Wicketkeeper replaces former captain Tim Paine
Series against England begins at the Gabba next week
Alex Carey will live out a boyhood dream when he is presented with his baggy green cap on the Gabba pitch next week. The wicketkeeper is poised to make his Test debut in the Ashes series opener in Brisbane after being added to Australia’s squad on Thursday to fill the hole left by the departed Tim Paine.
Carey had been widely expected to be named as Paine’s replacement behind the stumps after the former captain stood down from all cricket for mental health reasons in the wake of the texting scandal that has overshadowed Australia’s preparations for the series.
Carey was preferred to the uncapped Josh Inglis and, after being told by the national selection panel chair, George Bailey, of his inclusion in the 15-man squad, said he was “incredibly excited and humbled” by the opportunity in the longest form of the game.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to represent my country at the highest level,” he said. “Over the past two or three years it’s been a goal so I’ve been trying to work as hard as I can to reach that point. I’m just super proud to get the opportunity.
“It’s Test cricket and it’s a dream come true. But my job is to focus on what I’ve done in the past to get to this moment and not get too overwhelmed by it.”
Carey has been a regular member of the national side in white ball cricket and has represented Australia in 45 one-day internationals and 38 T20 matches. Earlier this year he served as stand-in ODI skipper.
He was overlooked for the T20 World Cup as selectors opted for Inglis as reserve keeper, allowing him plenty of opportunity to state his Test case in domestic cricket. His form with the bat at home had been underwhelming – he made 50 in just one of eight Sheffield Shield innings and returned a total of just 18 runs in his last five – until a timely century for South Australia on Sunday boosted his chances of a call-up.
“I really enjoy my batting and I feel like over the last couple of years it’s been quite consistent in first-class cricket,” he said. “I guess, for me, it’s [to] not go away from what’s helped me get to this situation – prepare pretty normally, hit enough balls to feel good and also catch a few balls.”
Chief selector Bailey said the 30-year-old Carey was a deserved recipient of baggy green cap No 461. “He is an excellent cricketer and a fine individual who will bring many great strengths into the team,” he said.
The door was opened to Carey as scandal engulfed Paine two weeks ago when he resigned as Test captain after it became clear to him that details of explicit text messages sent to a female former colleague in 2017 were about to be made public.
Paine last week announced he would take an indefinite leave of absence from the game on mental health grounds following the scandal, which has likely signalled the end of his international career.
“We all know there’s a lot going on at the moment,” Carey said. “My first thoughts are with Tim and his family. The full squad has got their arms around him so hopefully we will see him back soon. We know how good a captain and wicketkeeper he has been for Australia.”
Carey’s selection comes after Inglis returned home to Western Australia this week and will instead play for Australia A in a tour match against the England Lions.
“I know how good a player Josh is,” Carey said. “Not too long ago he and I were up here at the NCC [National Cricket Centre in Brisbane], we were training alongside each other. He’s a great person and a good friend of mine and he’s got such a bright future for this country.
“But I try not to worry about my competition. All I can do is work as hard as I possibly can and try to do my job for the team and everything else takes care of itself. I try not to waste too much time focusing on things that are out of my control.”
Just one selection conundrum now remains for Australia before the first ball is bowled at the Gabba next Wednesday, with batters Travis Head and Usman Khawaja in a straight fight for the No 5 spot.