He’s just 20, has a batting average of 63 and has just peeled off an superb innings of 184. And each of his four Tests has ended in a win.
But opener Matt Renshaw, a key member of the Australian team that completed a 3-0 series clean sweep against Pakistan, is no certainty play when Steve Smith’s team takes the field in its next Test, against India in Pune on February 23.
National coach and selector Darren Lehmann refused to guarantee Renshaw a starting berth against the world’s No.1 Test team.
“It’s a case of what’s the best line-up to win in India and compete,” Lehmann said after Australia’s 220-run win in the third Test against Pakistan at the SCG.
“At the moment you would say he would play but we have to sum up what the conditions are like, what the pitches will be like, how we’ll play, how we’ll play everyone in the XI to give us a chance to take 20 wickets,”
“Whatever the side will be will be but we won’t know until we get there.”
Australia might prefer 33-year-old Shaun Marsh, who has not worn the baggy green since breaking his finger in Perth during the first Test of the summer.
Marsh, who scored 63 and 15 in that Test, recently returned in the Big Bash League, and might be recalled because Australia considers it important to rack up runs against the new ball before the Indian spinners take control.
Marsh is yet to play in India, but has considerable experience in the Indian Premier League and has scored two centuries (averaging 78.6) from three Tests on turning pitches in Sri Lanka.
Former Australian captain Michael Clarke, for one, believes dropping Renshaw would be ”a terrible move”.
“(Renshaw has) played really well. He’s left the ball well, he’s defended the ball well. He deserves a lot of credit,” Clarke said while calling the action on the Nine Network recently.
“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.”
Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb are on the honours board, Australia v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Sydney, 2nd day,https://t.co/mP970omk9V
— Udaya (@Udaya1963) January 7, 2017
The decision on who will open with David Warner in India might be decided by how Renshaw and Marsh bat in a practice match in Dubai and a tour match in Mumbai leading into the India series.
“If someone’s in form and playing really well that’s the best time to succeed in India. We’ll look at all those scenarios when we get there,” Lehmann said.
Australia is also likely to consider playing an all-rounder at No.6 to support strike bowlers Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood, and give the selectors options around the selection of two spinners.
Hilton Cartwright, who played in Sydney, and Mitch Marsh are leading contenders, while Glenn Maxwell has not been ruled out.
“We know he plays spin bowling well and offers that extra dimension as a gun fielder,” Lehmann told ABC radio.
“But we’ll certainly be playing two spinners.”
Lehmann stressed the importance of putting pressure on India by making large totals, such as the 8(dec)/538 in Sydney and the 8(dec)/624 in Melbourne against Pakistan.
“The challenge for our batting group is going big, much like we’ve done in the last two Test matches,” Lehmann said.
First time ever Pakistan has lost 6 Tests in a row.. That's quite a nosedive after becoming no.1 ranked Test team! Now at no.5 #AUSvPAK
— Navneet Mundhra (@navneet_mundhra) January 7, 2017
Selectors will meet later this week but Lehmann has confirmed the reserve wicketkeeper role will fall to Peter Handscomb in India, leaving Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill battling for one squad spot.
Meanwhile Smith has praised the attitude of his new-look team after it wrapped up a convincing 3-0 series whitewash against Pakistan in Sydney.
The series triumph gave Australia four consecutive Test clean sweeps on home soil against Pakistan, dating back to 1999.
Smith, who scored 441 runs at an average of 110.25 against Pakistan and was named man of the series, said he took enormous satisfaction from the way Australia renewed focus and spirit following the debacle of the Hobart Test against South Africa earlier in the summer.
We’ve shown some good resilience at times and able to adapt to conditions.
”We’ve played some really good cricket in the last four Test matches and I’m really proud of the ways the boys have played.”
Smith said he wanted to put his stamp on the Australia team.
“It’s just been about taking it by the scruff of the neck and really making it my team,” he said.
“I felt the guys have responded really well since Hobart, so I’m really pleased.”
While Australia has limited-overs cricket on the horizon against Pakistan and New Zealand, Smith is confident Australia can compete on the slow wickets in its four-Test series against India.
“We’ve got some players at the moment that do play spin well,” Smith said.
“Petey Handscomb has come in, you see the way he has played Yasir Shah and Azhar Ali in this series, he’s played beautifully, and Renshaw, he gives the spin a bit of a whack as well.”
– with ABC