Cameron Green of Australia.
Cameron Green has been recalled by Australia for the two-Test series against West Indies. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • cricket

Smith to open, Green in at No.4 against West Indies

Scott Bailey January 10, 2024

Australia’s selectors hope Steve Smith’s shift to opening the batting can extend the former captain’s Test career, after confirming he’d won the race to replace David Warner.

Selectors announced their squad for the two-Test series against West Indies on Wednesday, with Smith’s promotion to allow Cameron Green to return to the side at No.4 at Adelaide Oval on January 17.

Matt Renshaw has also usurped Marcus Harris as the squad’s back-up batsman, with the Queenslander now next in line for looming vacancies in the next few years.

Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith.
 Openers Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith will hope to be on the same frequency against West Indies. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

When Warner announced his retirement plans back in June, it was expected the race to replace him was between Renshaw, Harris and Cameron Bancroft to partner Usman Khawaja at the top.

But while Bancroft has banged the door down with runs for Western Australia, the fact Green was squeezed out of the side during the Ashes changed that equation.

Considered a generational talent by most at Cricket Australia, Green has previously batted at No.4 for Western Australia and is viewed as a long-term prospect there.

“(We) feel like we have someone pretty talented, who potentially was going to find it hard to get any Test cricket in the next 12 months,” chief selector George Bailey said.

“I don’t think that’s going to be particularly beneficial for Greeny. We can get a lot of benefits out of him playing.

“(We’ve been) working through some of the solutions to that and how he could potentially slot in and where that could be.

“One of the options we flagged was whether Cameron could slot in at the top. I think he could to be honest, I think he’s technically capable of doing that.

“But as a younger guy, who’s potentially going to bowl some overs as well … I think (No.4) is the ideal spot for him to set him up for success.”

Bailey insisted the decision to move Smith to the top was not an experiment against West Indies, and was hopeful the batting superstar would see out his career there.

The chief selector also rejected the notion that specialist openers should only be considered for the role, noting his panel’s desire to pick the best six batsmen in the country.

David Warner waves farewell to Test cricket at the SCG.
 Matt Renshaw, Marcus Harris and Cameron Bancroft were expected to vie to replace David Warner. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

Arguably the nation’s best batsmen since Sir Donald Bradman, Smith has been solid for Australia at No.4 in recent years without being his usual prolific self.

His move comes despite both Khawaja and captain Pat Cummins expressing caution over the shift in recent weeks, in a bid to avoid disruption of the batting order.

But there is a view that the move to the top can re-energise the 34-year-old, as well as extend his career after previously suggesting retirement could come sooner than people think.

“Steve has spoken on a number of occasions about almost a series-to-series sentiment of how he’s feeling about Test cricket,” Bailey said.

“One of the things I’m really excited about with the change is I think he’s really motivated and energised and excited about this new opportunity.

“Fingers crossed that that can that can provide some longevity for him in the format as well.

“It’s selfless that someone who’s had such success in the middle order, is open, willing and hungry to go and have a crack at something new.

“It’s a challenge or an itch that he’d like to scratch.”

AUSTRALIA’S TEAM TO FACE WEST INDIES:

Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (capt), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood. Reserves: Scott Boland, Matt Renshaw.