Michael Bates will have to prove he is Hampshire’s automatic first-choice wicketkeeper all over again after the club reached agreement to sign Essex’s Adam Wheater.
The 23-year-old former England under-19 man bought himself out of the final year of his contract after seeing his first-team opportunities limited at Chelmsford, which has paved the way for a move to the Ageas Bowl.
Wheater’s imminent move naturally raises doubts over 22-year-old Bates’ future, who has shown himself to be an exceptional talent behind the stumps, but has yet to find any consistency with the bat.
While it has been reported elsewhere that Hampshire have given assurances to Wheater about his prospects, manager Giles White insists he has yet to decide who will be his number-one keeper for the 2013 season.
He said: ‘Adam has bought himself out with a view to coming here to compete for the gloves.
‘It’s about having competition. Some people have suggested that he has been given assurances about playing in the first team – but you don’t do that.
‘No club or manager in their right mind would make promises like that.
‘I don’t look at it like that as having a number-one wicketkeeper and a back-up.
‘We have two good young cricketers and I will pick the right side as each game comes up.
‘We will see how things pan out in pre-season and go from there but it’s an exciting signing.’
Bates would have every right to feel aggrieved after his superb performances with the gloves last term.
But the questions remain over his batting, with a first-class average of 19.66, compared with Wheater’s much healthier 39.09.
White said: ‘They probably offer different things.
‘Adam has played as a batsman, Batesy is a fine keeper and their strengths are probably in different areas.
‘Now we are looking for them both to improve in the other areas.
‘I hope it will spur Batesy on. Competition is something that comes with professional sport and the key is that we want them both to keep improving to become better players.’