Steve Smith to open for Australia in first Test vs WI, confirms George Bailey

Steven Smith open the batting for the hosts’ alongside Usman Khawaja in the first Test against West Indies

Adelaide, Jan 10 (IANS) Premier Australia batter Steven Smith will open the batting for the hosts’ alongside Usman Khawaja in the first Test against West Indies at the Adelaide Oval, starting January 17, confirmed chief selector George Bailey.

Bailey also said that promoting Smith to top of the batting order, a role which he hasn’t played before in Tests, will also allow Australia to play fast-bowling all-rounder Cameron Green and make him bat at number four in the playing eleven.

“Steve Smith will be opening the batting and Cameron Green will be coming into the No 4 position which is fantastic. We have selected a team we believe contains the best six batters in the country. For all intents and purposes, this is where Steve wants to stay,” said Bailey to reporters after the 13-member Australia Test squad was unveiled on Wednesday.

He further said Smith himself was motivated to make the move for opening the batting in Tests post-David Warner’s retirement from the format, apart from giving the team chance to get Green into the playing eleven. Green had lost his place in the Test team to Mitchell Marsh during last year’s Ashes series in England.

“One of the things I’m really excited about the change is that I think he’s really motivated and energised and excited about the opportunity, and fingers crossed that can provide some longevity in the format.”

“For someone who has achieved as much as he has over such a long period of time across all formats, it’s a challenge or an itch he’d like to scratch and ultimately for us, as a team, it’s something that fits.”

“It’s selfless that someone who’s had such success in one position or a couple of positions in the middle order, that he’s willing and hungry to have a crack at something different. And it provides an opportunity to slot Greeny into number four where he’s had success for Western Australia.”

“The regard in which we hold Cameron and the way the rest of that batting order is functioning left us feeling we have someone we think is pretty talented who was potentially going to find it pretty hard to get any Test cricket in the next 12 months or so.”

Matthew Renshaw has been named in Australia’s Test squad as a spare batter, while there were no slots for Marcus Harris or Cameron Bancroft, the leading run-getter in Sheffield Shield over the last two seasons. Bailey said overlooking Bancroft had nothing to do with his involvement in the 2018 Cape Town ball-tampering controversy.

“I can categorically say no, and I’ve shared this with Cameron on a number of occasions. It has never at any stage been discussed from the panel’s perspective, it’s purely a cricket decision. There’s not a member of the team that would have an issue with Cam playing.”

“We certainly don’t have an issue with it, and I think a lot of people tend to forget the fact that Cam’s actually played Test cricket since returning from the ban (during the 2019 Ashes series). I’d be disappointed if people were looking to that as a reason, and all I can do is reiterate that’s not the case.”

“It never has been and it never will be. Cam’s record over the last couple of years has been phenomenal and it’s made this decision really challenging, a line-ball call. He is banging down the door. Think there’s a number of players who are banging down the door and that’s great.”

“As excited as Matt Renshaw and Cameron Green are, you know there’s always guys on the other side of the coin who are shattered and who are working their backside off. All those guys know what it’s like to be part of that Test team, all of them are striving to get back there and there will be opportunities going forward,” he concluded.

–IANS

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