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Cameron Green's international education gets first overseas test

The allrounder came through scrutiny on his batting during the Ashes in a series where his bowling came to the fore

Alex Malcolm
Cameron Green has been a Test cricketer for 15 months and yet Australia's historic trip to Pakistan is the first time he has needed his passport.
The last time Australia's Test team toured overseas in 2019, Green was in India with a Cricket Australia National Performance Squad for a white-ball training camp in Chennai and not even close to Test calculations.
He has never played a first-class match overseas. But after a breakout home Ashes series, where his all-round skills gave Australia's batting vital runs in Sydney and Hobart and their bowling unit unprecedented depth, the 22-year-old suddenly looms as a pivotal cog in Australia's plans to conquer subcontient conditions.
"I'm just going with a pretty open mind," Green told ESPNcricinfo. "I've been on a couple of NPS tours to India. I had a little insight then, which I'm really thankful for. But obviously [Australia haven't] been to Pakistan in 24 years."
Despite the extraordinary expectation due to his raw skills, the reality is that Green is learning international cricket on the run.
They say it takes a village to raise a child but in terms of raising a Test cricketer, sometimes a village of voices can be overwhelming.
Green has already found that out in his short career. He is of a generation that is attached to their phones, but he has already developed a policy that will hold him in great stead in an international career that appears to have no limits.
"During a Test match, I know my friends and family aren't too happy, but I don't speak to many people," Green said. "I think when you do well, people say you're going a lot better than you actually are. And then when you're not going as well, people think you're a lot worse than you actually are.
"So I just try and keep yourself a little bit more neutral during the game by getting off your phone. Apologies to my friends and family. But that's what I try and do."
But there are some key voices he trusts. Beau Casson and Matt Mason, Western Australia's batting and bowling coaches, were two he turned to in his precious time in Perth before departing for Pakistan.
Despite there being 31 days between the Hobart Ashes Test and Australia's arrival in Islamabad, Green was only allowed 12 of those to move freely at home due to WA's border restrictions and Covid quarantine rules. He used the time wisely to look at how he could improve as he embarks on the next phase of his Test career.
"It was really good to catch up with Beau firstly, to discuss a few things technically, batting-wise," he said. "And then it's nice always to catch up with Mase and go through a few little things I need to consider fixing or to keep having a look at when I'm in Pakistan."
Green's batting drew a lot of attention during the Ashes series, particularly after he was bowled twice in just eight balls faced across his first two innings in Brisbane and Adelaide. Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting broke down his alignment in detail on Channel Seven during the Adelaide Test, explaining that Green was too open with his shoulders, hips, and feet in his set-up and that it was exaggerated further after his back foot trigger movement.
In Shield cricket, they probably give you a bit more to drive, and then Test cricket they don't miss much full. So that's probably the biggest challenge I've found so far. Trying to be able to find a different way to score other than basically just sitting on the front foot
Cameron Green
Casson, Justin Langer, and Andrew McDonald had already been aware of the issue out of the India series 12 months earlier. But even Casson was impressed by Green's ability to fix it on the run and deliver back-to-back scores of 74 in Sydney and Hobart.
"Ricky was absolutely spot on with his assessment," Casson told ESPNcricinfo. "The whole picture of batting, it's not just the physical component. The excitement of playing in an Ashes series, wanting to do well, can actually sometimes influence what your body's doing.
"But he was very deliberate in what he did. And he actually did it in warm-ups for a Test match which is pretty unique. You don't have the ability to be able to go, I just want two weeks away to get this right. He was able to put it into place. I think that showed he had it stored away and probably just went a little bit away from what we used to do.
"They're the geniuses, aren't they? The ability to be able to take in information but work out how it actually applies to me."
Beyond the technical, though, Green is aware that the biggest step up to Test level is finding ways to score against different bowlers in different conditions.
"In Shield cricket, they probably give you a bit more to drive, and then Test cricket they don't miss much full," Green said. "So that's probably the biggest challenge I've found so far. Trying to be able to find a different way to score other than basically just sitting on the front foot.
"I think the change is actually not telling myself to get forward. In Shield cricket, I've got a pretty front-foot dominant game.
"I kind of really try and get forward and look for the drive. And then everything else I kind of shut down. I try not to get on the hook. I think it's a pretty low percentage shot in general, but I think in Test cricket, you need to play it. That's kind of what I've found recently."
Casson also noted that Green could use his height to his advantage off the back foot, as he did at times in the Sydney and Hobart innings. Players who develop their games at the WACA tend not to stand up and punch with a vertical bat through the off side, with the extra bounce bringing nicks into play. But it is a shot he will need on the slower pitches overseas. Casson has encouraged him to use his height and reach off both feet on slower wickets, as Kevin Pietersen did with great effect during his career in Asia.
"I don't think it's rocket science, but I think looking to strike the cricket ball a little bit more because those stumps are in play," Casson said. "But just not committing one way or the other in terms of looking to lock yourself off."
Green admits it's a work in progress, not dissimilar to what his bowling was a year ago when he was still working through action changes to avoid the repetitive stress injuries he was having in his lower back.
But he has emerged on the other side of that after a sensational Ashes series where he took 13 wickets at 15.76 and looked a different beast to the bowler who went wicketless in his debut series against India. Mason, who has worked extremely closely with McDonald on Green's development as a bowler, believes it was all part of the plan.
"We had such a big focus for those two seasons around the technical that I think his frustration boiled over at times," Mason told ESPNcricinfo. "The first bit was to make him safe so he can play cricket and the next bit was to learn the game of cricket. I thought as the Ashes series progressed his confidence grew and his ability to ball better lengths and more wicket-taking balls was evident."
Now the conversation has turned to whether Green could play as a third seamer instead of a fourth, to allow Australia to pick two spinners in Pakistan and the other upcoming subcontinent assignments over the next 12 months.
"Potentially," Green said. "Again, it'll be a really big learning curve. In saying that, if I'm the third quick and there's two spinners in front of me as well, I'm still going to be the fifth bowler."
Mason feels that people still needed to temper their expectations on Green's bowling.
"I think the sky is the limit, but it's a process we've got to be patient with," he said. "Cam is a once in a generation cricketer, I think. We've got to curb our expectations. He can bowl well in excess of 145kph, and eventually, I think that's what we'll see from him more regularly.
"But he's also not as robust or as resilient as he needs to be just yet for that sort of role. I think what Australia have done brilliantly through Andrew McDonald, Justin Langer and now Pat Cummins as captain is they've kept that patience level in terms of watching his overs. And it's that management of him that's allowed him to back up in Test matches.
"As he gets older and more mature and more robust, those restrictions will start to come off and then after that, you know he's free to go and he could be absolutely anything."
It's easy to forget Green is still a 22-year-old on his first Test tour overseas. He even used the plane trip to Islamabad to do some economics study for his online degree. His next assignment could be his toughest yet.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo