Sri Lanka v Australia T20Is - Men
Handscomb regaining glow of golden Test entrance
Five years since he burst on to the international scene, the Victorian captain believes he is now better equipped to handle the mental challenges of the top level
10 May 2022, 03:23 PM AEST
Back on the periphery of a return to international cricket, Peter Handscomb believes he is as close as ever to recapturing the mindset that briefly made him a Test sensation.
Handscomb, one of three young batters enlisted to revive Australia's struggling top-order back in 2016 following five consecutive Test defeats, will travel to Sri Lanka next month after earning selection for an 'A' tour on the island.
The right-hander’s Test career commenced with an explosion of runs, averaging a Bradman-esque 99.75 and hitting two centuries in his first four Tests against the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Mohammad Amir.
His unconventional batting technique came under the microscope over the ensuing years and, by his own admission, got "found out" during the post-Cape Town period when he averaged just 18 from his last four Tests in 2018-19.
Now, fresh off his best Sheffield Shield season since his 784-run 2015-16 campaign signalled his status as one of the country's most promising young players, Handscomb is confident he is better equipped to handle the pressure of the top level.
The 31-year-old, who topped the most recent Shield run-scoring charts with 697 at 49.78 for runners-up Victoria, has worked on the mental side of his game with performance psychologist David Reid in recent years.
"I was so clear when I first played for Australia, in terms of how I was going to bat, how I was going to score my runs," Handscomb told cricket.com.au from London, where he is captaining county side Middlesex.
"Then, as is the case with international cricket, you start to get found out the more you play. There's more cameras, more media attention and more scrutiny, which started to create that doubt in my mind.
"And then as soon as I start second guessing myself, then I start losing one of my strengths.
"I feel now like I'm close, if not at that same sort of mental spot again.
"I'm quite clear in terms of how I'm going to go about it and what I need to do, making sure the game I want to play is ready to go.
"I don't know if I'm a better player, but I'm more experienced and I think I'd be mentally stronger now if I do get that chance to play at the top level again."
Handscomb, who is expecting his first child with wife Sarah in August, would need injury or a run of poor form to affect Steve Smith, Travis Head or Cameron Green to win his Test spot back in Sri Lanka.
But his reputation as a strong player of spin, borne out with key innings in 2017 in Ranchi (where his 72no saved a Test against India) and in Chattogram (scoring 82 despite the feeling the effects of severe heat-related illness) could help his cause for next year's India Test tour.
There is neat symmetry in the A tour selections with Matthew Renshaw and Nic Maddinson, the other two debutants for the 2016-17 Adelaide Test, also in the reserve squad following their own Test absences.
Handscomb also believes he is better prepared for the inevitable criticism of his back-foot centric batting style that he admits got to him during his initial stints in the Australian side, having since deleted his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"I found those two platforms probably the worst in terms of people having direct access to you, to just randomly sledge you and take you down," he said.
"When someone's taking the time out to directly message you, calling you shit or 'How dare you be in the Australian side' – that kind of stuff – it's hard not to take that to heart, especially (given) I was quite young at the time.
"I got off them during the Ashes (in 2017-18) and that was definitely one of the biggest things that helped.
"Being able to either not listen to it or zone it out (is important). Which is easy to do at a state level because there's not that much scrutiny and fewer cameras to sort of pick apart your technique.
"If that does happen again, and I am lucky enough to play for Australia again then, yeah, I think I'm better equipped to deal with everything that comes with it."
Qantas Tour of Sri Lanka, 2022
T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner, Matthew Wade
June 7: First T20, Colombo
June 8: Second T20, Colombo
June 11: Third T20, Kandy
ODI squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
June 14: First ODI, Kandy
June 16: Second ODI, Kandy
June 19: Third ODI, Colombo
June 21: Fourth ODI, Colombo
June 24: Fifth ODI, Colombo
Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
June 29 - July 3: First Test, Galle
July 8-12: Second Test, Galle
Australia A fixtures
Squad: Sean Abbott, Scott Boland, Pete Handscomb, Aaron Hardie, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kuhnemann, Nic Maddinson, Todd Murphy, Josh Philippe, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Tanveer Sangha, Mark Steketee
June 8: First one-day game, Colombo
June 10: Second one-day game, Colombo
June 14-17: first-class tour match, Hambantota
June 21-24: first-class tour match, Hambantota