The Sheffield Shield games before the beginning of an Ashes series are very interesting. I actually feel sorry for the lads who are playing for a spot. The uncertainty going into each game and the pressure is something they could certainly live without, but the opportunity to represent Australia against England is one they do not want to throw away.
It certainly is a very fickle time for Australian cricket. You only need to look at Hilton Cartwright for example. He had another opportunity to cement a spot, but after the first Sheffield Shield game, it seemed he was the favourite to take that elusive number six spot in the batting order. But after making a pair in the second Sheffield Shield game, the pressure is well and truly on him. That is mainly the case due to others making runs in the previous round that are auditioning for the same spot, but it shows the fickle nature that is Australian cricket at the moment.
A desperate cricket public
The public are so desperate to see Australia win the Ashes on their home deck, which therefore will see many be ruthless in giving their opinion as they want the best side in that first Test at the Gabba.
I’m not here to talk about Cartwright though. One position that perhaps has not gotten as much speculation as the others is that of Matt Renshaw’s. The opening batsman has struggled as of late for form and with that comes pressure. The public have only recently been talking about Renshaw’s place as his start to the Sheffield Shield season has been scratchy. Scores of 17, 16, 1 and 19 have left many starting to question the position for the 21-year-old.
There’s no doubt he would have liked to have started the summer on a better note, but let’s not get carried away here. Unfortunately, there will be those who will try to remove this man from the side, but the selectors cannot get carried away and listen to the public’s outrage.
When everything went wrong against South Africa last year down in Hobart, where Australia was bowled out for 85 in the first innings, there were massive changes come the next Test. One of those was promoting young Renshaw from Queensland, who many had not heard of to open the batting for the Australian Test side.
It proved to be a stroke of genius. He scored 184 against Pakistan at the back end of last summer showing his ability to bat time and cash in. He further showcased his ability in India earlier this year where he let the world know of his massive potential. The runs Renshaw made on those pitches were invaluable and showed maturity beyond his years. India isn’t for the faint-hearted, but he applied himself and batted for a number of hours.
Glimpses of the batsman Australia needs
In the recent Bangladesh tour, Renshaw wasn’t at his absolute best, but showed glimpses of the young man we saw last summer and in India. He certainly is not in the best of form at the moment, but it would be a knee-jerk reaction to drop him for that first Test at the Gabba.
The selectors put massive faith in him last year, and they need to continue to do so again. The time and effort that has been put into him over the past year was to build towards this moment. I’m all for cricketers being picked on form, but Renshaw has shown enough to suggest he is good enough to play at Test level.
Renshaw compliments David Warner so well and his ability to bat time while his partner at the other end blasts the opposition bowling attack to pieces is a fantastic combination. Australian cricket has needed an opening bat like Renshaw for a while, and they now have one.
His defence is his strength, but what many fail to realise is he can play his shots when needed. He very much is the complete package, especially at such a young age.
I have no doubt the selection panel will reap the rewards if they stick with the Queenslander. They simply cannot panic as they have established a Test side for the past year to beat the English.
There will be some changes no doubt, but the selectors need to be careful to not go overboard.
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