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Match Analysis

Cameron Green's growing pains on a steep learning curve

Highly promising allrounder is experiencing the ups and downs of being an all-format player, and will likely come out better for it

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
10-Dec-2022
Cameron Green was dismissed shortly after being involved in Travis Head's run out  •  Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Cameron Green was dismissed shortly after being involved in Travis Head's run out  •  Cricket Australia/Getty Images

The excitement was all around Scott Boland. He had ripped out West Indies' top order with a magical triple-wicket maiden to start his spell. But Australia's wider celebrations were worth noting as they made a beeline for Cameron Green who had taken a superb, low catch at gully for the third wicket having made a diving save the ball before to keep Jermaine Blackwood on strike.
Green hasn't always looked at ease during this match and the catch was the second moment his team-mates had made a big effort to embrace him following his wicket of Devon Thomas yesterday after which Mitchell Starc was seen wrapping an arm around his junior team-mate.
There are no alarm bells or major concerns, but Green hasn't had much chance to do what he loves most in recent times - bat. Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are often referred to as the Australians who just want to bat. Green can be put in that category.
There is a sense he is a player not entirely comfortable with where his game sits. It hasn't been a problem in this match, but it might be against a stronger attack like South Africa.
When he walked in on the second day in Adelaide, Australia were handsomely placed on 428 for 4. He was nearly taken at slip first ball and was uncertain throughout his stay, including being involved in the run out of Travis Head which may have denied him a hometown double.
Green eventually dragged on against Alzarri Joseph for 9 off 42 as he was trying to leave the ball. But it also needs some context: that was his first long-form innings since the tour of Sri Lanka in July, which presented very different conditions and requirements. He was on a hiding to nothing when he came out in the second innings in Adelaide, clearly with instructions to have a swing, and did manage one clumping boundary down the ground before heaving into the off side.
On Channel 7, Ricky Ponting questioned Australia's tactics. "I am not sure what they are trying to achieve," he said. "I mean that man there [Green] now maybe has another dent in his confidence for being dismissed cheaply again in a Test Match. We know that they are trying to give the bowlers a reasonable break, but if they think they've got enough runs, let Green just go out and bat."
Given the way Australia's top order gorged themselves in Perth, he was not even needed with the bat on in his home city during the first Test. Allied to that, a byproduct of his development as a white-ball cricketer - and something that will now likely be a juggling act for the rest of his career - was that it cut into his opportunities for four-day cricket. He acknowledged as much before the Perth game where he said he was basically learning to leave the ball again.
"That's the unfortunate nature of playing three formats," he said. "You don't really get much preparation, which I'm not too used to. I'm used to like a good month or so leading into a Test series. It's something that I'll have to get used to and I've got a lot of added respect for the guys that do it."
His first innings in Adelaide was just his second knock for a month - the other being an unbeaten 20 against England on the same ground during the one-day series. In fact, since the beginning of October he had batted just five times.
Having replaced Josh Inglis in the T20 World Cup he spent most of that tournament on the sidelines before playing the final game against Afghanistan. Then came another week of largely meaningless white-ball cricket against England.
It's understood that Green was desperate for some Sheffield Shield cricket. In that sense he was a victim of his own T20 success, but there is argument to say a game for Western Australia - or perhaps even the Prime Minister's XI outing in Canberra - might have been better value for a developing player.
Before people jump on this with suggestions he should be able to adapt, a worthy comparison to draw is with Labuschagne or Usman Khawaja, a pair of batters who clearly benefit from the rhythms of Shield cricket. It may not always be this way for Green as his career evolves, he will find other ways to manage his batting, but right now he is a player whose best learning is done in the middle.
There is not much time - and certainly no match-based opportunity - for Green to find his groove before the opening Test against South Africa in Brisbane next Saturday. It will have to be the nets at the Gabba.
However, Green has shown his problem-solving skills and adaptability at multiple times in a young career. He struggled around the off stump early in last season's Ashes before finishing with scores of 74 in Sydney and Hobart. In Pakistan he combated slow pitches and reverse swing to make a decisive 79 in the third Test and in Sri Lanka he swept more than he had ever done in Galle to make a match-winning 77.
"The thing we've learnt with Cam pretty quickly is once he experiences from a challenge he learns pretty quickly from it," Australia's assistant coach Daniel Vettori said. "It was tough for him not being able to bat through that Perth Test, a lot of sitting around and waiting, then he got another dose of it in this Test. Think he's really starting to understand what it is to bat No. 6 and deal with different experiences."
Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Nigdi, Marco Jansen and Anrich Nortje will arguably be the strongest pace attack Green will have come up against in his Test career. If the technique, footwork or mindset are slightly off they will be able to expose it.
But there is one more aspect to this. Green has often stood up when Australia have really needed him. That has not been the case this week in Adelaide. While it would not be ideal for them to be in early trouble against South Africa, it might just be the scenario to bring the best out of him.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo