Smith writes of high regard for keeper Wade
STEVE Smith has heaped praise on Matthew Wade's contribution and potential in Test cricket, providing renewed hope to the embattled wicketkeeper that he can still save himself from the Ashes axe.
The dogs are barking that Wade is dead man walking in the lead-up to the first Test at the Gabba, with NSW gloveman Peter Nevill the firm favourite to return.
Former Test great Ian Healy believes selectors may have already foreshadowed their intentions by "disrespectfully" dropping Wade for a one-day match in India.
Smith pulled no punches after the series in Bangladesh about where Wade stood with an average of just 20 from 10 Tests back in the side - declaring it was either immediate runs in the Sheffield Shield or bust for the Tasmanian.
However, in his new book The Journey, Smith has opened up in fascinating detail on the high regard he holds for Wade as a leader and his belief that if given time, the 29-year-old has a bright future in Australian cricket.
It is clear Smith was a huge supporter of the call to recall Wade at Nevill's expense after the Hobart disaster against South Africa midway through last summer, when five players were culled.
Still, the question 12 months on is how much time can Wade be given, but at the very least, Smith's account has highlighted what a massive call it would be to dump the wicketkeeper and team "sounding board" on the eve of the Ashes.
"Matthew is someone I've known since the Australian Institute of Sport tour of India in 2007 and we have always got on well," Smith writes in his book.
"A journalist once told me he regarded Matthew as the cricketing equivalent of a stone in your shoe and although that might not sound all that flattering, in terms of the impact he has on the opposition, I think it is an accurate and positive portrayal of what he brings to the table.
"I like his grittiness, his energy both on and off the field, I like the fact he's vocal on the field and I like the feisty way he's' willing to get stuck in.
"Matthew likes to be involved in the sticky situations on the ground, something he's done already on several occasions with success in limited-overs cricket, and although he had a modest time with the bat in the Test summer of 2016-17 I think of him as someone who will get more success the more he plays in the longest form of the game.
"He's good to have around the group as he reads the game well and I have found him to be an excellent sounding board for ideas out on the field. He is certainly a player I enjoy having in my team."
The equation appears pretty simple for Wade - he likely must score a Sheffield Shield hundred in the coming three matches, starting with Tasmania's opening round clash against Western Australia in Perth.
It's understood Wade feels such damning criticism of his batting record is harsh, given 12 of his 22 career Test matches have taken place in either the sub-continent or spinning West Indies.
Wade scored a ton in one of his 10 home Tests at the SCG back in 2013 and is adamant he can prove his batting worth if given a full summer on favourable, bouncy pitches.
However, the fact Wade's overall first-class record has slipped below 40 to an average of 37.57 indicates his run-making has gone backwards in recent years, and certainly he wasn't in hot form with the bat when he was recalled at Nevill's expense midway through last summer.
Smith said after Bangladesh that Wade had owned up to the group that he was taking personal responsibility for needing runs.
"I think Matty knows (this) himself ... he came out to a few of the guys the other day and said he needed more runs," said Smith at the time.
"He's open and honest about that."
"... hopefully he will get a few big scores and 'keep really well and keep putting his name up."