Chairman of selectors George Bailey confirmed Green would slot in at No.4, with Smith, who has publicly stated his desire to move up, set to open the batting for the first time in not only his 114-match Test career but also his 16-year first-class career.
“Steve’s obviously motivated and energized and keen to do it,” Bailey said. “There were plenty within the team who were pretty keen to go on record and say that they weren’t keen to do it. So it was refreshing that Steve had come forward and said he wanted it and it was something that we’d been chatting about in the background as a selection panel with the coaches as well.
“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 open and willing and hungry to go and have a crack at something new and something different, which provides that opportunity to slot Cam into a position where he’s had so much success at first-class level and we think ultimately, is a great spot for him to be in the Test team.”
Bailey also noted that Smith’s move to the top of the order was not a short-term decision and that Smith had confirmed he would not request a move back down the order if he had some trouble adjusting to the role early on.
“No. That’s been part of the discussions I believe with Steve, that he’s keen for this to be a significant chapter in his career,” Bailey said. “As far as the panel goes, I think we’ve been pretty consistent in saying that we don’t look too far ahead. We’ve obviously got these two Test matches against the West Indies. We go to New Zealand, different conditions, different challenge. We’ll have more information then. We’ve clearly got a big gap between Test cricket and then India over the summer. But for all intents and purposes, this is where Steve wants to stay.”
Bailey confirmed that his panel had chosen the “best six batters” in Australia rather than picking an experienced opener, something the panel had long been planning to do, with Renshaw confirmed as the seventh best in the selectors’ eyes ahead of Bancroft and Harris.
“I think ultimately you can mount statistically some strong cases for a number of players,” Bailey said.
“As it currently stands, the panel sees Matt Renshaw is our next best batter.
“We’ve gone back 18 months or so and I think if you take into account all first-class cricket I think across that time, those guys have played Shield cricket, some county cricket, some Australia A cricket, and PM’s XI games. Matthew’s played a couple of Tests in Australia and in India across that period and his numbers stack up as well as anyone’s across that time.”
“I’m glad you asked that because I wanted to touch on it. It’s categorically no,” Bailey said. “And I’ve shared this with Cameron on a number of occasions. That has never at any stage been discussed from the panel’s perspective. It’s purely a cricketing decision. There is not a member of the team that would have an issue with Cam playing. We certainly don’t have an issue with it. I think a lot of people tend to forget the fact that Cam’s actually played Test cricket since returning from the ban. It was a long time ago. We’ve all moved well past that. I’d be disappointed if people were looking to that as a as a reason. All I can do is reiterate to you and to Cam that’s not the case. Never has been and never will be.”
Australia squad for first Test vs West Indies
Pat Cummins (capt), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Renshaw, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc
Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo