Cameron Green
Cameron Green is one option to take over David Warner's spot as Test opener. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS
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Reluctance to move Smith boosts Green’s chances to open

Scott Bailey January 7, 2024

Andrew McDonald has indicated he doesn’t want Steve Smith moved from No.4, with Cameron Green’s chances of replacing David Warner as Test opener growing by the day.

Australia’s selectors will finally answer the biggest question of the summer this week, with a squad for the first Test against West Indies in Adelaide to be named as early as Tuesday.

As many as eight players have been mooted as options to open in place of Warner, including shifting any of Australia’s incumbent batsmen to the top.

Smith last week became the first of the current group to say publicly he wanted to move to the top of the order, eyeing off the new challenge of opening the batting late in his career.

Steve Smith
 Steve Smith put his hand up to move up the order and open the batting. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

If Australia opt for a player outside of the current team, Marcus Harris is viewed as being marginally ahead of Cameron Bancroft and Matt Renshaw as specialist openers.

Then there is Green.

Selectors have kept him within the squad throughout the summer, and there is a real desire to have the 24-year-old West Australian all-rounder back in the team after being squeezed out during the Ashes.

Officials have largely kept their cards close to their chest in recent months, unwilling to make a final call until Warner’s Test career formally ended. 

But in recent days, McDonald and captain Pat Cummins have been singing from the same hymn sheet.

After Cummins urged caution against disrupting Australia’s current batting order, McDonald has also suggested he is not overly keen on moving Smith to opener.

“(Steve) had some strong thoughts, he’s made those public. So we’ll consider all options,” McDonald said in the wake of Australia’s eight-wicket win over Pakistan at the SCG.. 

“It’s nice to have him putting his hand up. I think there were a few others that weren’t putting their hand up.

“But Steve at No.3 or No.4 is pretty appetising also. You’ve got to make sure you’re not removing the strengths of the team in the search to fill a gap also. 

“So there’s a balance within that.”

Andrew McDonald
 Coach Andrew McDonald is wary of hurting a strength by moving Steve Smith away from the No.4 spot. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

McDonald is one of three selectors, alongside chief George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide.

There are compelling reasons for Australia’s desire to find a way to bring Green back into the side.

Australia are keen to find someone who can bat at a similar tempo to Warner to work alongside opening partner Usman Khawaja, which the retiring veteran admitted on Saturday may not come natural for a specialist opener.

Green’s fielding is also a genuine bonus at gully, while his inclusion would allow Australia to have five fast-bowling options with Mitch Marsh also in the side.

That would in theory ease the workload on the frontline quicks, potentially increasing the chances of the aging group playing together for longer.

McDonald admitted Mitch Marsh’s entry into the team and Green’s exit had potentially changed the conversation around Warner’s replacement, which would have likely only centred around specialist openers otherwise.

Mitch Marsh
 Mitch Marsh’s successful return may have hampered the chances of hopeful specialist openers. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

“When you sit back 12 months ago and Cameron was locked away in that No.6 position, no doubt the conversation changes when the personnel changes,” McDonald said.

“But I think Cameron Green is potentially underrated in the way that he can play Test level as well. 

“He’s only young in his cricketing career and we’ve seen what he’s been able to do in white-ball cricket. In particular T20. We know he’s got those gears. 

“We know that he can play the high and the low. He’s arguably in our best line up depending on which way we go.”