Cameron Bancroft’s ‘shocking’ Test snub is not all that it appears to be

Steve Smith’s shock elevation to David Warner’s opening position has left debate raging in Australian cricket circles after Sheffield Shield standout Cameron Bancroft appeared to have been brutally snubbed by selectors.

It appeared the three horse race between Bancroft, Matthew Renshaw and Marcus Harris to take Warner’s position dominated the summer.

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But selectors threw a curve ball, elevating Smith with Cameron Green slotting into No. 4, while Renshaw was named as a reserve batter for the first Test against the West Indies.

Conventional wisdom generally dictates that the best of the Sheffield Shield or a batter who bashes the door down will get the next shot.

However, Australia hasn’t not often gone down the conventional path, bringing in Usman Khawaja as an opener after he plundered twin centuries against England at the SCG in 2022 — while batting No. 5 after replacing Travis Head.

While Khawaja is generally an opener or first drop, it wasn’t quite as big a leap as shifting Smith from four to the top of the order, a position he has never batted before.

The furore has been swift since the decision to promote Smith into the position Warner owned throughout his career, with the entire state of Western Australia in uproar over the decision.

But the narrative may not tell the whole story as cricket podcaster and broadcaster Paul Dennett broke down on TikTok.

“So there’s fury that Cameron Bancroft hasn’t been picked in the Australian side — there shouldn’t be,” he began.

“He’s a good player who wouldn’t be out of place at Test level but he hasn’t made the compelling case that people are saying he has.”

Dennett pointed to some of the fury, which asserted that Bancroft’s numbers were “so compelling”, in particular pointed comments from Western Australian greats Justin Langer and Tom Moody before looking at the pure numbers.

Bancroft blasted 945 runs in 2022/23 at an average of 59.06, including four centuries, finishing top of the run scoring list by nearly 300 runs.

He’s continuing the form for Western Australia with 512 runs at 56.88, including two centuries and three 50s in 2023/24, putting him once more on top of the run scoring ladder.

But it’s not the whole story as Bancroft also represented Australia A earlier in the year against New Zealand A in New Zealand in a two match series, as well as playing for the PM’s XI against Pakistan.

So in those five innings, Bancroft scored 137 runs at 27.4, as well as having a four-match County Championships stint in England where he had 137 runs at 19.57 across seven innings.

It means his average since the beginning of last years’ Sheffield Shield season is actually 46.78.

Dennett then compares Bancroft’s stats to Matt Renshaw.

Bancroft’s first class average is 39.04 from 146 matches, Renshaw 38.76 from 107 matches, at Test level it’s Bancroft 26.23 from 10 matches to Renshaw 29.31 from 14 matches.

Renshaw also had 310 runs at 51.66 in five matches (eight innings) in the 2022/23 Sheffield Shield season, 348 runs at 31.63 in six matches (11 innings) in the 2023/24 Shield season.

But he also played in the Australia A series against NZ A, scoring 332 runs at 83, including two hundreds, the PMs XI match, scoring 136 not out and an ill-fated cameo for Australia in India, where he scored just four runs at 1.33 across three innings.

And he also represented the PMs XI against the West Indies in 2022/23 with scores of 81 and 101 not out.

All up, he averaged 52.7, which is higher than Bancroft’s average.

Dennett added Bancroft’s record is “really good”.

“But is it enough to say he’s batted the house down and convinced us that a man aged 31 with an overall record of an average just under 40 is going to come into Test cricket and dominate?” Dennett asked.

“I would say not quite.

“So is Bancroft unlucky? Probably a trifle. There have been other times where this amount of runs would have got him in the side but there would have been other times when he’d be nowhere near.

“And I just think Renshaw, Bancroft and Harris are all decent players — none of them I think are going to absolutely dominate at Test level. And I think Green probably is the best bet and I’m fine for Smith to open.”

For the record, since July 1 2022, Renshaw has hit seven centuries and 1566 runs in 35 innings at 52.20, Bancroft has 1731 runs at 46.78 with six centuries in 41 innings while Marcus Harris has 1759 runs at 39.97 including six centuries across 46 innings despite carrying the drinks on most Australian tours.

But despite the excellent numbers across the trio, you could still argue none of the three have truly knocked down the door demanding selection.

It didn’t stop anger when the decision was made.

Former Aussie opener Justin Langer blasted the call to snub Bancroft.

“The mantra for all selectors is to tell aspiring players to score runs, take wickets, knock down the door. Be so good we can’t ignore you. Bancroft was given this message. All players are. He has taken the advice,” Langer told The West Australian.

“His numbers are outstanding. Not only has he made a lot of runs, but his fielding in the slips or at bat pad is as good as any player in the country. A lot of good judges have pointed to his weight of runs, they are undeniable.”

Similarly, former all-rounder Tom Moody tweeted: “Selection is never an easy task but the oversight of Cameron Bancroft is shocking.

“His first class numbers are so compelling against his peers it feels there is another agenda which I hope was communicated to him honestly!”

The other talking point has been the suggestion that this was hangover from the ball tampering scandal of 2018 after Bancroft made comments insinuating the fast bowlers knew about the sandpaper plot.

The suggestion was emphatically denied by head of selectors George Bailey.

“Categorically no (issue between players and Bancroft). And I’ve shared this with Cameron on a number of occasions,” he said. “It’s never been discussed, from the panel’s perspective, it’s purely a cricketing decision.”

He added: “There’s not a member of the team who would have an issue with Cam playing. We certainly don’t have an issue with it.

“I think a lot of people forget the fact that Cam’s actually played Test cricket since returning from the ban.

“It was a long time ago. We’ve all moved well past that. I’d be disappointed if people were looking to that as a reason … that’s not the case. Never has been and never will be.”

Captain Pat Cummins reportedly even called Bancroft and Marcus Harris to clear the air and reassure them that they are not forgotten when it comes to the national set up.

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