Aussie great Healy backs Nevill for Ashes
AUSTRALIAN wicketkeeping great Ian Healy believes the national selectors will turn back to Peter Nevill for the upcoming Ashes.
Nevill played the last of his 17 Tests in Hobart 11 months ago before Wade replaced him for the remainder of the summer and tours of India and Bangladesh.
And although experts have praised Wade's improved glovework, the left-hander averaged just 20.23 across 10 Tests with the blade.
Now the "race is on", according to Healy, who spent 119 Tests behind the pegs.
"The first two rounds of Shield is going to mean a hell of a lot to Peter Nevill, Matthew Wade, Alex Carey and Jimmy Peirson for that wicketkeeper spot, as well as our No. 6 batting spot," Healy said on SEN Breakfast.
"I think Peter Nevill has a better grasp on the technical aspects of wicketkeeping.
"I think they sort of disrespected Wadey a little bit in India by playing him in one-dayers and then bringing him back. That's not the respect your keeper in the Ashes deserves. I sense that they might be going back to Nevill."
At the time of Wade's recall it was publicly stated that his leadership and combative nature was one of the reasons he won back his spot.
But according to Healy - who was never short of a word himself - Wade's intensity and mongrel behind the stumps is secondary to performance.
"There is no substance but that is the reason (Nevill was dropped)," he said.
"You can't get significant presence without performance. You just need to perform, perform and perform.
"Then the opposition start to feel you and you start to feel confident enough to share some energy with your other teammates.
"We have to get this keeping position down-pat. Peter Nevill was on his way to that ... they could have sparked him up with a little warning instead of dropping him.
"The boys were struggling big time and I didn't really put and two and two together ... They were doing it tough and morale and confidence were very low (after five consecutive Test defeats).
"Wade is more obviously combative. Nevill is no shrinking violet but he had fallen into a rough patch which a lot of his team did. A wicketkeeper in a struggling team has to get above that and help out."
Since Adam Gilchrist pulled stumps on his decorated career in 2008, four glovemen have debuted for Australia, while the late Phil Hughes also filled in when Wade had a rare bowl and Peter Handscomb substituted for an ill Wade in January.
Gilchrist's batting average of 47.60 dwarfs Brad Haddin (32.98) and Healy (27.39). But Healy himself believes the bar should be set at 30, with "handy runs" the expectation and anything above a bonus.
But even by that template Wade barely scrapes in with a Test average of 28.58, while Nevill is well below par having averaged 22.28 without a ton from 23 innings.
"Times have changed and I think we haven't quite got it right," Healy said.
"Gilly averaged well into the 40s and every keeper is under pressure after that. 30 is what you need. Someone to average 30 and make handy runs when you need them and make sure your top six does its job.
"The quandary is that we do not know our No.6. We have a brand new No. 2 and Handscomb is brand new at five plus Khawaja has been in and out. The disruptions for the top order is putting a heap of pressure on the keeping selection. It shouldn't."
Both Nevill and Wade made tons at club level on the weekend but Healy declared the spotlight should be on their glovework when the Sheffield Shield season begins on Thursday.
"I sense that they will go to Peter Nevill ... But I hope when they assess it over the next few Shield games, they do it on wicketkeeping ability and who makes handy runs and not who makes the most runs," he said.
"They should look at their glovework."
Wade's Tasmania takes on Western Australia at the WACA in Round 1, while Nevill will bat at seven for NSW against South Australia at the Adelaide Oval.
There are three Sheffield Shield rounds before the first Ashes Test on November 23.