Australia became the first team to book a place in the semi-finals of the 2019 ICC World Cup after they brushed aside a mediocre New Zealand side on Saturday (June 29). At the centre of the World Champions’ resounding win was the wicketkeeper-batsmen Alex Carey, who stabilized the ship after an early collapse like so many times in the past. The southpaw has been a constant selection in the Aussie squad since the past couple of seasons, but he faced a few rough times back in the day, times when he almost contemplated quitting cricket.

Try and put yourself in Alex Carey’s shoes. You have been one of the most successful players at your local club and managed to earn a call-up for the West End Redbacks — the cricket team in South Australia. However, you decide to relinquish that contract for your love for rugby’s oval ball and Australian rules football envelopes the commitment for the gentleman’s game.

Signing for the Western Sydney Giants, your captaincy helps them get promoted to the AFL. However, a contract extension is not forthcoming due to your so-called short stature despite being 5 foot 8. Out of contract in football, after having kicked away your opportunity at cricket, you are in your mid-twenties without a job and sans a college education.

Nevertheless, Carey did not let the situation fluster him as he got back to his premier love of cricket. He started from the very bottom yet again, playing with local club Glenelg, and took to wicket-keeping for the first time in his mid-twenties. Fortunately for Carey, he was spotted by former Aussie coach Tim Neilsen who gave him an opportunity to play up the ranks and represent South Australia.

Opportunities were few and far between in his first season but after veteran keeper Tim Luderman suffered a blip in form, Carey was given a change in the Sheffield Shield. He scored over 500 runs in the 2016/17 season and affected 59 dismissals behind the stumps despite being a relative rookie wicketkeeper. The good domestic form finally culminated in an International ODI call up in 2018, when he was selected ahead of Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine or the seasoned Peter Nevill.

“Alex picks up things. You tell him once, he goes away, thinks about it, comes back and says ‘I haven’t slept last night but I understand what you mean’,” was former Test keeper and current fielding coach Brad Haddin’s assessment. Another Aussie legend, Steve Waugh once compared Carey to a potent mix between Micheal Bevan and Mike Hussey.

Motivated by these high praises, the left-hander has been the stable rock of the Australian middle-order ever since then, finding a way to overcome difficult circumstances and paddle on in the game. While Australian rules football may be lamenting the loss of a brilliant sportsman like Carey, he has proved to be cricket’s biggest gain, becoming the glue that has held together the Aussie middle-order together.

Feature image courtesy: AFP Photo/ Saeed Khan