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Smith's shock opener switch all but locked in as 'perfect scenario' looms with Green back to middle order

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9th January, 2024
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Steve Smith’s surprise switch to opener in the Australian Test team is all but locked in but the selectors could still keep fans and the West Indies guessing when they announce their squad on Wednesday.

The panel of selection chief George Bailey, Tony Dodemaide and coach Andrew McDonald are set to announce a squad of 14 for the two-match series against the Windies in Adelaide and Brisbane with Cameron Green a certainty to be in the line-up.

They may not announce who will open alongside Usman Khawaja despite Smith vaulting into favouritism after declaring last week he was keen on the surprising move from his customary spot at No.4.

With the 34-year-old replacing retired opener David Warner at the top of the order, the door would be open for Green to play his first Test for Australia since the fourth Ashes match in July, likely at Smith’s old spot with Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh remaining in their usual spots after him.

With Green coming in for Warner to the XI that won the Third Test in Sydney, Scott Boland and Lance Morris are likely to be included in the new squad as back-up fast bowlers while Marcus Harris could be selected as a spare batter because he is not playing in the BBL, unlike rival openers Matt Renshaw and Cameron Bancroft.

Marnus Labuschagne had been touted as a potential option to open but the first drop is adamant the likely selection shuffle “looks like the perfect scenario”.

Labuschagne, speaking in Brisbane ahead of playing for the Heat in Wednesday night’s BBL clash with the Perth Scorchers, said “if Steve does get the nod, I have no doubt that he will do a good job”.

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“Cameron Green’s record at No.4 for Western Australia is amazing. 

“Obviously that is not a direct correlation to Test cricket, but you can be pretty confident that over a period of time he is going to be a very good player in that position.

“(Smith) is excited for a new challenge. If that motivates him and gets the cricket world Steven Smith for another two or three years, I think that is a massive win.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 30: Cameron Green of Western Australia plays a shot during day 3 of the Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and Western Australia at The Gabba, on November 30, 2023, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Cameron Green plays a shot during the Sheffield Shield match at The Gabba. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“It looks like the perfect scenario. When he was captain I know he liked a little more time between being in the field and going out there, but he is ready to get out there from the start now.”

He said the key to the potential batting-order change, aside from the class of both batters, was that both players desired it.

“I have no doubt that if Cam had to slot into the No.1 spot that he would be able to do that as well and that he would be able to bat wherever the team needs, but it seems in this case that Steve really wants that opportunity to bat at the top,” Labuschagne said.

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“If they do end up going that way it looks like the perfect swap.”

He said Green had all the attributes to succeed at No.4 at Test level.

“He has got a really nice even temperament, a great ability to absorb pressure, is a very good decision-maker, has got a sound technique and a great defence,” Labuschagne said.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 30: Marnus Labuschagne (R) and Steve Smith of Australia walk off the field after day one of the First Test match between Australia and the West Indies at Optus Stadium on November 30, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“I think that is the versatility you need at No.4, someone that can play different scenarios and know when to push the button and when to hold back.

“We have seen him do well in the IPL, so we know he has got that (attacking) button.

“We have seen him playing in England (against) extensive periods of short ball bowling and managing that.”

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He said that if Australia decided to open with Smith, it was not a slight on the efforts of regular red-ball openers Bancroft, Harris and Renshaw but that selectors wanted to get the best six batters in the country in the Test team.

“Cameron Green also averages 50-plus in Shield cricket, and there are not many guys doing that,” he said.

with AAP

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