After two long months of evading the inevitable, the Sunrisers Hyderabad curse struck David Warner in the 2nd ODI on Sunday, ruling him out of the rest of the white-ball games in the tour. Obvious candidates are lurking to take Warner’s place, but, perhaps, the selectors should think out of the box.
Mitchell Marsh. Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Vijay Shankar. Wriddhiman Saha. For two months, it seemed, the Sunrisers Hyderabad camp was some kind of a weird, experimental laboratory which replaced bones and muscles in players’ bodies with glass; each and every single one of them broke on the first instance of them falling. For two months and more, somehow, skipper David Warner managed to stay clear of harm’s way, but he had his ‘Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives’ moment in the 2nd ODI against India in Sydney on Sunday.
Running to his left and diving spectacularly, Warner, sensationally, in the most trademark Warner fashion imaginable, stopped a Shikhar Dhawan punch from traveling to the mid-off boundary. However, the dive came at a cost as he soon, in the most un-Warner fashion imaginable, went down in pain, holding his groin, signalling that he might have done serious damage to his muscles. Scans later revealed that the extent of the injury was severe enough to keep him out of the rest of the white-ball games and put him in a race against time to be fit for the first Test in Adelaide on December 17.
Luckily for Australia, Warner couldn’t have picked a better time to suffer a two-week injury. They have the ODI series in the bag and all that beckons them is one more inconsequential 50-over game and three inconsequential 20-over matches in which India, in all likelihood, will field a weakened XI. And luckily for them, the position of the player who has gone down is one in which they are spoilt for choices - there is Matthew Wade, there is Marcus Stoinis, there is Alex Carey and there is, now, Marnus Labuschagne, who has also put his hand up to open, of course totally not because he is overawed at the potential prospect of facing twice as many balls as he usually does.
But ignoring the obvious candidates, the 3rd ODI in Canberra has presented the Aussies with the ultimate opportunity to give a taste of international cricket to the country’s golden boy, Cameron Green, albeit with an added twist - as an opener.
Will Pucovksi’s double centuries have swayed the spotlight towards his direction, but long before he catapulted into the selection fray, the entirety of Australia couldn’t stop talking about Green. He was, in many ways, press-ganged into being picked for the India tour and, at one stage, he could very well have brandished his ‘Best young cricketer since Ponting’, ‘Australia’s very own Flintoff’, ‘The next big thing’ tags like movies and TV shows do whilst realising trailers.
But while his Test selection was justified and understandable - he has torn the Shield down with his weight of runs - there was only one logical explanation behind his inclusion in the limited-over squads: that the management primarily wanted him to get some valuable experience by having him ‘be around the boys’ and, maybe, if the situation presented itself, give him a taste of international cricket in a low-intensity contest. Having already wrapped up the series, Langer would not get a better opportunity to blood Green into international cricket.
Almost four years into his first-ever List A appearance, there is little to infer from Green’s numbers in 50-over cricket. Remarkably, he’s only held the bat 8 times, in which he’s averaged a tad under 28 and struck at 79.14, and has just one fifty to his name. His T20 numbers are underwhelming, too, with him boasting an average of 15.14 and a strike rate of 108.16 in 9 digs. He has clearly been picked on potential, rather than performance, and both the selectors and the management view him as an asset; a long-term prospect worth the full investment.
Green was picked in the initial squad as an all-rounder, and was also viewed as a potential candidate to take up his WA teammate Stoinis’ place post the latter’s injury, but uncertainty over his bowling fitness saw Moises Henriques usurp him to the No.6 slot. The youngster not guaranteed to give his full quota of overs means that him taking up Henriques’s place in the final ODI is unlikely, particularly on the back of the veteran’s nifty display with the ball in the 2nd ODI.
However, despite him not having opened the batting even once, in any format, for Western Australia, there exists a window of opportunity for the Aussies to fit Green in as an opener for the 3rd ODI - not as a long term option but to just give him a taste of international cricket. Asking any youngster to bat out of position in their first-ever international game, let alone asking a No.7 bat to open the batting, can never be ideal, but should Green be chosen to partner skipper Finch come Wednesday, the pros will outweigh the cons.
With Green not in Australia’s immediate limited-overs plans, and with the general consensus being that his ODI and T20I selection is a pathway, a starting point to an inevitable Baggy Green cap, there would be no better platform for the management to expose the youngster to the biggest stage than a dead rubber against an already-wounded Indian bowling attack, at the top of the order. Aside from serving as the ultimate test of his quality and temperament, a stint at the top would also give Green the time to play himself in and flaunt the array of shots he possesses, which he, should he bat down the order, might otherwise not get.
There will, of course, undoubtedly be skepticism surrounding a move to not just play a rookie out of position, but expose him in the wild. But in his young career, Green has shown that he has the technique to negate and conquer seam, swing, and spin. And he has that extra gear and those shots, too. Green might have scored a solitary fifty in his List A career, but that fifty, notably, came in the 2019/20 Marsh Cup - a match-winning 78-ball 86 against a strong South Australian attack that comprised three capped bowlers, including Zampa and Kane Richardson. There, walking in at 73/5 in the 16th over, with WA in disarray, Green scampered his side to 252 through an exhibition of classical batting coupled with power-hitting; a run as an opener would mean more of the former and less of the latter which, going by his knocks in the Shield, should suit him.
For both Green and Australia, fielding him as an opener in the final ODI will be a win-win situation. By playing him in a low-stakes, nothing encounter, the management will be taking significant pressure off him, but also, in addition to that, by allowing him to open on a flat wicket, they will be providing the youngster with the best opportunity to succeed. The door is open and the opportunity is there to be taken, but whether the Aussies will be bold enough to take the leap of faith remains to be seen.