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News Analysis

Green vs Stokes? Let Cam be his own man

The clash of the allrounders will be a closely watched head-to-head but there still needs to patience with Green

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Cameron Green unwinds and unleashes, Australia vs India, 3rd Test, Sydney, 4th day, January 10, 2021

The early signs with the bat for Cameron Green were promising  •  Getty Images

Let the inevitable comparisons begin. Can Cameron Green become Australia's version of Ben Stokes?
Green, 22, who made his debut against India last season, was smart enough not to buy-in as Australia continued their preparations in Brisbane.
"No, no, no, I'm definitely not in the same conversation that he is," he said. "He's a world-class player and you always look forward to playing against the best in the world and he's definitely the best in the world at what he does."
Green also noted they are not the same player.
"It's pretty tough, as a lefty it's pretty hard to model your game on him," Green said. "But he's definitely someone you look up to with how he goes about it. And what he brings to the game."
But people will want to run the comparison because there is a natural interest when you get players in similar roles. So let's drill down.
Green has played four Test matches at age 22. He averages 33.71 with one half-century and is yet to take a wicket with the ball in 44 overs, conceding 118 runs at 2.68.
Stokes had not yet played Test cricket at 22. He was about to embark on his first Ashes series where he did play superbly, averaging 34.87 in four Tests including a brilliant century in Perth, and 32.80 with the ball including 6 for 99 in Sydney.
What about their first-class records? Given the pair were born on June 3 and June 4 respectively, albeit eight years apart, it makes the comparison easy by dates.
Green has played 34 matches, averaging 52.76 with the bat having made eight centuries including a 251. He has 40 wickets at 33.72 with the ball including two five-wicket hauls.
Stokes had played 59 first-class games to the same age averaging 35.64 with the bat, also with eight centuries. Stokes averaged 28.24 with the ball having taken 110 wickets including one five-wicket haul.
Obviously the last few years I haven't bowled that much and had a few restrictions. So I'm sure this year, playing most games bowling will hold me in better stead this year
Cameron Green
It's clear where the numbers diverge. But Green's bowling can't be compared to Stokes. They're different bowlers with different bodies. Green, a 200cm monster, who was all limbs and no muscle when he started playing first-cricket at 17 has suffered four stress fractures in his back already.
The last serious one came in 2020, and statistically, there has been a huge shift in his productivity as a bowler since. From February 2017 to November 2019, Green took 28 first-class wickets at 21.53, striking at 41.3. Green also bowled more than 10 overs in 12 of his 15 innings during that time as he was playing as a specialist bowler for Western Australia.
Since then, he went nearly a full year without bowling in first-class cricket between 2019 and 2020 as he remodelled his action under the watchful eye of WA bowling coach Matt Mason.
After that remedial work, Green has come back a different bowler and he is still incomplete in many ways. He has taken just 12 wickets in 18 games at 62.16, striking at 118. He's been under bowling restrictions during that time as he works back to full confidence.
"Obviously the workloads I've been put under held me in good stead," Green said. "Over the last four years, I've had a stress fracture every year so it was nice to get through a summer and kind of attack the winter with Mase [Mason] to work on everything that we're trying to do."
Confidence is something he believes he has more of heading into this Test summer with the ball. Although he has only taken six wickets in five Shield games this season, he has bowled 10 overs or more in five of nine innings.
"I think last year, maybe I was a bit down on confidence," he said. "Obviously the last few years I haven't bowled that much and had a few restrictions. So I'm sure this year, playing most games bowling will hold me in better stead this year."
In terms of what what Green is going through as a bowler it might be worth looking towards his new captain, Pat Cummins. Like Green, Cummins burst into first-class cricket as a 17-year-old and got thrown into a Test match in his fourth first-class game at 18.
But like Green, he was ravaged by stress fractures in his back. In his first two years in first-class cricket, Cummins played just six matches, taking 22 wickets at 29.81, striking at 61.3. In the next two years, between the ages of 20 and 22, Cummins did not play a single first-class match. He went long stretches on the sidelines with injury and spent time with Dennis Lillee remodelling his action from the ground up, due to the same counter-rotation issues that Green has been trying to unravel.
Cummins was able to do that away from the spotlight of Test cricket, playing only white-ball cricket during that time, and did not return to the Test ranks until he was nearly 24, five-and-a-half years after his Test debut. He also returned a different bowler having, like Green, begun his career with the ability to swing the ball away from the right-handers sharply in the right conditions due to his action. But the change in action to protect his back changed Cummins' profile.
Green is dealing with similar issues, only he's doing in the spotlight rather than off-Broadway. He will never be Cummins with the ball, nor will he probably be Stokes. It's unfair to expect him to be, especially when he averages 52 with the bat at first-class level.
But the comparisons will come. Whether they are warranted or not, it won't be easy being Cameron Green.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo