Pat Cummins doesn’t want to push Steven Smith to replace David Warner as opener


Cummins is not a selector, but has had a handful of informal conversations about what the future looks like at the top of the order. On Friday, Smith became the first incumbent player to confirm he wants to move up to fill Warner’s position; but it would appear he has a lot persuading to do if that’s to be the case.

“I’m pretty happy with [Smith’s] output at No. 4,” Cummins said. “Obviously Marnus [Labuschagne], Smudge [Smith], Trav [Head] and [Mitchell] Marsh have been pretty impressive at Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6. So first instinct isn’t probably to disrupt that.”

With Warner’s Test career ending at the SCG on Saturday, it is now officially time for the selectors to nominate their successor. They are due to meet on Monday, and the squad for the first Test against West Indies in Adelaide could be announced on Tuesday.

Cummins is also realistic that there is unlikely to be an overnight solution to replacing Warner, particularly to match his scoring rate which was on show in his final innings against Pakistan.

“It’s obviously going to be really hard to replicate Davey and what he’s brought to it,” Cummins said. “I think you look for who is best placed to score runs, really. But I think, in Test cricket, there are some things that remain true – and that is you’ve got to be putting the pressure on the opposition. You’ve got to be ticking over the scoreboard. Not always – but most of the time – you’ve got to keep the scoreboard moving along.

“There are considerations, but realistically, if anyone is scoring runs in Shield cricket, it’s probably a good sign they can do it at the next level [too].”

Green has been backed by Shane Watson as having the game to cope with opening in Test cricket, having gone through the same move from No. 6 to the top during his Test career – and with impressive results.

“He averages 58 at [No.] five, 61 at four and 67 at three – so it seems like the higher he goes, the more he averages”

Marnus Labuschagne on Steven Smith

It is understood that Smith feels he needs a new challenge in the latter stages of his career. Speaking after Australia’s eight-wicket win at the SCG, Labuschagne endorsed Smith’s push for a batting-order elevation.

“He averages 58 at [No.] five, 61 at four and 67 at three – so it seems like the higher he goes, the more he averages,” Labuschagne told SEN. “I’ve got no doubt if that’s the way we go, he would do very well. He really wants it, he wants that motivation… waiting to bat is not his forte; he wants to get out there straightaway.

“I’m happy to do what the team needs, but I do love batting at [No.] three; I love the variety of the role. At the moment, it could be anyone. I’ve seen the media throwing around Travis Head, throwing around me, [and] obviously the three openers outside of the squad – Cameron Bancroft, Matt Renshaw and Marcus Harris. Smudge [Smith] seems like the lead frontrunner, the one that really wants it.”

Meanwhile, Cummins was delighted with how his team had responded when put under pressure by Pakistan. At the MCG, they had slipped to 16 for 4 in the second innings before being able to set a demanding target, and then overcame some brave batting to secure victory. In Sydney, they collapsed to concede a lead of 14 and Pakistan were 72 ahead with eight wickets in hand, only for a third-evening slide to cost them.

“I thought it was a great series,” Cummins said. “Feel really happy that we got on the right side of a couple of tight moments, but it could have gone the other way also. Thought Pakistan were high quality.

“In Test cricket, there’s nothing harder than playing away from home – conditions are so different – but thought they played really well. MCG could have gone either way if it wasn’t for that hour last night. This one could have gone the other way as well.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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