Vodafone Men's Ashes
Legends back Inglis as race to replace Paine widens
Western Australia wicketkeeper-batsman continues to turn heads, with Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist the latest to suggest he’s ready for higher honours
22 July 2021, 06:07 PM AEST
Australia might have fielded an unprecedented four keeper-batters in yesterday's ODI win over the West Indies, but a couple of former greats believe the player who looms as the nation's next Test gloveman was not among them.
The appearance of stand-in skipper Alex Carey alongside Matthew Wade, Josh Phillipe and Ben McDermott – all of whom have kept at international or interstate level – in Barbados has intensified debate over who's likely to take over from incumbent Test captain Tim Paine.
But ex-Australia legends Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist have this week joined Ricky Ponting in highlighting the claims of uncapped Western Australia keeper Josh Inglis who starred in the UK's recent T20 Blast competition and has been signed to play for Warne's London Spirit outfit in the newly minted Hundred tournament.
While Gilchrist acknowledged Inglis is seemingly locked in a battle with Carey for the Test berth when Paine hangs up his gloves, Warne was more bullish about his new charge's credentials and endorsed him as front-runner to be Australia's next long-term gloveman.
"He's gonna play for Australia, definitely … I think he's going to be the (Test) keeper-batsman after Tim Paine," Warne told radio station SEN from the UK today.
"He's very clean behind the stumps, very soft hands, and a good mover behind the stumps.
"With the bat he's one of those new, modern 360 (degree) players.
"He's got every single shot – he's got the ramp, the reverse ramps and he's got the traditional normal shots as well.
"He's very switched on and hungry for knowledge.
"When you try and separate at top-level sport what makes a difference, sometimes it's just the way they think or their match awareness of doing the right thing at the right time.
"So far he hasn't put a foot wrong.
"He's very, very impressive and I reckon he's going to be representing Australia very, very quickly."
Inglis, who was born in Yorkshire but emigrated to Perth with his family at age 14, is leading runs scorer (at a strike rate of 175.82 per 100 balls faced) and the only player to have posted two centuries in the qualifying rounds of the T20 Blast, where he played for Leicestershire.
The 26-year-old was then a late addition to the London Spirit squad after Victoria allrounder Glenn Maxwell opted out of the inaugural iteration of the Hundred.
But it's also the right-hander's return in recent Marsh Sheffield Shield games – he was the leading scorer among specialist keepers last summer with 585 runs at 73.13 as well as 25 dismissals from eight matches behind the stumps – that has him viewed as an all-format player.
Gilchrist, who skippered Australia in six Tests, 17 ODIs and a couple of T20Is, noted Carey could "most definitely" emerge as Australia's next white-ball captain when Aaron Finch – who missed the first ODI of the Qantas Tour of the West Indies – calls time on his career.
"He (Carey) has been pegged as a potential leader right from the moment he entered cricket circles, coming out the back of that journey out of AFL," Gilchrist told SEN.
"Everyone's had to be patient while the cricketing side of it - the skills and the results - caught up to speed with the leadership potential (but) he's certainly fulfilling that.
"It hasn't been an overnight jump-out-of-nowhere story, he continues to build and learn and he admits that."
But Gilchrist believes jockeying for the Test keeping job will be keenly fought, with Carey and Inglis likely vying for favouritism when the position becomes available.
Paine has repeatedly refused to entertain speculation about his Test tenure beyond the coming summer but a newspaper report this week claimed the 36-year-old was expected to retire at the end of the coming home Ashes series against England next January.
Regardless of who gets the nod, Gilchrist takes delight in the burgeoning stocks of top-level keeper-batters in Australian cricket which mirrors the depth shown by England who have deployed Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes and Sam Billings across all international formats in recent years.
"It's going to come down to more than leadership," Gilchrist said of the criteria in selecting Paine's successor.
"Josh Inglis has been outstanding in all competitions – Sheffield Shield, Big Bash, and he's carving his way over in England at the moment.
"So he's a guy who will be in competition with Alex Carey for that number seven keeper-batsman position from when Tim Paine leaves the stage.
"It's nice to know we've got a healthy stock of players there.
"Even Matt Wade has shown he's forged his way back in there, and two of the other debutants (alongside Wes Agar in Barbados) – Josh Philippe and Ben McDermott – are both keeper-batsmen.
"I think it's a sign of the modern times, and probably more a sign of T20 cricket that so many batsmen have been moulded into wicketkeepers to find a position in a team and accommodate team balance.
"But that doesn’t take away anything from the skills of these cricketers, so there's big opportunities all round."
In two separate interviews with cricket.com.au this year, Ponting has also heaped praise on Inglis, while acknowledging there are no shortage of other keeping contenders.
"Geez, I reckon Inglis has got something,"Ponting said in January.
"He's the other one I'd love to get a look at at some stage because I think he's real talent.
"He plays spin beautifully … he played Rashid Khan on his ear, so there's that side of it. And he's batted at the top of the order in first-class cricket for WA, so there obviously must be a good technique in behind what he can do in the white-ball stuff.
"I know 'Painey' (Tim Paine) and 'Hadds' (Brad Haddin) have spent a fair bit of time with the keepers and Hadds said he's very, very good with the gloves.
"We've got no shortage of keeper-batsmen coming through."