highlight. It caps off a remarkable period where the Tasmanian has managed to return to the test squad and play a vital role in Australia retaining the Ashes in 2019, as well as now returning to the T20 international fold to help deliver the men their maiden World Cup crown in the shorter format.
Both Wade and his teammate Marcus Stoinis believe his motivation to prove the naysayers wrong has been critical to his stunning return to international cricket.
“There’s always been a bond there between us and it is different when you go in and your back’s against the wall, and ‘Wadey’ loves having his back against the wall – he almost puts his own back up against it because he wants to pump himself up,” Stoinis said.
“I never thought I’d get the opportunity to play again, but I thought white-ball cricket was the furthest away to getting back into the team,” Wade said.
“To win is pretty special, but I think I’ll always be looking at it as my last opportunity to play for Australia because it’s the best way for me to look at it.”
With Australia still basking in the glow of their success, they will quickly turn their eyes to defending the Ashes this summer and then defending their T20 crown on home soil next year. Having seen many of his teammates past and present win the 2015 ODI World Cup on Australian shores, Wade is hoping he’ll be there to defend the crown and bow out in a fairy tale finish.
“I thought the horse had bolted – to see guys who you’ve played with for a long time win a one-day World Cup, it certainly drives you to try and achieve what you can,” Wade said.
“(Next year’s World Cup) would be a nice endpoint, when the dust settles it’ll be my next motivation to get to it and defend the title so I can sail into the sunset, I definitely won’t be playing beyond that point, so my goal will be to try and make it and win it.”
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