Opinion: Hands(comb) up to play test cricket?
When Steve Waugh speaks, the country listens.
And so we should; he’s the much-lauded 2004 Australian of the Year, an all-conquering test captain, and leads from the front even whilst raising money for charity.
But was he on the money with his most recent statement?
Waugh nominated Cameron Bancroft as the bolter this summer, to pinch a baggy green for the first test against South Africa on November 3rd.
After a dismal test tour of Sri Lanka and white wash series thumping in the ODI’s against South Africa, something – or, someone – has to give.
From the Sri Lankan test squad, Shaun Marsh is battling a hamstring injury, while Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja’s underwhelming form may see them strengthening Queensland’s XI in the Sheffield Shield. For Usman, this is a disappointing scenario, falling from being last year’s BBL G.O.A.T to being a scapegoat – in his own words.
Added to this, Moises Henriques and Jon Holland are certain to leave gaps in the side, therefore Waugh is correct – it is the perfect time to blood the youth.
Clearly Waugh believes Cameron Bancroft’s batting is up to scratch, and a tidy average of 38.40 in first class cricket is impressive for the soon-to-be 24-year-old.
But there are plenty of capable youngsters who are just as poised as Bancroft. And it’s time to meet the candidates:
South Australian Travis Head has had a sighter of the South African bowlers in the ODI series, and has been linked to a test position. He’s the early-twenties captain of the Redbacks and his stocks are continuing to rise.
Meanwhile, Nic Maddinson continues to perform in the short format for New South Wales.
However, there is a young Victorian who’s surely first in line.
He is a proven performer in all forms of the game and is batting with a new level of consistency.
That man is Peter Handscomb.
Coming off a stellar Australian A series which lead to the selection of underdog bowlers Chris Tremain, Daniel Worrall and Joe Mennie for the (horrific) South African tour, Handscomb continues to be overlooked. And that is genuinely confusing.
With 8 first class tons under his belt and a whopping 22 half centuries from his 96 innings, the time is now for this 25-year-old.
After criticism of the Australian batting versatility, Handscomb is a man for any conditions.
His picturesque technique is a joy to watch, but his ability to use his feet against the spin will be of particular appeal to the selectors. Because, let’s be honest – we need to start rebuilding our batting line-up for our next stint at the subcontinent, in India next year.
Handscomb does not get flustered in difficult circumstances, making him a year round prospect, unlike many of the home deck bullies in the current side.
His glorious cover drive and rocking ‘Ponting-like’ pull shot will be sure to tune out runs in the upcoming summer on home soil.
Furthermore, Handscomb’s ability with the gloves will put pressure on Peter Nevill, who’s test batting average of 20.88 is nothing to admire.
The Aussies need a shake-up if they want to mix it with the best nations in the world, and this summer provides a certain opportunity to do so. Youth can provide the spark and passion that has been lost for the green and gold in recent times.
The board has made mistakes in the past, but surely this time around they will select for the future.
Will the Aussies stand by Burns and Khawaja?
Will Maddinson or Head be backed in the longer form of the game?
Will Waugh be proven right in predicting an opportunity for Bancroft?
Or will the right decision be made, allowing Handscomb to wear the baggy with pride for the upcoming summer, and potentially many years to come?
Who would you pick for this home summer? Let us know in the comments below!