AAfter an unusually quiet few weeks on the Test selection front, with a settled side that remained unchanged in the win against Pakistan, David Warner’s retirement suddenly brings to the fore one of the most popular domestic arguments.
People love to talk about unfairness in selection and the latest occupant of that unwanted role is Cameron Bancroft, who was overlooked for Warner’s vacancy so Steve Smith can have a go despite never having opened the batting line-up in 105 Tests.
Many viewers claim to see an agenda that goes like this: Australia’s four best bowlers – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and captain Pat Cummins – were also the bowlers in 2018 when Bancroft sandpapered the match point in South Africa edited. They claim they don’t know what he did. During an interview with this publication in 2021, Bancroft gave a hesitant and vague answer to that question: “Yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it’s pretty probably self-explanatory.”
So was Bancroft excluded out of personal resentment? His recent Sheffield Shield form is cited as evidence of this, with Bancroft leading runs with flying colors last year and again at half-time this season. To spice up the mix, there’s a little state against state, mate against mate energy: Bancroft is from Western Australia, the four bowlers are from New South Wales.
As with most generalizations, the vast majority of Western Australians are fair and balanced contributors to the Australian national project, compatriots that the rest of us are lucky to have. Living alongside them is an extremely vocal minority, including some elected officials, with an astonishing chip-to-shoulder ratio when it comes to their relationships with all the places on the other side of that long, straight continental line.
These are the people who complained that it was unfair to miss friendlies during the pandemic when their border was locked down like Andy Dufresne. When tests came back and a sparse crowd showed up, they said that apparently no one was allowed to go outside school holidays. When this season’s game was moved to the school holidays they said no one could go because it was a work week. On Saturday? People couldn’t go because there was club cricket going on. And on the Sunday when only 9,000 turned up to watch Lyon become the third and probably last Australian bowler to reach 500 Test wickets, they said it was too close to Christmas and everyone was tired.
In this context, there is an unprecedented level of comedy in asserting state discrimination against Cameron Bancroft, a West Australian who represented himself with runs in the Sheffield Shield, in favor of Cameron Green, a… West Australian who made his case runs in the Sheffield Shield. Bancroft will not be left out to accommodate Smith, who is already in the squad. Bancroft misses out, and Smith leaves his place as one of Australia’s most successful number fours to accommodate Green.
Green’s midfield results in three years of Test cricket obscure the fact that he was picked as a batting prodigy. His 29 matches in the domestic competition produced seven centuries and seven 50s, including monsters such as a 251 and a 197, at an average of 54.
This from a 24-year-old who has played once in the last two seasons when he hit 96 against Queensland. He may not have translated that return to Test cricket yet, but the national team management believes he will. And his big runs in Shield cricket came in four strokes.
Add to that the fact that Green is 6-foot-3, catches homing pigeons in the canyon and can bowl over 90 mph, and it’s obvious he’s been given a lot of rope. Number four suits his style of long and patient batting better than the traditional all-rounder counter role that Mitchell Marsh does so well at six.
Green may not be the Test cricket wonder expected, but he should be given the chance. Perhaps he could have waited longer until a career start at the top would have done the job. But the opportunity to deploy him where he feels most comfortable has arisen, so it’s no surprise that it’s being taken.
Bancroft isn’t the only other logical option for a new start either. Marcus Harris has left the Test side with sparse inclusion since 2019, in between doing plenty in the Shield and amassing runs in English county cricket with eight centuries in the last three seasons. Matthew Renshaw, who scored a century in Pakistan’s most recent tour match and played Tests in India less than a year ago, is still the reserve in the squad because he is versatile and can bat in the middle order.
Hopefully Bancroft gets another chance. He has put in a lot of work and it would be a personal salvation. The more pressing question is what happens if Smith’s move fails, which is often the case with nice solutions. Four good games against the West Indies and New Zealand won’t teach anyone much, nor will four bad games cause the experiment to be abandoned. He will then not play Test cricket in 2024 until India arrive this November.
If those in the middle class make their appointments a winner and Smith’s gambit doesn’t work, there will be even more difficult reshuffles. In any case, injury and chance create movement. Keep scoring and Bancroft’s time will surely come.