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News

Warner's Test retirement could lead to batting order reshuffle

Coach Andrew McDonald has referenced previous examples of batters being moved into new positions

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
29-Nov-2023
Australia head coach Andrew McDonald has hinted that replacing David Warner may not come down to a straight like-for-like opening batter with a suggestion the order could be reshuffled to accommodate Cameron Green.
Green lost his place for the final Ashes Test at The Oval and is expected to remain outside the XI when the Pakistan series starts next month, but McDonald reinforced that he remains a "generational" talent and there is a belief he won't be out of the side for long.
Providing injuries don't crop up during the Pakistan series - and there remain some question marks over the workload on Mitchell Marsh's body - the first vacancy could arrive following Warner's Test retirement which he has earmarked for the SCG Test in early January.
It has been widely assumed that his replacement would come from one of Cameron Bancroft, Marcus Harris or Matt Renshaw, but McDonald referenced previous occasions when an Australia top order has been reshaped with players taking on new roles.
"What does Cam Green's future look like in the Test team? Is it a matter of waiting for Mitch to finish or could there be another spot that opens up over time?" McDonald told SEN radio. "He has batted at six for most of his Test cricket, but he has been a fantastic number four for WA and averages close to 50 in Shield cricket.
"There is always the idea that you can potentially shift the order to make room to put your best six batters, or what you see as best six batters, in a certain order."
If there was to be a batter moved into a new position for the series against West Indies in January the potential - and simplest - option would be for Marnus Labuschagne to move up one spot, followed by Steven Smith returning to No. 3. A more left-field route could be a promotion for Travis Head although he is so destructive at No. 5 there will likely be reluctance to that.
"We have seen that in Australian cricket before," McDonald said. "David Boon went from three to opening. Justin Langer went from three to opening. Shane Watson went from six to opening.
"There has been the ability to reshuffle and for that to be successful. But we will leave that to the first Test match in Perth."
Warner is expected to be given his farewell Test series against Pakistan although his selection still needs to be ticked off with the squad likely to be named early next week.
Test captain Pat Cummins, who is not a selector, praised Warner as a multiformat great when asked if he deserved a swansong series but added that performance remained highest in the selection criteria. Since 2021, Warner has averaged 28.90 in Tests with one century - the MCG double hundred last season in his 100th appearance.
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"He's a great of our game in all formats. So no doubt that's part of it," he said. "First and foremost you think of the performance side of things when you are picking a side."
Green, who is currently playing against Queensland in the Sheffield Shield and will line up for the Prime Minister's XI in Canberra, could be included as the spare batter in the first squad of the season. Green averages 33.69 with the bat and 36.03 with the ball after 24 Tests. He scored his maiden century in Ahmedabad earlier in the year, but since then has made 134 runs at 19.14. He has opted not to play BBL this season after a hectic year where he has barely been home and in order to focus on red-ball skills.
After the current round of Shield matches, which are the last before the BBL break, Bancroft, Harris and Renshaw will also get another first-class opportunity when they face Pakistan for the PM's XI.
Bancroft has the most impressive numbers for the season, as he did last summer, but Harris has been the regular spare batter in Australia squads over the last 18 months and Renshaw is a versatile player although struggled on his return to the Test side in the middle order earlier this year albeit in tough conditions in India.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo