Australia have not picked a back-up wicketkeeper for the World Cup and now in-form keeper-batsman Cameron Bancroft is putting his hand up with consecutive unbeaten tons in county cricket.
Bancroft, who began his domestic career as a wicketkeeper, has hammered 584 runs at 83 in his past ten one-day matches as a gloveman.
Australia named their provisional 15-man squad this past week but can alter that group up until 23 May, and after that can replace any player who gets injured.
Having started the Royal London One-Day Cup with knocks of 151* from 130 balls and 118* from 117 balls while batting at No. 4 and wicketkeeping for Durham, Bancroft will have grabbed the attention of the Australian selectors.
Australia did not pick a reserve wicketkeeper in their provisional World Cup squad, with incumbent Alex Carey the only option behind the stumps. There is stiff competition for the position of back-up gloveman, with former ODI keeper Matthew Wade in career-best touch and in-form middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb also a strong option.
Although Wade had an ordinary JLT One-Day Cup this summer, he was the second-highest run scorer in the BBL. He has also made 1021 runs at 60 in the Sheffield Shield. Handscomb, meanwhile, has a great record as a keeper in List A cricket, with 1044 runs at 47. He also was highly effective as a specialist batsman for Australia during their recent ODI resurgence. Wade and Handscomb would seem the two leading options to be Carey’s back-up for the World Cup.
But history has also shown us the Australian selectors sometimes have very short memories and can be swayed by a run of scorching form. Time and again in recent years we’ve seen dark horses vault into an Australian team on the back of a purple patch.
Bancroft has already experienced this, having come from left field to earn a Test debut in the 2017-18 Ashes thanks to a run-scoring spree across just three Sheffield Shield matches. Leading into that summer Bancroft looked a long way from Test selection, having averaged just 28 from ten matches the previous Shield season.
Then Bancroft started the 2017-18 Shield season with 442 runs in three matches and suddenly he was in the starting XI for the first Ashes Test. He’s been in great nick since returning from his nine-month ban for ball tampering less than four months ago, piling up 1004 runs at 56 across all formats, including three tons.
Durham attracted heavy criticism for handing the captaincy to Bancroft, who has been pilloried by cricket fans and pundits over the past year. But he has immediately answered his detractors with two match-winning centuries.
In both Royal London One-Day Cup matches Bancroft has rescued Durham from precarious situations. In their first game, he came to the crease with Durham floundering at 2-7 and proceeded to make 151* against a Northamptonshire attack led by West Indies captain Jason Holder.
In that innings Bancroft scored only 41 per cent of his runs in boundaries, a very low share, emphasising just how well he pierces gaps and runs between wickets.
Then yesterday Durham were struggling at 2-21 in pursuit of 234 when Bancroft steered them to a comfortable win with 118*. Bancroft has up to eight more matches left in the Royal London One-Day Cup. If he were to average, say, 50 from here on and end up with about 600 runs at 85 for the tournament, I’d imagine the selectors would give serious thought to making him Carey’s understudy.
Obviously that situation is a long way off yet, but it’s also not unrealistic given Bancroft’s wonderful recent form across all formats and his sensational record as a List A wicketkeeper. The manner in which Bancroft has shrugged off the ball tampering fiasco has been extremely impressive.