Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Green light: Batting prodigy set to reveal trump card
A weight of runs has seen him earn a national call-up at 21, but what about Cameron Green the bowler? The man who knows him better than most unpacks the WA young gun's action
Louis Cameron in Adelaide
29 October 2020, 06:48 PM AEST
It was amid Perth's cool autumn mornings, at a suburban park in Subiaco, that Cameron Green and WA bowling coach Matt Mason began the work that will on Friday see Australia's most exciting young cricketer return to the bowling crease in the Marsh Sheffield Shield for the first time in a year.
With a third serious back injury threatening to derail a career loaded with potential, Green turned to Mason at the end of last summer.
As the rest of the WA squad took their leave, the two men went to work.
More than six months on, the 21-year-old's maiden call-up to an Australian squad is not only reward for an avalanche of runs, but a culmination of crucial technical alterations to his bowling action that will be put to the test when he turns out for Western Australia against Tasmania.
Green's feats with the bat – his latest a 438-ball innings of 197 against New South Wales last week – have seen him compared to a young Ricky Ponting, but those who have watched his rise closely insist he is just as impressive with the ball.
It was his bowling, after all, that set tongues wagging in early 2017 when, as a 17-year-old batting at No.8, he took five wickets on his Shield debut for WA. But like many young quicks, injuries have held Green back, and they prevented him from bowling for most of last season.
Mason is now confident the changes he and Green have worked on will allow the right-arm quick to gradually increase his bowling loads as they are carefully monitored over the coming weeks.
That optimism does, however, come with a caveat, with the pace-bowling mentor conscious the young prodigy is not yet "at the finish line" in regards to those key action changes.
As a consequence, he is urging patience and caution.
"We often see with our young quicks, when competition gets really strong, the tendency to revert back to old habits or the way they used to do things to compete is always a possibility," Mason, who has been in close contact with Australian assistant Andrew McDonald and fast bowling guru Troy Cooley in recent months, told cricket.com.au.
"We've worked so hard in training up to this point, and on challenging him enough to make him uncomfortable (to see) that the changes are holding pretty well, but it's still an ongoing process.
"Since I've been in the country, I've had some great conversations with guys at Cricket Australia.
"Everyone in his life has been very, very patient with the process and that's been so important.
"That patience will need to continue, because I still think we're in the process at the moment and we're not at the finish line.
"There's going to be some poor days and some really good days – both in performance, as well as the technical stuff – but I think how he is managed in that (Australian) environment will be absolutely fine.
"I certainly think he's got the temperament. Not once have I seen him falter when all this talk (over national selection) has been going on. He's really down to earth, just a great lad and he'll fit in there fine. He's certainly good enough."
Green is held in such esteem as a batsman that former Test skipper Greg Chappell, who told SEN this week that the 21-year-old is "the best batting talent I've seen since Ricky Ponting", hinted that his bowling should be firmly a secondary focus.
"He's already broken down once, so we've just got to be so careful because batting talent like this doesn't come along very often," Chappell said.
"He's a top-six batsman, he thinks of himself as a batsman; bowling is a bonus."
But Green's Western Australian teammates almost universally agree that his bowling is as good, if not better, than his batting.
So too does Chris Rogers, the former Test opener and current Victoria coach, who admitted he found it frustrating during his time as a coach at the National Cricket Centre that Green was held back from bowling to the other youngsters due to fears he would re-injure himself.
"I just wanted to put batsmen in against him because it just looked so good," said Rogers, who had Green watch footage and consider mimicking elements of Kevin Pietersen's batting technique during their stint together.
"It's interesting because when he does bowl, it just looks effortless and it's fast and it's bouncy and he can swing the ball. He's got every attribute, but obviously it puts a lot of pressure on his back.
"Hopefully he can put that all together because if he can, he'll be quite an incredible cricketer."
Mason, who played two Shield games for WA in 1997 before forging a decade-long English county career with Worcestershire that ended in 2011, joined the WACA at the beginning of last Shield season, right before Green suffered a third stress fracture to his back, and strongly advocated for him to bed down a number of technical tweaks before resuming bowling in matches.
That Green has blossomed into one of the country's most promising young batters in the meantime has only increased anticipation for him to bowl again.
"He's got an action I would say is stressful on a young body, especially when you're six-foot-seven, 105 kilos and (at the time Mason started with WA) only 20 years of age," said Mason.
"But I did think there were things we could do."
COVID19 restrictions took effect right as the pair started their work together at the end of last season, barring them from using the WACA Ground nets and instead forcing them to Green's local club ground in Perth's inner-west.
Mason identified one major issue to address. He saw Green was typical of many young fast bowlers in that, in his opinion, he ran in too fast and jumped too high. That made it harder for him to stay balanced upon landing, which resulted in him putting huge pressure on his back when he delivered the ball.
The solution was to slow down Green's run-up to help him become more balanced at the bowling crease. Ensuring his arms were working in concert with his legs in his approach also helped achieve this.
It sounds simple, but Mason points out that getting even the most experienced fast bowlers to make subtle changes is extremely difficult.
"You can get really bogged down in the details of technical stuff and I'm also really aware that making big changes in young fast bowlers – even older fast bowlers – is really, really difficult," he said.
"The reality is, in a five-month winter, you do really well to make one wholesale change."
As his batting has blossomed, Green has increasingly found bowling frustrating. But an inner determination that's been noted by teammates and coaches alike shone through as the winter passed.
"He was out there every day working his backside off to make these changes," Mason continued.
"It was frustrating at times. He went up and down emotionally – some days you could see he was frustrated and other days you could see he was a bit excited.
"I think that's natural and as we progressed and he started to see change, he got excited and we just kept going from there. These things are never smooth sailing, but he's been very resilient and very mature about the whole thing.
"He's fed back to me some great stuff about being a little bit too heavy (with instructions) but between the pair of us we've forged a really good bond and we're working really well together."
Green's ability to listen and make changes to his game, at a young age, has surprised many.
Rogers was taken aback when working with Green during the 2018 off-season in Brisbane at not only how well coordinated he was for a young player standing nearly two metres, but also his attention to detail.
"The thing with Cam, he picked things up so quickly," said the Vics mentor. "Little instructions he would adapt into his game really quickly.
"So it hasn't been surprising how quickly he's been able to do some stuff. What has been surprising is the fact he can bat for such a long period of time. That is quite extraordinary for a young man.
"Developing that skill to face 450 balls is off the charts – that's unbelievable, really.
"If he can continue to do things like that then the sky is the limit."