Cameron Bancroft builds his own identity

No one works harder than Bancroft in world cricket - Langer (2:17)

Former Australia batsman Justin Langer lauds Cameron Bancroft upon being inducted into the Test Players Walk at the WACA and lays out his thoughts on the future of the young batsman (2:17)

A 1990s Nike commercial featured a a young talent widely thought to be the next big thing in the NBA - Harold Miner. Dubbed "Baby Jordan" for his shaved head, left-handed slam dunking and scoring prowess, he speaks these words: "It wasn't easy growing up. I wanted to be the next Michael Jordan, and the next Oscar Robertson, and the next Jerry West, and the next Iceman. But I couldn't make up my mind which next I wanted to be. So I became the first Harold Miner."

At the unveiling of his place on the WACA's walk of fame, reserved for all those West Australian cricketers to have played international cricket, Cameron Bancroft was in peak comparisons territory. Not to mention the many players immortalised in name and image on the walk, the tightly-wound figure of Justin Langer was on hand to present Bancroft with his likeness. Among many questions, Langer was asked whether Bancroft was more of a "Hayden or a Langer", eliciting the response that no, "he's more of a Cameron Bancroft".

In his emergence as an Australian cricketer, Bancroft has spent many hours looking over the methods of others while becoming known as one of the game's hardest and most conscientious workers, but it is in finding comfort in his own skin that he has graduated to Test level. Langer pinpointed this as being more important than any technical or tactical point of evolution for the 25-year-old.

"The most important thing for Bangers now is he feels comfortable in his own skin," Langer said. "He's not trying to prove to be anyone else, he knows his game, he has worked hard at it, he has trusted his game now and he's actually comfortable being Cameron Bancroft. That's one of the most important traits you can have if you're going to be successful in international cricket.

"He doesn't have to be David Warner or Matt Renshaw or Shaun Marsh, Gordon Greenidge or Desmond Haynes, he has got to be Cameron Bancroft. He'll find a great career if he keeps doing that... For the rest of his career he has got to look at how he played in that second innings [in Brisbane]. He knows he belongs at Test level and I'm sure if he keeps chipping away at it and concentrating on what's important he'll do it for a long time."

Anyone observing him in action during the post-match press conference in Brisbane, where his dry delivery had Australia's captain Steven Smith in stitches, would conclude that Bancroft has indeed made that step. "I've certainly been through phases where I wanted to bat like this person or that person but the more your game evolves and you find yourself a little bit more, you're comfortable with your method," he said. "If it works, it feels even better. For me now that's the journey [by which] I've come to be in the place [I am in] now."

Most important for Bancroft as a top-order batsman is to have a trusted regimen for dealing with a new and moving ball. While the WACA is unlikely to witness the red ball curling around corners like its pink cousin did under lights at Adelaide Oval, Bancroft will resume what has so far been an intriguing battle with James Anderson in particular.

"I think it was a good experience, albeit a really short one, that second innings in Adelaide," Bancroft said. "When he's able to swing the ball like that, he's extremely hard work and he's very, very damaging. That's just a part of cricket isn't it? Facing different conditions, and that's probably a big part of the pink ball as well. I think I've gained a little bit of confidence from playing different periods so far in the Test series and hopefully I can keep learning from them and keep getting better.

"The last couple of years I've been able to play some county cricket in England where the ball does move a lot more sideways - swing and off the wickets as well. I've gone through ups and downs there and patches where I've done really, really well. That's an important part of developing a good game plan for things like that. No matter what's going on, it's bloody hard when the ball's swinging like that. You can have the best game plan in the world, it can be a ball with your name on it.

"I thought the little patch where [Usman] Khawaja and Warner were batting in the second innings, that's as hard as it gets. Just showed you two really good scorers in cricket, very fluent scorers found it very, very difficult. I think that's a true reflection of what we were facing at that particular time."

Having played plenty of times at the WACA - the first occasion being a club final in which he anchored his side's brave but unsuccessful chase for a tall target - Bancroft said he was comfortable with the risk/reward parameters created by its bounce and pace. Know which balls not to play at and the rewards will come with time, helped by a lightning fast outfield and flint-hard wicket block.

"I got a slow 60 off 190 balls. That was a really good experience for me," Bancroft said of the Willetton's 2010-11 club final against Subiaco Floreat. "They had Jason Behrendorff and Nathan Coulter-Nile in that game. We had 80-odd overs to chase 390 and we nearly did it. We lost by six runs. To be able to do that against those bowlers in that setting gave me a lot of confidence and spurred my dream for bigger and better things in cricket.

"Always in the first session at the WACA it can be quite hard work, but like anything, if you're willing to put in the hard yards early - you can reap rewards later in the game. It's such a fast outfield that you don't have to worry too much about scoring, the ball goes through the in-field and you instantly get two even if you don't hit it really well. That's the beauty of playing at the WACA. And hopefully if we can do that and keep wearing their bowlers down, we can give ourselves the best chance to get guys to make big scores and post big scores as a team too."

Given Langer's presence, and other players of stature like Mitchell Johnson and Adam Voges, it was unsurprising to hear Bancroft say he and the rest of the Australian team needed little reminding of the importance of this week. Victory would seal the return of the Ashes to Australia in a bare minimum three matches, while also farewelling the fading WACA Ground to major Test matches.

"We start our skills training today, and over the next couple of days I'm sure we'll have a meeting," Bancroft said when asked whether the coach Darren Lehmann had underlined the importance of the week. "But he doesn't need to tell everyone how big a moment and big an opportunity this is for us as a group. When we train and from ball one of the game, we'll be putting ourselves on the line to work hard and hopefully come out on top with the Ashes urn."

Harold Miner never amounted to much, playing only a limited number of minutes for Miami and Cleveland and facing knee problems before quitting the game at the age of 25. Whatever his best intentions, Miner was unable to live up to the expectations of the "Baby Jordan" moniker, and cut all ties with the game so he would not be reminded of that fact. "It helped me," he told Sports Illustrated in 2014, "but it hurt me too." Bancroft, then, has the job ahead of him, but looks ready to do so by being himself.