Wade 3.0: how losing the gloves revived a Test career
MATTHEW Wade's first Ashes century was born out of the gloom and anger of what he had thought could have been the end of his international career.
When Wade was cast aside in 2017, dropped from the Test team for a second time, he decided scoring runs, and loads of them, was his only chance at a way back.
As a result, the 31-year-old is living the dream in his third Test incarnation, a century-maker in the first Test win at Edgbaston and set to walk on to Lord's under a baggy green.
It's an opportunity he thought he might never get, and one he knows will probably never happen again.
So in the crowd will be his eight-week-old daughter, Goldie, who Wade said goodbye to in June, just four days after she was born, her sister Winter, his wife, Julia, his parents and his sister.
They'll watch a man, and a batsman, so comfortable in his skin that another bold showing is more likely than not.
"It feels like I am starting my international career again," Wade said while sitting on a bench in the members' pavilion at the most famous cricket ground in the world.
"Now I am in the mindset that every game that I get is one I didn't think I would get, so I'm actually enjoying the whole experience.
"I am really comfortable with my life. It takes a long time to get comfortable, and I am 31, and I'm as happy as I have ever been.
"Through your 20s, you are always trying to build something, whether that's build a family, get a house, you are always trying to get something more. I am at a stage now where I am not trying to get anything more.
"I am just comfortable and it's reflected in my cricket."
Wade's second innings hundred in Edgbaston, which pushed Australia in to an unbeatable position, got lost in the tsunami of praise for Steve Smith's second century of the match.
Eight years ago, when Wade made his Test debut, that would have irked him.
He said he was just a "battling international cricketer" through his first 22 Tests, always "playing for my spot" and needing every single pat on the back he could get.
But since he decided to focus on becoming a batsman after being dropped for the 2017/18 Ashes in Australia, which led him to drop the wicketkeeping gloves last summer, he doesn't feel that pressure.
"I feel stronger mentally than what I was, even the last crack I had at Test cricket. Dropping the gloves off, mentally it has freed me up," he said.
"The game doesn't feel anywhere near as long. I always felt pressure when I was keeping, then going in to bat, I always felt under pressure. I'd never really cracked it as an international cricketer, I was under pressure every game I played and I felt that.
"The last Test, I enjoyed it, I relaxed with the bat, and I can trust myself more these days."
He's a different presence in the dressing room too, and his teammates, most of whom he has played with or against for over a decade, have noticed.
Wade even felt the love from the cricket-watching public, who wanted the one man who was making loads of runs at domestic level to get the crack he deserved in a Test middle-order full of plenty who weren't.
"I feel like I have the respect of the playing group, and players around the country, which is a nice feeling,' he said.
"I think they probably look at me as a different player, and look at my first stint as another person, as I do. I'm most definitely a different person.
"Then publicly, I think the public understand I deserved a crack after the amount of runs I scored. I felt it when I got over here, that I'd probably won a few people over, even players over."
It took guts for Wade to make such drastic changes, which included taking up a carpentry apprenticeship when he thought his international dreams were done.
"But I started to enjoy going to training again. I lost that enjoyment, international cricket got me in a bit of a grind," he said.
"Getting on the tools then going to training, some banter with the boys, I was doing it three days a week instead of seven. And it certainly made me find a bit more love for the game again."
It's a love that's hard to hide at Lord's, where Wade mark III could prove himself the best Ashes selection since Smith was slotted in as a leg-spinner/batsman in 2010.
"I'm confident that if I play the way I have been playing over the past 18 months, my game is good enough to succeed," Wade said.
"If it doesn't, I'm comfortable with that. And I think it's a really underrated thing to be comfortable with your own game.
"I won't be chasing other things, I'll be doing things my way."
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