Former Australian cricket captain predicts Steven Smith as the top opener in the world within a year

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Former Australia captain Michael Clarke believes that if given the opportunity to replace David Warner as an opener, Steven Smith could become the best in the world. However, Clarke also sees Cameron Green as the likelier route that selectors will take. The squad for the first Test against West Indies will be named on Wednesday, marking the start of a new era following Warner’s Test retirement. The focus on who will replace Warner has shifted from a specialist opener to finding a way to accommodate Green.

“If he [Smith] wants to open the batting and they give him the chance, he’ll be the No. 1 Test opener within 12 months,” Clarke told ESPN’s Around The Wicket show. “He’s that good a player. If you can bat at three you can bat anywhere in the order. Technically he’s good enough, lets the ball go well, he’s got a great eye, got beautiful hands. Yes, he might nick the occasional one or might get lbw but tell me someone who doesn’t. So if he opens the batting he’ll be the best opener within 12 months. [And] don’t be surprised if he breaks Brian Lara’s 400 record because he’s that good and now he’s got the whole day.”

But, following Cummins’ comments about how the batting order is successful in their current positions, Clarke can see Green being parachuted in at the top as the outcome.

“It sounds from what Patty says, he wants the least amount of disruptions as possible. Marnus has been brilliant, Smith’s four, Travis Head five, Mitch Marsh six. So that tells me that Cameron Green at this stage is probably the likeliest to come in and opening the batting.”

Smith has never opened in Test or first-class cricket, but former Australia batter Callum Ferguson was of little doubt that he could make a success of it.

“I think he would prepare himself as well as anyone to open the batting if he decided he wanted to do that,” he told the show. “I’ve always been in the camp that you need a specialist opening batter but if it was Steve Smith coming to you and saying I want to open the batting, I think he’s looking for a challenge, that next motivation and inspiration in his career, and honestly if he took to that job I think he’d do it better than anyone else.”

Should the selectors opt for Smith or Green, questions have been raised about what it would mean for the Sheffield Shield given that Bancroft has been the leading run-scorer in the last two seasons and could still be overlooked.

“I think the selectors have always been really clear with Shield cricket being the ground they want guys to go back and perform in,” Bancroft said on Sunday. “There’s plenty examples of guys who have gone back and done that. I’m sure that’ll be a big part of what they’re looking at when they make that decision at the end of the day.”

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