Amid all the talk about who would replace David Warner at the top of the batting order for Australia, everyone seemed to forget that a second decision needed to be made. Warner's exit leaves a big hole in the slips cordon, with the veteran fielding at first slip for a number of years.
Warner had cemented himself as one of Australia's best catchers, and hardly ever grassed a chance in the slips. So his decision to retire from Test cricket means the Aussies also need to decide who steps into that position in the cordon.
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But as journalist Bharat Sundaresan highlighted on Monday, the decision appears to have been made. Sundaresan snapped a photo of the Aussie players practicing their slips catching at training - and it was Usman Khawaja in Warner's usual position of first slip.
— Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) January 14, 2024
Steve Smith assumed his usual role at second slip, with Mitch Marsh moving to third slip to replace Khawaja. Marsh has been fielding at gully in Cameron Green's absence, but Green will now move back into that role when he comes back into the XI for the first Test against the West Indies.
Speaking on 'The Follow On' podcast, Brendon Julian said he was "surprised" that Khawaja had gotten the nod. "Dave Warner is a better gripper than Usman Khawaja. I’m surprised that he’s gone in there at first slip,” he said.
“You could even put Cam Green in there, he’s got great hands. Usman’s gone ‘You know what? I’m happy to go in there.’ But that’s going to be a tough decision for him. I don’t think he’s a natural first slipper, so he’ll have to do a lot of work on that.”
Cameron Green to bat at No.4 with Steve Smith opening
As well as fielding in his preferred position, Green will also be given the chance to make the No.4 spot in the batting order his own - where he normally bats for Western Australia. Smith has been confirmed as Warner's replacement at the top of the order, while Green will take Smith's spot at No.4.
Making the call easier for selectors is the fact Marsh has thrived at No.6 - where Green batted previously in the Test team. But Green's record at No.4 in state cricket proves he won't be out of his depth.
The all-rounder has been a revelation at second drop for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield, averaging 65.09 across 24 innings at No.4. He has batted at No.6 in all of his previous 24 Test appearances, averaging just 33.59 with one century - which came on a flat track against India in Ahmedabad last March.
"I've let all the guys know obviously how much I love playing at No.4, and I'm obviously grateful for the opportunity to be able to do that," Green told reporters at the Adelaide Oval on Monday. "I've always felt maybe a touch rushed at six, especially after Heady (Travis Head), who makes it look a bit too easy at No.5. I've always felt like I've maybe had to push the game along, where I feel like No.4 is my natural game where I can take my time and settle in."
Green said about Smith's decision to open the batting: "I think he's super excited to be opening. He doesn't like waiting around, and he's happy going up and said that. I don't feel any pressure. Obviously, replacing someone like Steve is pretty tough, but I'm just going to play my way."
Smith revealed on Sunday that he wanted to make Green feel as comfortable as possible and not thrust him into the unfamiliar role of opener. "It didn't sit right having him come in and bat up top," Smith said. "I've played for a long time and I'm an experienced player and think it's something that I should have done. He's suited to No.4. Plays there in Shield cricket, does well there."
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