Alex Carey hopes to play against a full-strength India team when he leads Australia A at the SCG on Friday in his first first-class match for a year, but in terms of his more immediate prospects it is arguably what comes next in for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL that carries more weight.
Carey has lost his place in Australia’s T20I line-up to Matthew Wade, who came in for the final match of the series against England and retained his position for the series against India, having struggled with the middle-order roles he has been given at international level.
With the next T20 World Cup now less than a year away Carey has work to do if he wants to regain a position in the starting XI although his return to the BBL may well highlight one of the biggest challenges: most batsmen what to play in the top four for their BBL sides, but the likely opening in the Australia side is the middle-order finisher which is becoming an increasingly specialist task.
Carey’s record in the BBL is impressive – he averages 36.34 with a strike-rate of 129.22 – however 22 of his 35 innings have come opening with just two being below No. 4. For Australia, 14 of his 18 innings have been at No. 5 or lower. In the IPL for Delhi Capitals he made 32 runs in three innings batting at No. 6.
“If you are batting in the top four you want to bat as deep as possible and get that experience at the back end of the innings anyway, but it’s hard for a player to go back to their franchise and bat six or seven,” Carey said. “Sometimes you don’t even get an opportunity to bat in T20 at that six or seven spot so you do need your best players facing as many balls as possible in the Big Bash.
“Then whatever opportunity does come up for Australia you trust the players have got the skills to bat at six or seven, finish an innings. We’ve seen here in Australia that the top-order batters are so good that it’s hard to get a spot up there at the moment. The challenge is to get that balance between batting top four and then coming back and facing a handful of balls at the end.”
Despite losing his place in the Australia team, Carey is not going to treat this season’s BBL any differently. “I feel like my batting is going really with the opportunities I’ve had in the ODI team in the middle order. Going back to the Strikers I’m really keen and excited to just play some T20 cricket. Of course it will be important, but every game of cricket I play is important as well.”
Before heading the BBL hub, Carey has three days against the Indians in the day-night match which will act as their final preparation for the first Test and an important few days for some of Australia’s Test squad, particularly Joe Burns and Cameron Green. The former is struggling for runs but still likely to play the first Test, the latter is in terrific form but seems unlikely to get a debut just yet.
“If we mention the bloke in form in Cameron Green, the way he’s playing is really exciting to see him up close,” Carey said. “We’ve also got lots of players vying for Test selection so we’ll be going full bore. Excited to see some of the young quicks and [Mitchell] Swepson’s form in the lead-up has been unbelievable as well.
“Joe’s really experienced, we know how good a player he is and no doubt he’ll be working really hard tomorrow to score some runs. Fully trust the way he goes about it, he’s a proven opening batsman over a long time. Joe’s in great spirits…in the nets he’s hitting the ball really well so there’s a big score just around the corner. Seeing him and [Marcus Harris] line-up at the top against a really strong Indian team will be a really great opportunity for both of them.
“We are hoping India put their best line-up out there. It’s a great opportunity for us to play against a high-quality Test team.”
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