There’s no rush – Australia don’t need to put pressure on Green’s shoulders
If I were picking an Australian Test side today, I would not have Cameron Green in my side.
The reason is quite simple; Cam Green is not in form. Barring the 96 he scored against an extremely weak Queensland attack shorn of Michael Neser and Mark Steketee in the final round of the Sheffield Shield, he has not looked like scoring runs against any other side.
His Test numbers are also lower than normal – 352 runs at an average of 29.3 since the West Indies visited last year. This does not make for stellar reading and well short of his first class average of 46.
Green’s problems seem to not be technical as much as they seem to be mental. Indeed, in 7 of his past 15 innings he has made a score higher than 15 and then been out, 8 out of 15 if you include his 51* when he was declared on in Melbourne against South Africa. This struggle to convert starts might suggest Green is tired and needs some time away from the international spotlight.
The best solution for Green and the selectors would be to send him back to Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers to have a good crack at the back end of the Big Bash League and Sheffield Shield season.
Mitchell Marsh at 32 is not a long-term option in the Australian side, and he does not offer the same bowling depth Green does. Allowing Green the freedom to go back and play cricket without needing to worry about potential selection or where he bats in the team would help him to rediscover his best.
Plenty of Test cricketers have seen benefits from going back and dominating at lower levels before going back up into the Test side. Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh were both dropped from the Test side, went back to Shield cricket, came back to the Test side and never left. In this instance, Green would not be “dropped”. He would be afforded time to play himself into form in the Shield and Big Bash competitions.
By shoehorning Green into an already excellent Test team, the selectors force him to adapt at the highest level. Green has one of the brightest futures in Australian cricket, some even say future Australian captain.
But forcing a 24-year-old to bat in a position he has never batted before in international red ball cricket, either opening or at number 4, opens the possibility Green may never rediscover his damaging best with bat and ball because he has not been afforded the time away to rediscover his game.
Proponents of Green’s move up the order argue that he has the technique and temperament to succeed, and his performances for Western Australia suggest that he does. Technique and temperament are nothing, however, if his mental game is not right.
For the future of Australian cricket, Cameron Green needs to be at the peak of his powers in a future side with the likes of Harry Dixon, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Nathan McSweeney and Jack Clayton to bring the best out of those players. The only way to do that is to allow Green to regain his confidence.
Green’s confidence in his batting needs to be prioritised for Australia’s long-term success. Moving back to state and Big Bash cricket allows him to rediscover his enjoyment for the game and provides him with some time out of the international spotlight that would be beneficial for him.
Asking Green to move up the order to open, or moving Steve Smith up to open to allow Green to bat at number 4, piles the pressure on Green to perform and sets him up for continued struggles if he does not succeed immediately.
Sure, two Tests against a weakened West Indies side could provide a good start for him, but the subsequent tour of New Zealand in late-March as well as next year’s Indian visitors will provide a much sterner contest.
Whatever happens with the opening position, Green’s future must be prioritised above all things. Allowing him to go back to where it began, where he has had success with the Perth Scorchers and Western Australia, helps to get him in the right mindset to achieve that goal.