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Cricket news - 'There are great things ahead of him' - Blewett heaps praise on Carey after maiden ton
Carey smashed his first ODI ton in a tough run chase against England in the series decider.
As Alex Carey went into the third ODI in Manchester, he was under a bit of pressure. A year on from having starred in the World Cup, the Australian wicket-keeper had returned to England on the back of a lean phase in 50-over cricket, averaging just 13.33 in 7 matches. He'd then looked out of sorts in the T20Is, even losing his place for the third game, before struggling through the first two ODIs. Carey had also arrived for the tour without the tag of vice-captain, which he'd carried for over two years. Could another failure possibly push the 29-year-old to the brink of a shock reversal in what till recently had seemed like a career on a dramatic upswing?
Back home in Adelaide, Greg Blewett wasn't too concerned. And he insists that Carey wouldn't have been either. Blewett has after all worked enough with his fellow South Australian over the last few years to know that he is a "tough bast**d" that knows all about bouncing back. Carey would eventually do more than just bounce back by scoring a breath-taking maiden ODI ton and partnering with Glenn Maxwell in a memorable run-chase to win Australia the series. It was a knock though that didn't take his coach by too much surprise. For Blewett, the Redback's 114-ball 106 was more a "great reward" for the hard work he's seen Carey put in to constantly upgrade himself as a batsman season after season.
"I think he is getting more and more comfortable playing at that level. He's such a great talent. He would probably have been disappointed with how the T20Is went and being left out of the last game. I don't know if he read into losing the vice-captaincy a little bit too much. When that's taken away from you, you're already feeling a little bit more pressure going into a series. But certainly, for him to pull himself together and play well in the ODIs was fantastic and to finish off that way, chase those runs down on a wearing pitch was brilliant," Blewett tells Cricbuzz.
The former Australian batsman turned coach's innate confidence in the man he feels will become an "unbelievable cricketer" comes from the number of times he's seen Carey problem solve his way through a difficult predicament. Blewett in fact reveals to have worked with Australia's premier white-ball wicket-keeper on some of the specific challenges he expected to face from the England fast bowlers when the two met during the preseason Redbacks camp. The push to work on it had been triggered after Carey felt bowlers had begun targeting his leg-stump and cramping him for room during last summer's Big Bash League.
"Guys started coming around the wicket to him and bowling just over the top of leg-stump. Because he's so good through the off-side and I think he probably realised himself that he was becoming a bit too predictable in terms of where he wanted to score. He got found out a little bit during the BBL. England too did their homework and if you see they went a lot straighter to him early on," says Blewett.
It was a tactic and a strategy that was evident throughout Australia's brief tour. With Carey's tendency to get more leg-side of the ball to open up the off-side, he ended up closing himself at the crease. Jofra Archer in particular exploited it and there was one point during the third ODI where he had the left-hander caught in an awkward mess trying to glide a rapid delivery angling into him with an open-faced bat. It proved to be the wake-up call Carey needed to get back to what he'd worked tirelessly on in the months leading up to the trip to England.
"We were working on opening both sides of the pitch. To free him up and add some scoring options towards the square-leg area. It was more tactical than technical with Alex. When he's thinking about scoring both sides of the ground, he's fine. He then just reacts to the ball and is not one-dimensional in terms of where he wants to score. He's always good at trying to go over cover, over mid-off but this was about making him more versatile at balls coming in at his hip area," explains Blewett.
As Carey settled down and being dismissed off a no-ball did help, he started to get a lot more comfortable at contending with the round-the-wicket angle. It certainly showed in the way he started staying stiller at the crease and used the angle to fetch runs on the leg-side. Another feature of his batting that stood out was the way he tackled Adil Rashid and Joe Root on a tricky pitch, which did take turn. His first scoring shot itself incidentally turned out to be the reverse sweep off Root.
It's a facet of his batting that Carey wanted to work on and came to Blewett with two years ago when he realised that his chances at the top of the order for Australia would be limited.
"That's when he identified that if he was going to bat a lot in the middle-order, he really needed to work on his sweep shots, the conventional and unorthodox ones. In the last 5 years, Jos Buttler has been one of the leaders in that sort of thing. Alex looked to him and was very impressed with the way he went about it and wanted to be just as good if not better at doing that sort of thing. He wanted to become the elite sweepers of the ball in the game, which I think he is now," says Blewett.
A lot of Carey's runs off Rashid in particular did come off the sweep on Wednesday (September 16). Like he's said in recent press conferences, the man from Unley is looking forward to picking the brains of the senior members of the Delhi Daredevils and get better at it during what will be his first-ever gig at the IPL.
In South Australian cricket circles, Carey has always been renowned for being the "nicest bloke ever". The guy who once drove back down to the Adelaide Oval from the other end of town in Glenelg on a stormy afternoon just to pose for a mug-shot. A local superstar who goes out of his way to make those he's never met before feel welcome and warm. Blewett also considers him to be the easiest player to coach.
"He just gets it. He's just got a good head on his shoulders. He trains really hard but trains smartly. He doesn't overtrain. He always gets his balance right in how much he trains in the lead-up to the actual game days," he says.
Carey is considered the fittest man in the Redbacks' setup and spent most of the preseason getting back into his best shape. He also however made sure that he got the younger members of the squad to sprint and train with him, to not just help them be more comfortable around the seasoned pros, but also to try and get them to his levels of fitness. And according to Blewett, it's this approach to his own cricket and his teammates that makes Carey such an invaluable presence in every dressing-room he enters.
"That's just who Alex is. He's an absolute beauty. Because he's a bit of a late starter to cricket, he is very driven and hungry. He is learning along the way. He brings so much to every team he's a part of. Once he lets his talent take over, the world's really his oyster. There are great things ahead of him."
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