When Australia announced their squad for the first two Ashes Test, there were mixed feelings across the country about it. While Tim Paine’s inclusion came as a bombshell, many were gutted to see the young Test opener Matt Renshaw was axed from the side. These two decisions have completely contradicted each other in terms of Australian cricket’s philosophy of picking players based on form and not reputation. Paine, who has kept wickets only three times in the last two years, let alone not scoring runs on a consistent basis, has been roped in for his keeping skills that are still rated high. On the other hand, Renshaw, despite being one of the best batsmen in Australia’s previous overseas tours, was ignored because he was not able to score runs in Sheffield Shield.
Western Australia’s Cameron Bancroft’s JLT Sheffield Shield-leading 442 runs at 111 made him an irresistible choice for the National Selection Panel and that saw Renshaw, who has managed only 70 runs in his six innings in Shield, getting dropped for the first two matches of the Ashes.
The chairman of the selecting panel, Trevor Hons, without hitting around the bush made it very clear that they do not think that Renshaw is ready to face England with his current form for Queensland in Sheild cricket. “The way Matthew is playing at the moment – we don’t consider it ideal to inject him into the first Test versus England,” Hons said, explaining why Bancroft was picked ahead of Renshaw.
Can anyone please explain to me why Matt Renshaw's test spot is supposedly under threat?
21 years of age, average of 36 in 10 tests, already has 3×50's and 1×100.
Back him in.
— Josh Rickard (@JRickard1991) November 13, 2017
This is not for the first time that the country has witnessed a merciless call taken by the selectors against a young promising talent. From Sir Don Bradman, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke to current skipper Steven Smith, all of these have one thing in common – they were all sacked at some point of time in the early stage of their career. The rest is history. The Australian selection panel has always given the utmost importance to Sheffield Shield and their selection criteria, bit it even for the Ashes, has demanded the player to have a recent good run in the domestic circuit.
However, it is too early to compare the 21-year-old Renshaw to these legends but the way he has fared on the international level so far before his poor form struck in the domestic circuit, also cannot be ignored. There is nobody better than the selectors who could make the right judgement for the team. But, they seem to have forgotten the way Renshaw had made small but commanding steps into international cricket. When Australia struggled at home against South Africa during last summer, the selectors played a huge gamble by roping in two debutants, one of them being Renshaw.
His Test debut was in the day-night Test at Adelaide. In the first innings, he failed, ending up with just six runs. The cricketing world watched him in awe when the 20-year-old Renshaw batted for 170 minutes and walked off the field, unbeaten on 34 off 137 balls, as Australia won the Test. It needed him another innings to register his maiden Test fifty and two more innings later, he had his highest Test score of 184. It still remains his highest in the five-day game. He proved to be David Warner’s opening partner since Chris Rogers’ retirement in 2015.
Matt Renshaw’s last Test innings in Australia was 184 at the SCG in January. Made runs in India. Surely for an incumbent, that deserves at least a Test, regardless of Shield form.
— Phil Lutton (@phillutton78) November 16, 2017
While Warner is someone who goes at a strike-rate of 70-plus, even in the Tests and that allows Renshaw to play his natural game on the other end. The two have already shared 640 runs in between them and have shared five 50-run stands and a century stand too.
Not all Australian batsmen manage to leave a mark in India with the bat. The current youngest candidate of the Australian side, Renshaw, caught India off guard in the first Test in Pune, earlier this year. Despite an upset stomach that caused dizziness and needed medical attention, he posted scores of 68 and 31, earning several admirers for himself for the gutsy performance. He finished the tour as Australia’s second highest run-scorer after Smith and overall fourth with 232 runs in eight innings at 29. The average does not back Renshaw a lot but the integrity and determination that reflected whenever Renshaw took crease against a solid Indian attack, gave an impression of him being an upcoming star for Australia.
The Bangladesh tour was Renshaw’s partner Warner’s series, who registered two centuries. However, in the first Test when the experienced batsmen in the side like Smith, Warner, Khawaja and Wade threw away their wickets cheaply, Renshaw survived at the crease for 94 balls, the most before Agar surpassed him by facing 97 balls. That was another instance when Renshaw proved to be stubborn; stuck to his textbook-like natural game and frustrated the opponents.
Renshaw’s knack for surviving at the crease for a long time is a prime skill the kid possess and is well backed by Australian legend and former opener Matthew Hayden. “If Renshaw can wear down Anderson and Broad who cares if he does so with a strike rate of 30 (runs per 100 balls).
“He is hanging in tight. I felt he survived the conditions as well as anyone in India and he has done well given he has played more than half of his Tests in India and Bangladesh which is a lot different to the seaming culture of the Gabba,” Hayden said indicating that Renshaw has done a great job by surviving the tougher conditions in Asia.
When Renshaw has passed the litmus test in India, then why doubt his skills on the Australian soil, where he has played tons of cricket already, be it domestic itself. The point is he is well aware of the conditions at home and more significantly, he has got the finesse that is needed to endure at the international level.
Matt Renshaw was a stab in the dark that worked, it worked too well, as they didn't want him to go to Asia, he did. His flaws on the offside are pretty evident, and now he's failed in the shield he's managed to go from prodigy to liability quicker than he takes a single.
— Jarrod Kimber (@ajarrodkimber) November 16, 2017
Australia at least had an upper hand in the opening pair as they had a well stable on in Warner and Renshaw who by now are well in sync with each other’s game when compared to England’s Alastair Cook and his 12th new partner Mark Stoneman. Now, with Renshaw out and Cameron Bancroft in, Australia relatively are at par with England in the opening woes. It is never easy for the two openers to click soon and Australia have made a new pair ahead of the crucial Magellan Ashes.
While there is one fact clear that Renshaw has that is needed to survive in the international arena, there is no guarantee that Bancroft would succeed in the first two Ashes Tests. Performing in Sheffield Shield Australian is a bit different from facing yorkers and bouncers from the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Hence, it is still no game over for the Queenslander. As the Australian captain Smith said that “Ashes isn’t a place where you need to be trying to find your form,” Renshaw should keep all the wrong thoughts about getting axed off his mind and concentrate on the upcoming Shield games.
The 21-year-old has about two Shield games before the third Test. All he has to do is score runs there to prove the selectors that he still is as good a choice to partner Warner as he was a few months back.