‘Steve Smith just said to him, “You’ve got to review that!”‘
By far the most impressive performance by a player so far this Shield season has been the work of Western Australia’s Cameron Bancroft and on November 23, he deserves to be handed his first baggy green.
But first, let’s look at who shouldn’t be picked.
If this guy was a car, you’d have got some dodgy bloke you went to school with to do an insurance job for you. This bloke has had more chances than a 30-start maiden at the Mildura races and despite showing glimpses of brilliance, he has had extended runs of poor form and been injured more than Shane Watson and Bruce Reid combine.
Unless we can find a truckload of reliable, white-coloured gaffer tape, then there is no way ‘Son of Swampy’ should be picked, which is such a shame, because the first two rounds of the season have shown us how good he can be in full flight.
In an attempt win the selectors over, West Australian coach Justin Langer even spent a good portion of last week telling us how Marsh is a changed man, how his mind is clear, how he goes to his Zen place and is at one with the blade.
The reality though is that Marsh nicks more than a blind barber, and was only about 300 days away from being told he’s too old to play in the first three rounds this year.
I’m afraid that’s a big fat no from me old boy.
After a solid showing in Bangladesh, the incumbent seemed a certainty for the Gabba Test.
Then I reminded myself that this is Glenn Maxwell we are talking about.
Maxwell needed to play moderately well in the one-dayers in India, come home, score a few Shield runs, try not to play the reverse sweep, and his name would have been read out for sure. Unfortunately, he was made the scapegoat of Australia’s embarrassing recent one-day form – booted from the side after only two poor dismissals.
This has had a profound effect on poor Maxi. Now back in the white clothes of his state, he seems dazed and confused, not sure if he should be looking to bat long periods and prove his worth as a ‘real batter’ or throw caution to the wind and play the way he always has.
And here my friends is the issue: Maxwell still hasn’t worked his game out. He is stuck between being who he and the fans want him to be, and being who he needs to be to play Test cricket.
Sorry Glenn, you are not the number six batsman we need.
Against Pakistan last year, Cartwright looked like a player of the future. Yet, like Maxwell, Cartwright has been undone by Cricket Australia’s penchant for one-day cricket experimentation.
Underdone and underprepared, he was thrust into the one-day side in India as a late replacement for an injured Aaron Finch in September and could not hit the ball off the square. In fact, since arriving in India for his one-day stint, Cartwright has averaged just 19.37 from his last nine trips to the crease.
A beautiful, elegant batsman at his best, Cartwright looks scratchy and non-committal at present. Such as shame for one of the only guys in the game that had a first-class average of over 50 before the season started. His two ducks against NSW this week proved that he’s far from being at the peak of his powers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a bloke that looks like he’s jumped straight out of 1970s adult film, but talk of Lehmann as a possible replacement surfacing this week is bizarre.
Until scoring 90 and 100 on a very good batting deck, Lehmann had amassed scores of 10, 6, 14,1, 25 and 6 in his previous six first-class digs. Not the type of consistency you want from a Mike Hussey-type number six.
While many teams have had success with Lehmann’s brash and aggressive style in the middle order, a good number six must be able to grind when required and wield the willow when permitted. They only team Jakey boy will he selected in this year is the Shield Movember calendar side.
Unlike Marsh, who is almost old enough for the pension, age is still on Bancroft’s side. He seems to have been around forever but is still only 25.
Let’s firstly dismiss the talk of Bancroft as a replacement for Matthew Wade. If you are going to pick a part-time keeper or a novice like Alex Carey, then you may as well roll out the wheelie bin and play with an electric wicketkeeper or simply give Hanscomb the gloves and pick another bat.
When I think back to September of 2015, I immediately feel sorry for Bancroft. After having been named to replace the retiring Chris Rogers in the Aussie Test side to tour Bangladesh, Bancroft was shattered when the tour was called off. He looked every bit the broken man.
He has battled through some solid seasons with the Sandgropers since, but somehow found himself behind a logjam of candidates at the top of the order, including Joe Burns and Matt Renshaw.
Bancroft is patience personified, has a sound technique, and his first-class average of 37.68 is way better than it appears on paper, because he not only opens the batting against the new ball, he bats on the most difficult deck in the nation.
Furthermore, this bloody good bloke was even kind enough to say “I’ll give it a crack” when teammate and wicketkeeper Sam Whiteman went down with a long-term injury.
While the boys were quick to reward his solid batting, keeping and selflessness with a VB at the end of the last Shield match, I say stuff that, give the man a baggy green.