West Indies v Australia ODIs - Men's
Natural-born leader Carey gets his day in the sun
Alex Carey's response to a spray about his captaincy credentials from Allan Border last summer underlines why he's held in such high regard by the Australian team
Louis Cameron in Barbados
20 July 2021, 02:25 PM AEST
While Alex Carey has long given up on his first sporting passion, it was apt the former Australian rules football hopeful was holding a red Sherrin when he found out he was going to become the 26th man to captain Australia in a one-dayer.
In the shadows of stands named after local legends Sobers, Marshall, Worrell, Greenidge and Haynes, coach Justin Langer walked a lap of Barbados' sun-soaked Kensington Oval with Carey on Sunday and asked him to stand in for the injured Aaron Finch in Tuesday's first ODI.
With the 14.5-hour time difference between the Caribbean and his hometown Adelaide, Carey had to wait until Sunday evening to inform his family including his wife Eloise, who gave birth to the couple's son Louis in 2018, of his good news.
It had been a football team, the Greater Western Sydney Giants, that had initially recognised the leadership potential in Carey a decade ago when they made him their first ever skipper while they were still an Under-18 team.
That he was cut (over coffee with coaching great Kevin Sheedy at the Rooty Hill RSL) when the Giants joined the AFL in 2012 has proved to be Australian cricket's gain.
The setback would prove to be the first of many for the wicketkeeper-batter, who was cut again two years later from South Australia's state cricket contract list only a few years after the Redbacks had lured him into pursuing a career in cricket over football.
Working for two years at a financial planning firm made him realise how good the life of a professional athlete was, and Carey redoubled his efforts to become one again.
The now 29-year-old is known as one of the game's hardest trainers and holds the current benchmark for the fastest 2km time trial in the national team.
As Redbacks teammate Kane Richardson put it in 2018: "You watch the way he goes about his training, he always presents well, he talks well, he's super fit and he trains his bum off. He leads in the way he acts."
Like his playing career, Carey's captaincy journey has already presented its share of challenges since his surprise elevation to national vice-captain of the limited-overs teams in 2018.
It had been a Langer initiative when he first took over as coach to move to a multiple vice-captain model for the national sides, adopting the model from the AFL which the former Test batter has been intimately involved in as a West Coast Eagles board member.
Carey prepared for his leadership presentation to a panel including Langer, Greg Chappell and Mark Taylor by seeking out the mentorship of Port Adelaide premiership coach, Mark Williams.
Stripped of the vice-captaincy title 24 months later when Australia elected to make Pat Cummins the sole deputy to Aaron Finch, Carey admitted at the time he had been hurt by the decision.
But, having only a couple of months later struck his maiden international century against England in what was just the second ODI ton by an Aussie keeper in a decade, he took heart from the insistence his teammates' opinion of him had not changed.
"When I was given the news, it was made pretty clear how I was still held amongst the group," Carey said today.
"For me nothing really changed over the last 12 months, understanding a lot of guys got some opportunities to vice-captain the team.
"My cricket didn't change, my mentality didn’t change and it was a great opportunity when I did have it. To be recognised over here in Barbados to lead the group – (it) is just excitement at the moment."
Carey's leadership again came under the microscope last summer during a drawn Australia A game against India during which the hosts suffered multiple concussions in addition to losing Moises Henriques to a hamstring injury before the match.
“If Alex Carey is in line to be an Australian captain, he has got a lot of work to do for me," Border said on Fox Cricket after Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant helped put on 170 runs in a session against the undermanned Aussie A side. "He has gone down quite a few pegs."
Rather than stew over the criticism, Carey picked up his phone and gave Border a call the day after the game.
"My take-out was that there's lots of great leaders around the country still caring about the game of cricket," said Carey.
"For him to answer my call and have a great chat to me about what he saw, that was a great learning curve for me to speak to one of Australia's best captains.
"I saw it an opportunity to learn. I picked up the phone and spoke to AB the following day. I saw what he said, and I didn't take it too much to heart and more of an opportunity to learn."
His first game as national skipper will be present yet more obstacles.
Australia could blood as many as three debutants and look set to field a severely depleted batting line-up, with the top five run scorers from their most recent ODI series (Finch, David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Marnus Labuschagne) all absent.
But Carey pointed to the presence of senior bowlers Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa, who will provide some considerable experience to draw on when ringing the changes in the field.
"There's going to be challenges thrown up during the match no doubt," he said.
"But I think the bowling attack, it's still going to be really experienced. There's guys there that know their role really well. There's some experience out on the park as well.
"We'll wait and see the line-up but you go through the list that's over here … there's still a wealth of knowledge that will come out onto the park."
Including a bit of his own.
Qantas Tour of the West Indies 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Wes Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (vc for ODIs), Dan Christian, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade (vc for T20Is), Adam Zampa. Travelling reserves: Nathan Ellils, Tanveer Sangha.
West Indies ODI squad: Kieron Pollard (c), Shai Hope (vc), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Anderson Phillip, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd
T20 series: West Indies won 4-1
(all matches at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, St Lucia)
First T20: West Indies won by 18 runs
Second T20: West Indies won by 56 runs
Third T20: West Indies won by six wickets
Fourth T20: Australia won by four runs
Fifth T20: West Indies won by 16 runs
ODI series (all matches at Kensington Oval, Barbados)
First ODI (D/N): July 21, 4.30am AEST (July 20, 2.30pm local)
Second ODI (D/N): July 23, 4.30am AEST (July 22, 2.30pm local)
Third ODI (D/N): July 25, 4.30am AEST (July 24, 2.30pm local)
* Details of five-match T20 tour of Bangladesh are yet to be announced by the Bangladesh Cricket Board. Tours are subject to agreement on bio-security arrangements and relevant government approvals.