Bangladesh v Australia Tests
Brave Bancroft's extra edge
Cameron Bancroft's hopes of a Test debut could be boosted by his skilled and fearless fielding at short leg
16 September 2015, 04:29 PM AEST
Australia might finally have found the short leg specialist they have been looking for in young Western Australian opener Cameron Bancroft.
In recent years Australia have made a habit of putting rookie batsmen in the demanding and sometimes perilous fielding position, a tactic that has at times proved costly in the form of dropped catches.
Short leg specialists are rare and Bancroft has built an excellent reputation for his catching in the position for the Warriors since making his first-class debut in late 2013.
Quick single: Patient Bancroft digs in for the long haul
The 22-year-old Western Australian opener was one of 15 players named in Australia's squad for a two-Test tour of Bangladesh next month, and while he faces stiff competition for an opening spot, his chances of a dream debut in the Baggy Green could be boosted by his reputation for fearless fielding and lightning reflexes in a position crucial on subcontinent wickets.
"Bancroft’s probably the best bat-pad I've ever seen,” NSW spinner Steve O’Keefe said on Big Sports Breakfast on Wednesday.
“Don't be surprised to see, if he does play, some special grabs in there at bat-pad.”
David Boon excelled at short leg throughout his career but given the position is fraught with danger due to the close proximity to the batsman, there is a shortage of volunteers when the position is vacant.
Quick single: The makings of Australia's new opener
It has become almost a rite of passage for a new player and Chris Rogers, Alex Doolan, Joe Burns, Glenn Maxwell, George Bailey, Adam Voges and Steve Smith are among the myriad of batsmen Australia have placed under the helmet over the last couple of years, while substitute Marnus Labuschagne highlighted the advantage of a specialist when he took a stunning one-handed catch at bat-pad to dismiss India’s Varun Aaron in the second Test at the Gabba last summer.
Watch: Sub Labuschagne takes a ripper
O’Keefe said Bancroft had demonstrated the confidence required under the helmet during Australia A’s tour of India in July and August.
“He's got no fear, he's the sort of bloke that when the batsman goes back to pull, he won't be ducking – he'll be throwing his body in front of the ball,” O’Keefe said.
“He took a couple of special grabs in India and it wasn't a surprise to any of his teammates because he does that consistently.”
O’Keefe was similarly full of praise for Bancroft’s skills as a batsman, tipping him to fare well in Bangladesh if given the chance.
"He's someone who's improved massively over the past 12 months,” he said.
Quick single: O'Keefe puts stock in lessons learned
“I remember a couple of years ago when we played him, he didn't score many runs against the Blues and we used to let him know about it, but he's really improved.
“He hit a big 150 against us last year and his play against spin is probably the thing that's helped evolve his game.
“He went to India in those conditions and he was playing his sweeps, he was getting off strike really well and we already know he can play the new ball really well because he opens the batting.”