After using 21 different players across only six Tests this summer, Australia desperately need some stability in their Test side ahead of their tour to India.
Indeed, only six weeks ago, their batsmen folded for 85 and 161 all out against South Africa in Hobart, with only four players reaching double figures in both innings combined.
Therefore, it seems mad that on the back of a sublime 184 at the SCG, 20-year-old Matt Renshaw’s place in the side could be under any doubt.
Lehmann talking about dropping Renshaw for India is crazy stuff #AUSvPAK
— Daniel Brettig (@danbrettig) 7 January 2017
The left-hander is a real throwback in his role at the top of the order, with a dogged defence and an unglamorous technique. His game is about accumulation, and protecting his wicket. When he partners the destructive David Warner at the top of the Australian order, Darren Lehmann’s side have a real chalk-and-cheese combination that has worked extremely well to date.
And yet with the number six spot likely to be filled by an all-rounder, and the other four spots in the top five occupied by Warner, captain Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja and the mid-purple patch Peter Handscomb, Lehmann refused to guarantee that the opening berth would be filled by Renshaw.
“Whatever the side will be will be but we won’t know until we get there.” – DARREN Lehmann
It has instead been suggested that the much-criticised Shaun Marsh may regain his spot in the side, having missed the majority of the Australian summer due to injury.
Much emphasis has been placed on Marsh’s record in the subcontinent, where he has two centuries and a fifty in six innings. However, two of these innings were in 2011, where he scored the majority of his runs against spin when facing Seekugge Prasanna, who was playing his only Test, part-timer Tillakaratne Dilshan and the unthreatening Suraj Randiv; the only time he faced Rangana Herath on that tour, he was dismissed by him.
“There’s been talk that Australia aren’t going to take him to India, that Shaun Marsh will open in place of him. I think it’d be a terrible move.” – Michael CLarke
And whilst it would be unfair to discount all of Marsh’s runs in Sri Lanka – after all, his 130 there in 2016 was a sublime innings – his record against India is poor. He has made 271 runs against them in twelve innings, all at home, whilst averaging 22.58; having been dismissed seven times by Umesh Yadav, it is safe to say the Indian seamer would relish the opportunity to bowl to Marsh.
But the real issue here is not that Australia are considering replacing Renshaw with Marsh, but that they are considering replacing him at all.
What kind of message would it send to the 20-year-old, who averages 63 in Test cricket, to drop him for the toughest challenge in cricket at the moment, when he has shown that he is capable of rising to any occasion?
Australia spent half a decade trying to find an opening batsman with Justin Langer’s patience, and were left to rue their decision not to give Chris Rogers a proper chance in the team earlier in his career. So having waiting for eighteen months to find a batsman with the calm, stoic nature that Rogers possessed, the idea of throwing him on the scrapheap after just four Tests should enrage Australian fans.
Finally, Australia should look at England’s recent tour as evidence that Renshaw has exactly the right game to thrive in the subcontinent. Whilst the two differ in stature and dexterity, Matt Renshaw and Haseeb Hameed are both similar batsmen, who accumulate at the top of the order and build a platform for a more aggressive middle-order. And even though Hameed’s 219 runs in six innings did not spell an unbelievable return, he showed determination and grit that have guaranteed him a spot in the side for the upcoming English summer.
Australia should not be dropping a player of Matt Renshaw’s talent for Shaun Marsh, but, more importantly, they should not be dropping Matt Renshaw at all.