Geoff Lemon suggests that Cameron Bancroft’s exclusion from the Test squad was based on sound reasoning rather than a conspiracy.
After a period of relative calm in the realm of Test team selection, with a consistent starting lineup that remained unchanged during a victory over Pakistan, the decision by David Warner to retire has reignited a popular debate within the nation.
There is a lot of discussion surrounding selection bias, and the most recent example is Cameron Bancroft being passed over for Warner’s position. This allows Steve Smith, who has never opened the batting in 105 Tests, to have a chance at the role.
Many observers believe there is a plan at play, structured in the following manner: Australia’s top four bowlers – Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, and captain Pat Cummins – were also the bowlers involved in the sandpaper incident during the 2018 match in South Africa. They claim they were unaware of what Bancroft was doing. In a recent interview with this publication, Bancroft tentatively and vaguely hinted at this issue, saying, “Yeah, I think… yeah, I think it’s probably pretty self-explanatory.”
Could it be that Bancroft was left out due to someone holding a grudge against him? Evidence of his strong performance in the recent Sheffield Shield matches is presented, as Bancroft was the top scorer last year and is leading in the current season as well. The situation is further intensified by the rivalry between states and mates, as Bancroft hails from Western Australia while the four bowlers are from New South Wales.
As with most generalisations, the large majority of people from Western Australia are fair-minded and even-tempered contributors to the Australian national project, compatriots that the rest of us are lucky to have. Alongside them lives an extremely vocal minority, including a few elected officials, with an astounding ratio of chip to shoulder when it comes to their relationship with everywhere on the other side of that long straight cross-continental line.
Some individuals were upset about missing Test matches during the pandemic while their borders were closed, comparing it to being locked down like Andy Dufresne. When Tests did resume and there was a low turnout, they claimed that it was due to the matches taking place outside of school holidays. However, when the match was moved to school holidays, they changed their complaint to it being a work week. On Saturday, they argued that people couldn’t attend because of club cricket, and on Sunday, when only 9,000 people showed up to see Lyon achieve 500 Test wickets, they attributed it to being too close to Christmas and everyone being tired.
In this situation, there is a new level of humor in suggesting that Cameron Bancroft, a player from Western Australia who has proven himself through his performance in the Sheffield Shield, is being discriminated against by the state in favor of Cameron Green, another player from Western Australia who has also proven himself through runs in the Sheffield Shield. It is not the case that Bancroft is being left out to make room for Smith, who is already on the team. Rather, Bancroft is being excluded and Smith is being moved from his position as one of Australia’s most successful number fours to make room for Green.
Green has achieved impressive results in his three years of Test cricket, but it should be noted that he was initially selected for his exceptional batting skills. In the 29 matches he has played in domestic competitions, he has scored seven centuries and seven 50s, including notable scores of 251 and 197, with an average of 54.
A 24-year-old individual who has only played once in the last two seasons, scoring 96 runs against Queensland. While he has not yet been able to replicate this success in Test cricket, the national team management is confident that he will. His notable performances in Shield cricket have been achieved while batting in the fourth position.
Adding on to this, it should be noted that Green is an impressive six feet tall and has a unique talent for catching racing pigeons in the gully. On top of that, he has the ability to bowl at speeds exceeding 140 kilometers per hour. Given these qualities, it is understandable why he has been given a lot of leeway. His batting style is better suited for the number four position, which requires a patient and steady approach, rather than the aggressive counterattacking role typically played by someone like Mitchell Marsh at six.
While Green may not live up to the predicted status of a Test cricket wonder, he deserves the opportunity to prove himself. It may have been wise for him to wait for a career opener to establish themselves at the top, but the opportunity to play in his preferred position has presented itself, so it is expected that he would take advantage of it.
There are other viable choices for a new opener besides Bancroft. Marcus Harris has been on the Test squad since 2019 but has had limited opportunities, despite performing well in the Shield and English county cricket where he has scored eight centuries in the last three seasons. Matthew Renshaw, who recently scored a century in a tour match against Pakistan and has played Tests in India less than a year ago, remains as a reserve in the squad due to his versatility and ability to bat in the middle order.
Hopefully Bancroft gets another chance. He has put in the work and it would be a personal salve. The more pressing question is what happens if Smith’s move fails, as cute solutions often do. Four good matches against West Indies and in New Zealand will not teach anyone much, nor will four poor matches see the experiment abandoned. He will then play no Test cricket in 2024 until India arrive this November.
If the middle-ranked individuals succeed in securing their appointments, but Smith’s decision fails, it will result in a more difficult rearrangement. However, injuries and chance can also lead to changes. Continuously achieving points will surely lead to Bancroft being given an opportunity.