JUSTIN Langer says the pressure is on Matt Renshaw heading into the third round of the Sheffield Shield, with Western Australia's Shaun Marsh and Cameron Bancroft both pushing for selection for the first Ashes Test.
Despite a promising start to his Test career (623 runs at 36.64, high score of 184), Renshaw's stocks have seemingly dropped significantly ahead of the Gabba Test.
Having floundered in Bangladesh (76 at 19), the incumbent Test opener has struggled in the Sheffield Shield with three of his four innings finishing in the teens. The other saw him fall for one.
"In any team, whether it's one-day cricket, Twenty20 cricket or Test cricket, what is absolutely critical for success is the opening partnership and the top three," WA coach Langer said on the Stumped Podcast. "Matt Renshaw, I think he is under some pressure honestly. He hasn't started the season particularly well."
And he says two men in particular are keeping the Queenslander on his toes.
"Cameron Bancroft played very well, although I also think he could be becoming a long term wicketkeeper batsman for Australia.
"I think Shaun Marsh is in the best form I've ever seen him in. It was only two Tests ago or three Tests ago he was the Superman of Australian cricket."
During his playing days Langer was one half of Australia's highest scoring opening pair in Test cricket, piling on 5655 runs with Matthew Hayden at the top of the order across 113 innings. He sees a bit of Hayden in Marsh.
"He (Marsh) got dropped when he got a sore back again, but he's got this presence, he's a bit like Matthew Hayden at the crease.
"He's batting well, he's relaxed and for me he'll be putting pressure on Matt Renshaw."
But the player Langer most effusively praised was 24-year-old Bancroft, backing him to play anywhere in the Australian batting order and touting him a long term option with the gloves.
Bancroft stepped up in a major way for WA last week in the Sheffield Shield against New South Wales, on the field for all but 24.4 overs of the match.
He followed up 89.2 overs behind the stumps in NSW's first innings with an unbeaten 76 opening the batting for WA.
He then put in another 70 overs of wicketkeeping in the Blues' second innings before returning to open for WA, scoring a patient 86 off 168 balls. His marathon effort only came to an end in the 53rd over when he was trapped in front by Pat Cummins.
Not bad at all against an attack featuring Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Cummins and Nathan Lyon. It was a performance that left Langer hugely impressed.
"What that tells me is he's got an incredible temperament (and) he's got elite fitness" Langer said. "He is the heartbeat of West Australian cricket because no one in the world works harder, no one in the world wants to be playing cricket or international cricket like he does."
It was only the second time Bancroft has worn the keeper's gloves in first-class cricket, but Langer can already see a bright future for the right-hander in the position at the highest level.
The old-school opener came tantalising close to earning a baggy green in 2015 when he was picked for the two-Test tour of Bangladesh only for security concerns to scupper the serries.
He hasn't been close to selection since but is finally back in the mix and not just at the top of the order. Although Glenn Maxwell is the favourite to bat at No.6 at the Gabba, the position is still up for grabs and Langer is confident Bancroft is good enough to play there if given the chance.
"I'd love to see him in there, whether it's opening the batting or in the middle order, I think he's that good a player and that good a character," Langer said. "Whether it happens first Test, I'm not convinced, but certainly at some point Cameron Bancroft I think will be an excellent Australian cricketer."
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