Handing the wicketkeeping gloves to Peter Handscomb for Australia’s must-win second Test against Bangladesh in Chittagong would be a mistake, says Test great Ian Healy.
But the former ‘keeper isn’t ruling out a change behind the stumps for this summer’s Magellan Ashes should Matthew Wade have another poor showing in Chittagong, saying selectors “have to go back” to Peter Nevill if a change is to be made for the first Test at the Gabba.
There has been speculation part-time gloveman Handscomb could take over from Wade for the second Test, with coach Darren Lehmann saying on Friday that no one and nothing had been ruled in or out for the match beginning on Monday.
“That’s not going to help anyone,” Healy told Wide World of Sports. “You risk compromising Handscomb’s batting, and I don’t imagine the bowlers would be filled with confidence knowing there’s a part-timer at the other end with the gloves on.”
Axing wicketkeeper Wade after dual failures with the bat and conceding 30 byes could have the advantage of freeing up a spot for another bowler.
But Healy said he was not fazed by the extras count on what was one of the more unpredictable surfaces Australia have played on in recent memory.
"I’m not looking too much at the 30 byes," said Healy. "It was a really difficult pitch to keep on, there were some balls coming through shin high, and others disappearing over the batsman’s shoulder.
"I can’t ever remember in my career having to deal with that. You always expected plenty of turn in places like India or Pakistan, but the inconsistent bounce is a nightmare for a keeper.
"It’s been tough for Wade this year given the pitches they’ve played on in India and now here in Bangladesh, and it might be even tougher for him in the second Test if they play three spinners."
The tourists must make at least one change to the XI that went down by 20 runs to hand Bangladesh their first-ever Test victory over Australia, with Josh Hazlewood flying home after suffering a side injury on day three.
"Once we get there we will take a look at the wicket and the conditions and whether we change that or go with one quick or two quicks or three spinners (will be discussed)," Lehmann said on Friday ahead of the team's departure for Chittagong.
Pressed on whether Wade – the only specialist wicketkeeper in the squad – could lose his spot, Lehmann said: "It is not ruled out with any of the XI really. Of the 14 here, anyone could play."
While the admission opens the door for batsman Handscomb – a self-described part-time gloveman who has kept for Australia in one-day cricket and domestically in all three formats – to fill in behind the stumps, the Victorian himself has strongly emphasised it isn't a role he wants permanently.
Wade returned to the Australia XI last November in place of Nevill, but has since averaged just 21 with the bat.
South Australian Alex Carey, who was selected as Australia A ‘keeper in both red-ball and 50-over cricket on the boycotted tour of South Africa, has been touted as the country’s next international gloveman, but Healy believes there’s no place for an untried gloveman in an Ashes series.
“I said at the time Peter Nevill was unlucky to get dropped,” Healy said. “I consider him the best gloveman in the country, and he’d just made an unbeaten 60 in Perth, then got dropped a match later.
“If Wade has a good Test in Chittagong I expect he’ll be there at the Gabba.
“But if he struggles the selectors will definitely be looking around. It may come down to who does the best in the first couple of Shield matches.
“But the Ashes is no time to be looking at someone new. If it’s not Wade, they have to go back to Nevill.”
Australia in Bangladesh 2017
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.
Bangladesh squad: Mushfiqur Rahim (c), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Shakib Al Hasan, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Liton Das, Taskin Ahmed, Shafiul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Mominul Haque.
4-8 September Second Test, Chittagong