Cameron Green- Australias Missing Piece
Australia have managed to keep their test struggles fairly low key in recent times. Even against India the narrative around the series was the success of Indias third choice Xi rather than the failings of Australias first. Failures are very prominent in this Australia team and the biggest of these is the struggling middle order which has shown no signs of settling. Long gone is the age of Hussey, Clarke, Haddin and Voges. Nowadays Australia posses, arguably, the world's best 3 and 4 but there is very little fight or resistance from those who follow. That was until Cameron Green came along. Cameron Green is an absolute freak of a cricketer, I mean the kid is not only a giant of a man; his domestic record is the equivalent. Before we delve into Green we must first understand the value of the middle order not just in a wider context but in relation to Australia themselves where the middle order is needed more than ever.
Modern test cricket is experiencing a golden era for fast bowling and Australia are the cream of the crop and have the best pace attack in the world. Pat Cummins is one of the best pace bowlers we’ve seen in recent times, Josh Hazelwood is a master in all conditions and, when he’s on song (though this is the main issue), Mitchell Starc is one of the truly unplayable bowlers in the history of the game. Yet when one of these three is not available there’s not a lot else. James Pattinson is a good seam bowler but has had his well documented struggles at test level. Michael Neser is untested at test level but many are touting him as a replacement for the slingy left armer. Jackson Bird is hardly an inspiring pick and Mark Steketee falls into the same category. Each action has a reaction and Australias lack of bowling depth beyond their holy trinity has subsequently created a rigid reluctance to rotate their seamers and as a result of this Australia have to execute a very specific and effective gameplan; bat big and bat long.
The latter half of this plan is the major part in making sure that their bowling attack can fire. Batting time is hugely important when you have a limited amount of high quality bowlers available as you need to allow the bowlers adequate time to rest and reset meaning that when they get the new kookaburra in their hands they are fit and firing. To illustrate this point let us look at Australias series against New Zealand in 2019/20 and 2020/21. Against the Kiwis, Australia batted more than 130 overs at least once in every game. The bowlers had time to rest, the New Zealand batters were in the field for large periods in damning heat and the Aussie quicks ran through the top order like it was a warm up. The keys behind this success? Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and David Warner. Against India- who with a copious amount of injuries were of a similar if not worse standard to the Kiwis, Australia batted more than 110 overs once (115) and were bowled out before the second new ball 3 times in the series. How did Australias big 3 handle this series? Warner was injured (even during his comeback he was all over the shop), Steve Smith failed in the first two games before an emphatic comeback in the last two (only for a Pant masterclass twice over to devalue what Smudge did), and Marnus was a lone soldier throughout. Brisbane was the culmination of these failures as Australias unwillingness to rotate and failure to bat long came back to haunt them on the final day as an exhausted Mitchell Starc and co were taken around the Gabbatoire by Rishabh Pant. Australia need to bat time and Green is the man to do this.
Cameron Green did play against India and though runs weren’t as readily available as some may have hoped he did what was required of him. Green faced 580 balls in 7 innings across the series averaging out to 82 balls per innings. Runs weren’t flowing off the bat with the Western Australian averaging 33 for the series but he came in and offered resistance and fight whilst the others around him failed. Travis Head only averaged 52 balls from 3 innings, Matthew Wade averaged 29.25 from his 4 innings in the middle order and Tim Paine averaged 49 from 7 (though 99 of these came from his impressive fightback in Adelaide). Cameron Green was all alone and often left stranded with no one supporting him once Smith or Labuschagne had got out and Green was often stranded with the tail with nowhere to go- think Melbourne. Green quietly was impressive with the bat and often looked totally solid for long periods of time. Technically he looks like a prime LBW candidate every single ball but somehow he keeps out delivery after delivery, ball after ball. There are shades of many batters in Cameron Green but for me the resemblance to Jonothan Trott grows with every innings he plays. Not only does Green's mental aptitude of residing himself to a box echo Trott but also his technique and the manner in which he scores his runs is similar to the ex number 3. Often, Green will be found conning bowlers into going too straight and working them away whilst still possessing the ability to play both straight and square on the offside.
As stated earlier Cameron Green is a god among men in Sheffield Shield cricket. The WA man finished this season top of the run scoring charts with 922 runs @ 76.83 with 3 hundreds and a career best 251. Green averages 55 in first class cricket after 46 innings, so hardly a small sample size, and many have been calling for his red ball inclusion for a long long time. Green will be upset that he failed to truly stamp his mark on the 2020/21 BGT trophy with only one fifty in the series; that one fifty though was a work of art and the big hitting at the end was pure entertainment and his take down of Siraj was one of the best passages of cricket you’ll witness all year. Naturally Green's power hitting was a sign of good things to come but it was his reading of the game state which impressed me most. Green battled through to reach his maiden test 50 off 116 balls and up until this point in the series Green had very much been playing within himself and then he realised that this was the moment. The moment to run down the wicket to a guy bowling some real hostile stuff and smash him for one of the biggest sixes of the summer, the moment to let everyone know that you are the real deal. That ability to judge your surroundings, make a plan and then execute it as perfectly as Green did is one which is invaluable to any cricketer at any level. In a time where Australia’s middle order is looking more and more shaky with each game Cameron Green, at the young age of 21, offers hope of a bright, run-filled future.