Matthew Wade, The Anti-hero’s Hero

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Matthew Wade, the anti-hero's hero. Wade brought an anticlimactic end to the ultimate romantic tale of the tournament.

Matthew Wade, The Anti-hero’s HeroWade brought an anticlimactic end to the ultimate romantic tale of the tournament.

On the face of it, Matthew Wade embodies everything you need to be the most popular member of an Australian cricket dressing-room. He's the uncompromising team man. He'll always give it his all. He's a bloke's bloke, a mate's mate. He'll always put the team's needs ahead of his own. He'll stand up to anyone in the opposition, at any time, even if it makes him come across as the bad guy.

On the face of it, Matthew Wade also embodies everything that has made the Australian cricket team grudgingly unpopular outside its own shores. He's in-your-face, highly combative, some might say abrasive, and is constantly looking to get under the opposition's skin. He certainly hasn't always endeared himself to the Indian team for sure. He was once recalled to the side for having a “big mouth”. He was not holding back in any way on Friday (November 11) night either, slipping in a quiet word to an already battered Hasan Ali, after having hit the down-on-luck seamer for a six and a four in his final over.

And again, on the face of it, it's likely that Wade would have come across as an antagonist at the Dubai International Stadium in the larger narrative of the T20 WC. He had after all brought an anticlimactic end to the ultimate romantic tale of the tournament. He'd broken the hearts of not just the millions of Pakistanis but also a million more neutral fans who've understandably got sucked into this feel-good story around Babar Azam and his men.

Like the classical wicked brother of the female protagonist who ruins the happily-ever-after ending in a Bollywood movie. The moustache adding to the meanness of his look.

In reality though, Matthew Wade was a hero on Friday night. A hero not just for Australia but a hero for the power of persistence. A hero for the virtues of making unconditional sacrifices for the sake of your team.

This was his much-deserved moment in the sun after having spent some 12 months doing everything that was asked of him, regardless of whether it benefited his own prospects or not. He'd walked into bat on Friday with the knowledge that a failure to take his team home in these most difficult of circumstances would more or less mean the end of his career. An unbeaten 41 (off just 17 balls) later, not to forget three consecutive sixes off the most destructive fast bowler in this World Cup, Wade had run off, having extended his time in Australian colours, at least for now, by another three days. He'd also given Australia a second go in 11 years at an elusive T20 world title.

Like he has in this his current avatar in international cricket, he'd boldly accepted the latest challenge posed to him by the team management, even if he wasn't the most suited for the role.

Last summer, when asked to replace the injured David Warner as T20I opener in the India series, he said yes. Then when asked to literally put his career on the line by opening in the Tests against Jasprit Bumrah & Co, he said yes. Captain the team in Bangladesh with a second-string side while opening the batting? Yes. Drop down the order to No 7 and play the finisher's role? Yes.

Wade's career-defining performance came in the company of another wholehearted performer who's slotted into a number of roles over the years

Here he was being asked to pull off a heist in the biggest game of his white-ball career. And he said yes again, producing one of the most daring of assaults under pressure. If Michael Hussey had taken down Pakistan's best bowler in 2010, Saeed Ajmal, with unmatched authority, Wade had done the same to Shaheen Shah Afridi with unbridled audacity. At least with the first lap shot, he moved late after having picked the full length of the ball. For the second, that sealed the match, he had moved across his stumps and exposed them long before Afridi had delivered the ball. This was Wade playing “who dares wins” in Dubai.

And you could see what it meant to his dressing-room. It wasn't only the delight over the passage to a World Cup final. It was also the acknowledgement of someone who'd repeatedly, and without fail, put his hand up to be whichever piece his team needed to complete the jigsaw. That his career-defining performance came in the company of another wholehearted performer who's slotted into a number of roles over the years in Marcus Stoinis, only added to it.

It didn't mean that Wade was being any different to who he customarily is on the field. He never lost his edge even in the tensest of moments. And it only seemed apt that it was while Wade was lapping and ramping his team to victory that Australia finally seemed to play like the Australia that we're accustomed to seeing in high-profile, high-pressure matches. This was a masterclass in holding your nerve. This was a masterclass in stepping up to the plate and knocking it out of the park, quite literally, when it matters most.

Save a couple of comprehensive wins, they'd ‘waded' along through the league phase before Wade blasted them home when it counted in their first knockout game. It was an authority-stamping show of strength and another glimpse into just why Australia have won so many world titles. And also, why they will go into that final against their trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand, as favourites.

Pakistan on the other hand had stormed into the semifinals, playing the kind of cricket that Australia had popularised during the late 90s and the first few years of this millennium. But as the pressure mounted, and as Wade got into their bowlers and their heads, they unfortunately began crumbling like we've seen Pakistani teams do in the past. Their very un-Pakistani World Cup campaign was coming to a very characteristically Pakistani end. The fielding standards dropped, the bowling standards dipped and then so did the heads and shoulders around the ground. For once, even Babar couldn't keep his cool.

Australia certainly did. So did Wade. And for once, finally in his career, both his dressing-room and his detractors united in awe to doff their hats to his moment of glory on a day he embodied everything that makes you a champion on the big stage.

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