How Bancroft kept alive his Baggy Green dream
Recalled opener discusses why he packed his Test cap in his luggage for his stint with county side Durham, and what he’s expecting from the crowds in the Ashes
Andrew Ramsey in Southampton
27 July 2019, 06:00 PM AEST
Cameron Bancroft packed more than a remodelled sense of self and a trunk load of resolve when he embarked on his journey to captain Durham in division two of England's county cricket competition earlier this year.
Tucked into his suitcase, in its velvet cocoon emblazoned with the Australia coat of arms and embroidered with the number 451, was his treasured Baggy Green Test cricket cap.
In preparing for his northern summer sojourn in the northern-most cricket county, Bancroft took with him no expectation the keepsake he'd earned during the 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia would be needed when the battle for the urn resumed in the UK come August.
But the power that item of cloth possessed, in reassuring him from where he'd come and wordlessly exhorting him to reclaim his place, made it a vital travel companion that will now accompany him on his return to the Test fraternity.
As he served the nine-month ban from international and interstate cricket last year, the cap sat on its regular display post outside his bedroom at home in Perth as a symbol of better times.
"It's something you're obviously very proud of," Bancroft said today of his Test cap, just hours after learning of his call-up to the 17-man Ashes squad.
"It's a very prestigious item to have and you take good care of it because it means something to you … and being able to see that is obviously really good to focus your goals, and where you want to be going."
Upon taking up his post at Durham, which currently sits mid-table on division two's 10-team ladder, Bancroft used the cap as a form of inspiration, knowing that if he rediscovered the form that had won him a Test place 18 months earlier, he was a chance of winning it back.
"It's good motivation isn't it?," he said.
"To look at it and go 'yeah I'm playing cricket but there's something bigger I eventually want to be able to get back to'.
"I guess it was good motivation to keep working hard … to keep my goals and keep focused."
Bancroft admits he's a subtly different cricketer, but a markedly different person than the one who completed the fractious Test series in South Africa last year as Australia's leading runs scorer.
A self-confessed cricket obsessive prior to that experience, the 26-year-old has found a new equanimity built partly on his embrace of yoga and the related realisation that cricket is a pastime to be enjoyed, not a yoke to labour beneath.
Bancroft points out that he still takes the game very seriously and badly wants to succeed at a team and individual level, but takes a far more holistic view of its place within his life and the inherent need that it fills.
"I think being serious about cricket is important, but I think it's also about being able to realise the game is just a game of cricket," he said.
"One of the big lessons that I learned last year was about being true to yourself.
Aussie #Ashes squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner. pic.twitter.com/gz6XspryKG— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) July 26, 2019
"There is no doubt that I wasn’t as true to myself as I could have been at times (but) you learn from mistakes that you make, and you try and be better.
"At the end of the day, what you do and your actions is completely up to you.
"I made a mistake, and I’ll learn from it and move forward and get better."
What Bancroft has not yet had an opportunity to encounter along his road to redemption is the level of crowd hostility that Steve Smith and David Warner were regularly subjected to during the recent ICC World Cup in the UK.
To date, Bancroft's return to top-level cricket has come in front of far-less partisan cricket fans in Australia and the smaller turn-outs attracted to county fixtures in England and Wales.
He has been aware of elements within those crowds that proffer choruses of booing, and has even been ambushed at times by folks asking for his autograph on sheets of sandpaper.
Should he win back a place in Australia's starting XI during the upcoming five-Test series against England, he can expect the full treatment afforded Smith and Warner at venues that traditionally fill to capacity on most days hosting Ashes battles.
True to his tranquil new self, Bancroft accepts it's an outcome he can't alter and is therefore one upon which he won't expend valuable mental and physical energy.
“It’s all right, it doesn’t bother me too much," he said of the crowd reception he knows will be waiting.
"People will react how they want to react.
"Hopefully, I can use it if people want to be like that, to give (me) energy to perform well.
"But I can’t control that.
"I guess the journey that I’ve been through over the last 18 months, you get exposed to things like that.
"I’ll just deal with it and keep moving forward."
With his prized Baggy Green Cap sitting proudly on a very level head.
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval