Steve Smith’s shift to open the batting has instantly rejuvenated the 34-year-old to a surprising extent, Australia’s Test captain Pat Cummins says.
Cummins has never seen Smith as cheerful and lively as the stalwart has been while preparing for his 106th Test, against the West Indies in Adelaide starting Wednesday.
“It’s a new challenge for him, which I don’t think you can underestimate,” Cummins told reporters on Tuesday.
“I’ve never seen him just as happy and as energetic as I have seen him around the nets the last couple of days.
“Seeing someone who has basically achieved everything in the game get really excited for a new challenge, you have got to entertain that.
“You can see already his mind whirring about how he’s going to maybe go about a little bit differently … it’s like a re-energising.”
Smith’s shock rise to an opening slot comes after prolific run-scoring at first drop and No.4 in the batting order.
The move wasn’t on the radar during retiring opener David Warner’s farewell Test series against Pakistan, only for Smith to push the prospect.
“The first conversation is always what’s the batting group and order that you think is going to give you the best chance of winning and scoring the most runs,” Cummins said.
“And obviously the individual is really important within that, especially someone like Steve who is going to be one of the highest scorers wherever he bats basically.
“Again, seeing him really keen for the challenge and seeing a way where he can think he can score more runs … give it a shot.
“In terms of giving a long term play, yeah, absolutely.
“Our intention isn’t just to give you some Tests to see how it goes.
“We want to make sure it’s a shift that’s pretty much permanent and we want to give it a good crack for not only Steve but with (Cameron) Green and the rest of the order.
“I think he (Smith) will thrive anywhere he bats, to be honest, he’s that good.
“But top of the order, the ball is a little bit harder, it does ping off the bat a bit differently, potentially the field placements might be a little bit different.
“He loves the problem solving aspect and trying something new so it’s all set up for him.”
Green returns to Australia’s team, batting at No.4, while Smith’s rise means the Test aspirations of specialist openers Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris nosedive.
“They’re doing all the right things just unfortunately they both just missed out,” Cummins said.
The skipper spoke to both batsmen and stressed to Bancroft there was no lingering impact from his role in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018.
“I have got absolutely no issues with Bangers, love what he brings,” Cummins said.
“So that was a part of it (his message) as well, just don’t change, we’ve loved playing with you in the past and keep doing your thing, I’m sure you’ll be back in Aussie colours pretty soon.”