The Australia opening dilemma is nothing of the sort

Alec Swann Columnist

By , Alec Swann is a Roar Expert

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    Cricket selection is not a difficult business.

    You sit in a room, or maybe in front of a speaker for a conference call, and choose 11 cricketers to take the field. That’s it.

    No atom splitting, no budget allocation, no complex mathematical formula; 11 places, 11 names, nice and neat.

    Now, of course, it can be awkward, especially when there are competing voices and opinions, and it’s seldom straightforward given the vagaries of form and so forth, but let’s not add drama to something that doesn’t really have any.

    Occasionally the team picks itself and the selection meeting is nothing more than the opportunity for a chinwag and to order a flavoursome lunch on the expense account.

    On the flip side, when results are poor and nobody’s having a good time of it, a salary is earned and fingers are crossed due to the inexact science that underpins taking a punt.

    But going back to the original assertion, it isn’t as hard as is often made out. If anything, those doing the selecting make it harder for themselves.

    One such scenario where this shouldn’t be the case is when the Australian selectors gather to decide who will represent their country at the Gabba in the first Ashes Test next week. And, more specifically, this relates to who David Warner will partner at the top of the order.

    Matt Renshaw or Cameron Bancroft?

    Bancroft or Renshaw?

    Renshaw. Bancroft. Renshaw. Bancroft. Bancroft.

    Bancroft.

    There should indeed be an Ashes novice facing the new ball in Brisbane, but it has to be the West Australian rather than the Queenslander, with the former in smouldering form, in stark contrast to the latter whose recent Sheffield Shield output can’t even be described as tepid.

    The once-upon-a-time opener in me sympathises with Renshaw, as poor form is a heavy millstone to carry, and even weightier for him no doubt with what is just around the corner. But the momentum is well and truly with Bancroft and to such a degree that making him wait for his chance would be downright bonkers.

    Cam Bancroft walks off the field

    AAP Image/Richard Wainwright

    Too often a player in form is urged to ‘keep knocking on the door’ and by the time they do get the nod their hot flush has passed.

    Herein lies the conundrum at the heart of selection. Do you go for continuity and place your faith in an investment – Renshaw – which initially produced decent returns, or do you appreciate the fact another stock is where the action is – Bancroft – and take the plunge?

    Plenty of times it is a marginal call, six of one half a dozen of the other for want of a better phrase, but not in this instance.

    Bancroft is not so much knocking on the door as taking a crowbar to the lock and this kind of form, surely, has to count for something. And don’t direct your attention to his career statistics – although 4000-plus runs at an average of almost 38 is far from tardy – as these don’t so justice to the here and now.

    In three innings he’s ammassed 390 runs – 160 against a virtually Test-strength New South Wales attack – which screams inclusion. That is really all there is to it.

    Renshaw – who, it should be rememebered, is barely into his 20s – will come again, as he has shown the aptitude and game to succeed at the top level, but he’s in such a rut that, for the time being, he simply can’t warrant selection.

    So Mark Waugh et al, if you want my advice, there it is. One small favour to ask, though; don’t make Bancroft keep wicket.

    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.