Pat Cummins
Pat Cummins says there's no blanket rule about picking a specialist opener for the Test side. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
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New Test opener need not be a specialist: Cummins

Scott Bailey January 2, 2024

Captain Pat Cummins would have no issue with the selectors opting against a specialist opener to replace David Warner in Australia’s Test team, indicating picking the best batsman should be a priority.

Warner’s rollercoaster 112-Test career will come to an end at the SCG this week, with the veteran opener fulfilling his dream of a home farewell when Australia play Pakistan in the third Test.

But amid the celebrations for Warner this week in a series that is already won, the biggest question that looms is who will replace him against West Indies in Adelaide on January 17.

Khawaja Warner
 Australia must pick a new opening partner for Usman Khawaja as David Warner leaves the Test arena. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Marcus Harris, Cameron Bancroft and Matt Renshaw remain the front-runners out of the specialist openers, but Australia are open to going outside that group.

Coach Andrew McDonald left the door open earlier this week for Cameron Green to take on the job, if it allowed Australia to pick their best six batsmen.

Another option would be to shift Travis Head, Marnus Labuschage or Mitch Marsh to the top, allowing Green to return to the side.

The likes of Ricky Ponting and Justin Langer have each warned against such a move, while Bancroft has also voiced a case for a specialist to be selected.

Cameron Bancroft
 Cameron Bancroft has plenty of form on the board in Sheffield Shield cricket. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS 

But Cummins said he would be open to a move from a regular middle-order batsman.

“Uzzy (Usman Khawaja) wasn’t a specialist (opener) until it was basically the only spot available in the team and he forced his way in,” Cummins, who has been involved in informal discussions on the looming selection, said.

“Ideally, you’ve got someone who’s had experience opening, but I don’t think it’s a blanket rule.”

Cummins has some first-hand experience on the topic, as a Test quick who has taken the new ball against specialist openers and those filling in the role in opposition teams.

“I think every case is different,” Cummins said.

“If someone’s been picked in the side as an opener, but their record’s not great, you feel probably feel more of a chance (to get their wicket), rather than if you’re picking their best batter.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s just a batting position, everyone chops and changes around a little bit.”

Cameron Green
 Cameron Green is an option to make his Test return when David Warner departs. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

Cummins on Tuesday lauded Warner as Australia’s best-ever three-format batter, and noted his absence will be felt as much off the field as on it.

The 37-year-old will play in this year’s T20 World Cup, and while he has retired from ODI cricket, Warner is open to a comeback in major 50-over tournaments if asked.

Australia’s captain indicated that would likely not be required, but was not wholly opposed to the idea of an uncontracted Warner returning.

“It’s probably time to give some others a crack,” Cummins said.

“But knowing he is still going to be playing cricket, it might be more of a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option.

“He’s going to be scoring runs somewhere in the world, so you never know.”

Warner’s retirement is the first from within the Test team since Mitchell Johnson’s in late 2015.

But many more loom in coming years with Labuschagne the only player from an unchanged XI for the Sydney Test aged under 30.

Cummins is confident, however, the vast majority of the team will be able to face India next summer.

“Realistically there is going to be some rate of change,” Cummins said.

“We probably thought it was going to happen a little bit sooner but everyone is hanging on.

“After this block of Test matches, we don’t play again until next summer. So I don’t see anything in the immediate future that is going to change.”