Young batsmen trying to find their feet in the Test side should be getting out in the middle as much as possible.
You’d think this would be fairly well understood, and one those cases where common sense surely must prevail.
Yet there was a little bit of talk at the end of the Third Test win over South Africa last Sunday evening that it was a far from a done deal that any Australian players not required for the three-match ODI series against New Zealand starting on Sunday afternoon.
With the ODI squad named just prior to the pink-ball Test in Adelaide last week, Test players Matt Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Nic Maddinson, Jackson Bird, Nathan Lyon, and 12th man Chadd Sayers are all – in theory – free to play the round of Sheffield Shield games starting next Monday.
In truth, they all should be playing in the three Shield games around the country. This round of matches is the last before the break for the Big Bash League, and all will be played with a pink Kookaburra as a day/night fixture.
There is also a full week before the end of Shield games and the first day of the First Test against Pakistan, with Brisbane to make its pink-ball debut on December 15.
Hopefully common sense find a way through, and all fit and available players do play. With the exception of Khawaja – who might have played his best Test innings – all of them will benefit from more First Class cricket, and none more so than Maddinson and Renshaw.
It’s fair to suggest the New South Welshman’s Test debut didn’t go the way he dreamed it would.
By his own admission leading into the Adelaide Test, Maddison admitted that he had trouble against the pink ball at the Adelaide Oval, the sort of admission that you wouldn’t even entertain making public before the selectors met!
Regardless, his honesty played out in front of everyone’s eyes: feet rooted to the crease, playing and missing, before ultimately being bowled twelve balls later by a pretty handy in-swinging yorker from Kagiso Rabada.
New South Wales head back to Adelaide next week to face South Australia, meaning Maddinson not only needs to put his disappointment behind him, but he also needs to deal with his pink-Kooka-at-the-Adelaide-Oval issues all over again.
But there’s no point in trying to avoid this type of thing. If Maddinson couldn’t get a look at the pink rock under lights in Brisbane in his next innings, then the next best thing for him is to tackle the issue at the Adelaide Oval again.
It’s been a very up and down season for Maddinson so far. Two centuries in his last twelve innings looks ok on paper, and the last of them was only a month ago in a Shield game, but that same piece of paper will also show only one more score of the remaining ten above 36, and six of them under 13. Worse still, he’s made four single-figure scores in his last four games.
For Maddinson to find his feet and become a fixture in the Test side, he needs to find form rapidly. With the selectors undertaking such a bold overhaul of the batting order, they would be mad now to make any further unforced changes.
They’ve pumped for youth, and now they need to back them.
Maddinson needs to know he can play this Shield game with no fear of losing his spot in the Test side to yet another mid-season change of tack by the selectors. And then he needs to be told he’s got three Tests to prepare for and to play his best cricket of the season in.
Free him of any unnecessary anxiety and mental hurdles, and let him be the stroke-maker in the Australian side he was selected to be.
Those same freedoms should definitely be afforded to young opener Matt Renshaw.
How a split screen comparison of the debutant and Matthew Hayden wasn’t pulled out and featured heavily during the third Test coverage, I’ll never know. Maybe Channel Nine forgot about it during the second innings rush to condemn a batsman on debut and simultaneously sound clueless.
But Renshaw needs to play in Queensland’s trip to Perth to face Western Australia – also under lights – not because he needs runs or is under any pressure, but simply because his Test Debut was just his 13th First Class match!
The only player who should be told to make runs in this game at the WACA is Shaun Marsh, and suggestion that he should come straight back into the Test side if fit is as premature as it is short-sighted.
Renshaw is far from a finished product, but few 20-year-old bats are. But there is a lot to like about him as an opener, and a First Class of strike rate in the low 40s is exactly the kind of approach that has been needed in an overly cavalier top order.
Let these guys play, and let them play without the pressure of thinking their spot is on the line. Let them walk out to bat in these Shield games for the enjoyment of the game, and to bat the way they enjoy batting the most.
Just make sure they walk out to bat next week.