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Carey's decision to keep on keeping pays off

Delisted from not one, but two sports, gloveman Alex Carey's persistence has been rewarded with a call up to the Australia A squad

Every player who’s donned the Baggy Green has suffered a setback or two.

But few have been delisted in two separate sports, and almost given up the very skill that got them there.

While Alex Carey isn’t 'there’ quite yet, the 25-year-old looks a Test wicketkeeper in waiting, with his recent Australia A selection reward after several turbulent years as a professional athlete.

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A promising Australian Rules footballer and cricketer in equal measure, Carey, at 17, picked boots over gloves when he accepted a contract with fledgling AFL club-in-waiting Greater Western Sydney.

Despite winning their best and fairest award in 2010 in the club's inaugural season (in which they competed in Victoria’s premier under-18 competition), he found himself off their books the following year and gladly welcomed back to the cricketing fold by South Australia. 


A first-class debut followed in 2013 as a top-order batsman but with Tim Ludeman entrenched as the Redbacks’ ‘keeper, Carey admits he considered giving away the gloves as he eyed, even then, higher honours.

"When I played my first three games for South Australia, it was as top-order batsman when Ludeman was ‘keeping at the time," Carey explained to cricket.com.au from the Snowy Mountains last week, where he was in the midst of a boot camp with the National Performance Squad.

"It was just a discussion about, ‘how am I going to make it at the next level? Is it going to be with the gloves, or is it just focusing on opening the batting in four-day cricket?’

"At that time, I thought, ‘do I put everything into my batting and give away the gloves for a bit?’

"I didn’t do that, luckily enough."

With a top-score of 31 in his first six hits for South Australia, he found himself in the familiar position of being out of contract at the end of the 2013-14 season.

But Carey had found his calling as a cricketer, and his decision to stick with the gloves paid off when South Australia turned to him, at the expense of Ludeman, in the lead-in to their drought-breaking 2015-16 Sheffield Shield final appearance.

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Considering how highly the SACA rated Carey, it’s hardly surprising he hasn’t missed a Redbacks’ game since – in either one-day or first-class formats – and has quickly found his feet at Shield level.

He not only effected the most dismissals (59) in a single season in the competition’s 124-year history, the left-hander also became just the fourth player (after Adam Gilchrist, Chris Hartley and Matthew Wade) to notch at least 500 runs and 50 dismissals in a season.

But what is remarkable is how quickly Carey has fought his way to the top of the wicketkeeping pack, beating out the likes of recently axed Test gloveman Peter Nevill for a spot in the Australia A squad.

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It’s a feat Carey says he couldn’t have done without the assistance of the SACA high performance team, in particular former Australia coach Tim Nielsen and fellow mentors Simon Cain and Shane McDermott.

"I always loved my cricket and I was lucky to have support around me when I did get delisted from GWS," Carey said.

"They gave me a lot of time and they realised I’d been out of the game for a while and what I needed to do to get back."

Picked as the sole wicketkeeper for both the four-day and one-day components of the South Africa tour, in a squad featuring featuring the likes of big names Glenn Maxwell and Usman Khawaja, Carey knows more eye-catching efforts could put him squarely in the national frame.

"If you perform well at one level below (Test cricket), I guess you’re going to be looked at.

"For me, it’s about doing what I did during the Shield season. That’s that I’m most excited about, taking the opportunity that’s been given, not letting the selectors down who picked me and show them that I’m good enough for the next level.

"It’s very exciting and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved to come back through footy and the ups and downs.

"I’ve played against all these guys now so it’s not going to be daunting or anything.

"More than anything, it’s the opportunity to learn from some of the best players in the world in different formats and how they go about their business.

"It’s just a step up obviously from Shield cricket and I’m really looking forward to the challenge."

 

NPS Boot Camp a big challenge: Carey

In the meantime, Carey will hone his skills alongside Australia’s brightest young talent at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane as part of a comprehensive winter program.

Given the recent strength of the Redbacks’ pace attack, Carey spent the majority of last season standing back to the stumps, and admits he’s looking forward to practicing up to the pegs on the variety of purpose-built training wickets at the NCC.

"If I want to play at the level I want to play, which is for Australia one day, there’s always things to learn.

"I got the opportunities last year behind the stumps and took the catches, but with keeping, you’re never really satisfied.

"Whether it’s up to the stumps or back to the stumps, I’ve got a long way to go.

"That’s going to be focus up here at the NPS, (improving his) strength through the lower body, staying concentrated for long enough.

"All those little things you can keep improving and keep getting better.

"You never want to miss a chance. If you don’t ever miss a chance, I guess you’re perfect, and there’s not too many wicketkeepers that don’t miss a chance here and there."

Something Carey can definitely attest to.

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