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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

IND vs AUS: Green, but capable of great things

Cameron Green is just 21 and yet to play a Test, but his domestic exploits and composure have got Aussie pundits excited about the arrival of a rare seam-bowling all-rounder of quality.

Written by Vishal Menon | Updated: December 11, 2020 11:39:38 am
australiaPrior to his call-up, Cameron Green was already making waves in domestic cricket. Ashton Agar, his Western Australia team-mate, calls him a “scary talent,” while former Australia captain Greg Chappell hails him as the most exciting player to emerge in the country since Ricky Ponting. (Cricket Australia)

In an attempt to put the hype and frenzy around Cameron Green’s maiden selection for the series against India in perspective, Western Australia’s bowling coach Matt Mason fishes out an anecdote that involves Ian Chappell and his father.

“In 1955, an 11-year-old Ian went to the Adelaide Oval for the first time with his father to watch an Ashes Test match. His father would keep repeating: ‘Watch Miller. Look what he is doing.’ I would not go so far as to compare him (Green) with the great Keith Miller. That would be sacrilege. But I believe Cameron is a rare all-round talent with the potential to get bums back on the seats… and I dare say that in the future, people will flock to stadiums just to watch him play,” Mason tells The Indian Express.

Prior to his call-up, Green was already making waves in domestic cricket. Ashton Agar, his Western Australia team-mate, calls him a “scary talent,” while former Australia captain Greg Chappell hails him as the most exciting player to emerge in the country since Ricky Ponting. It’s hardly surprising considering Green has already notched up three centuries and bagged a couple of five-wicket hauls in Sheffield Shield – Australia’s long-form domestic competition – before turning 21, making him only the second player to do so, after Doug Walters. In 19 first-class games, he averages close to 50 with the bat and a shade over 22 with the ball. He has already offered a glimpse of what he could offer with a hundred against the Indians in a three-day tour game. These are early days in his career, but these stats underline his all-round potential and he is undoubtedly an exciting package.

Mason reckons that part of the hype around Green is because Australia never possessed a seam-bowling all-rounder of repute since Miller’s halcyon days. “You look at the Australian team over the last 65 years or so, and we never had a world-class seam-bowling all-rounder. When the world was going gung-ho over Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham and Kapil Dev, we had none. Historically, we had great batsmen, bowlers and wicketkeepers, but no one really captured the nation’s imagination with their all-round abilities. Fleetingly, a Simon O’ Donnell or Shane Watson would emerge, but that’s about it,” he explains.

Dream debut

Cameron weighs around 105 kg with a lithe 200-cm frame. “That height helps him extract steep bounce. When in rhythm, Cameron the fast bowler is a sight to behold. He has a great seam presentation and can touch 140kmph mark with ease. As a batsman, he has a sound, orthodox technique and the ability to bat for long durations and wear out opposition attacks,” Mason elaborates.

Three seasons ago, Green was blooded into the Western Australian team based on his credentials as a fast bowler. As the story goes, Adam Voges, the current WA coach who was then the captain, played a part in his first-class debut against Tasmania in February 2017. “On match-eve, I was really impressed by the way he bowled to me at the nets, so much so that I immediately went to JL (Justin Langer), who was the coach back then, and asked him to include him in the playing XI. Initially, he had a few reservations about him. But I was absolutely convinced,” Voges said in The Unplayable podcast.

READ | Cameron Green taken aback by KL Rahul’s friendliness

Green would snap 5/24 on debut, and his first over to Tasmania captain George Bailey is something that’s still etched in Voges’ mind. “Bailey played and missed five out of six balls, and then at the end of that over, he turned around and said, ‘sheesh, this kid can bowl.’ Since then, JL has been taking all the credit for having picked him as a 17-year-old,” he added in that podcast.

Tryst with Australian Rules Football

Green grew up in Subiaco, a quaint Perth suburb, home to predominantly Italian immigrants. From the adolescent days, he was a natural athlete and pretty good in just about every sport that he tried his hand at. At 15, Green was caught in a dilemma: whether to pursue Aussie Rules Football or cricket as a professional. It was not surprising considering ‘footy’ was the preferred sport among youngsters in Subiaco. Ultimately, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father Gary – a former grade cricketer with the Floreat Cricket Club. “He really worked hard on his son. Would take him to nets before and after school,” Mason says when asked about Gary’s role in his son’s initiation into cricket.

Plagued by injuries

After a dream initiation into first-class cricket, Green was hampered by two stress fractures of the back in as many seasons, threatening to curtail his progress as a fast bowler. Wayne Clarke, head coach of Subiaco Floreat Cricket Club -where Green played before graduating to WA – believes he had developed an action that his body couldn’t cope with. “Cameron just shot up 8 inches in height over the last two years, so much so that his body just couldn’t cope with the rigours of fast bowling. The only option was to remodel his action,” Clarke offers.

Mason would be instrumental in Green’s road to recovery. “In March this year, I began my stint with him. With time, I reduced the run-up speed to ease the load on his back. I’ve also used physical intervention (use of plastic cones) on his feet with which we have managed to alter his bowling action,” he informs.

The results of Mason’s work look promising. Green now has a slower action and is predominantly more front-on. These changes mean that the landing and follow-through put little stress on his back. Mason is making sure that his ward gets phased back slowly, by allowing him to bowl in short spells, keeping in mind his workload.

“Cameron has been bowling at the nets, but is still not 100 per cent yet. He has been advised to bowl anywhere between 12 to 16 overs with the remodelled action in each match,” says Mason, who served as Worcestershire coach in the early aughts, before joining Western Australia last season.

Even as he was grappling with injuries, Green’s batting burst into life. On his First-Class debut, he batted at No.9, but a match-saving 121 against Queensland the following season would dissipate any doubts about his batting potential. Voges’ retirement and the void in the WA middle order due to Shaun Marsh’s international commitments meant Green would move up the order and make the No.4 spot in the line-up his own.

Tuning out the hype

Last month, Green struck a career-best 197 against New South Wales in a Shield match. Resultantly, the local media kick-started a frenzy by terming him “Australia’s answer to Ben Stokes.” However, the man in the centre of it all has displayed maturity in tuning out all the hype and adulation. “I haven’t actually looked at too many headlines, to be honest… I’ve got a bit of a pact with my girlfriend, where I’m not allowed to look at anything because obviously there’s positives and negatives with everything you read,” Cameron said on The Boundary Rider podcast.

Australia head coach Langer’s advice to the youngster after his call-up to the limited overs and Test squads was to stay away from such distractions. “People say he is the next future captain and the next Ben Stokes, the next this and next that, that’s why I tell him not to listen to any of it. If he wants to keep watching the ball, that’s all he needs to do,” Langer told news.com.au.

Mason is certain that the youngster would not get swayed by the buzz. “He is just 21, but has got a good head on his shoulders. These things don’t matter to him. He is very grounded and hardworking. Sports is something that gets him going. When our team was in quarantine in Adelaide, Cameron won our in-house table tennis competition. Off the field, he is reserved and unassuming. At WA, we call him ‘the gentle giant,’” he notes.

It remains to be seen if Green manages to break into Australia’s Test XI this summer. For all the hype and the tantalising possibilities, he is still very much a work in progress.

Langer told cricket.com.au, “He’s earned the right to play Test cricket on his batting. I love watching him bat. For such a tall batsman, he’s got so much time.”

Mason narrates another incident that gives a peek into Green’s mindset. “He was asked to pick a number for his Australian jersey, but rejected both the options that were initially given to him, when he realised that both those numbers belonged to former cricketers. It goes on to show his personality. Cameron refuses to be under the shadow of former greats. He is someone, who wants to carve out a niche for himself,” he concludes.

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