Marcus North Column: Aussie selections have pressed panic buttons

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By Marcus North

Two days into this Ashes series, and there is still a lot of talk about the Australian selections that saw Tim Paine drafted in to take the gloves and Matt Renshaw dropped from the opener’s spot. I wrote last week that I believed Renshaw should have kept his place, and I stand by that call. I am disappointed the selectors have not kept faith with a 21-year-old kid who has shown great promise and a determined attitude to succeed at the highest level.

In Renshaw’s last knock on Australian soil, he went big with a daddy hundred and six of his ten tests have been played on the sub-continent. While I commend the selection of Cameron Bancroft, which sends out the right message because of his excellent form in the Sheffield Shield, some common sense and a bit of sympathy could have been applied to Renshaw’s plight.

Even the best players face the axe and getting dropped and how you recover is part of your make-up as a Test batsman. I remember one particular lean spell of my own, in the build-up to our series in New Zealand back in 2010. I had absolutely no form behind me at all, and in four Shield matches I just couldn’t buy a run. Nothing was working. I wasn’t even getting good deliveries; my feet just weren’t moving and it felt like I was batting right-handed. I was a mess.

My place was in serious doubt leading up to the first Test in Wellington. There was a net session where the coaches were keeping tabs on me. I was nicking off, playing and missing. And then Ricky Ponting stood at the end of the net, assuming the umpire’s position, watching me intently. Talk about pressure. I actually felt embarrassed.

When I came out, ‘Punter’ pulled me to one side and suggested I stand up taller in my stance to prevent my head from falling over. That gave me encouragement and I went away and worked on a few things in the indoor nets. I felt reinvigorated that I was getting support from a senior player; it felt like the skipper wanted me there and wanted to help. Technically and mentally, suddenly I was in a better place, and I made a century in that opening Test and followed it with a 90 in the second.

That team environment really helps players; Renshaw would have benefitted from being around players like David Warner and Steve Smith. To have received the backing from the selectors and get in and around the changing room would have given him a lift. I’m sure of that.

Meanwhile, the recall of Shaun Marsh – his eighth for Australia due to a procession of injuries and poor form – has also got a few feathers ruffled. But Tim Paine’s call-up, a keeper who wasn’t even doing the job for Tasmania, was the biggest story that had plenty of critics, mostly former players, scratching their heads. What I will say is that Tim is a fine gloveman, and for me it is a nice story for a guy who was in line to be the long-term replacement for Brad Haddin, only for a horrific finger injury to derail his career. He doesn’t have the weight of runs behind him, granted, but I will reserve judgment here because he has been selected or his keeping. We should applaud that.

But the selections have created a sense of panic, and leading into an Ashes series that is the last thing you need. Trevor Hohns, the chairman of selectors, doesn’t want to be in the firing line and if Paine drops a couple or Marsh pulls out injured, then, believe me, the panic will snowball and heads will roll. Let the opposition create your problems; don’t create your own…

*This article originally featured in Issue 249 of The Cricket Paper.

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