David Warner has predicted that Steve Smith’s move to the top will free up the veteran’s game and prevent opposing teams from pelting him with short balls early in his innings.
Speaking for the first time since Smith was announced as Australia’s Test opener, the retired Warner backed his long-time team-mate to take over the role for him while hailing Cameron Green’s selection at No.4.
There have been questions about whether it is worth destabilizing the middle order to make changes, with Smith never having started in Test cricket.
But Warner sees a clear advantage.
Ever since Smith was bowled by Jofra Archer’s bouncer in the Ashes at Lord’s in 2019, teams have made it clear that they need to use the bouncer against him.
As a result, the right-hander’s scoring and average have dropped, despite being in the crease for long stretches.
However, as a starter, Warner cannot see teams using the same tactics and wasting the new ball.
“People were bowling to him when he first came in, but he found a way,” Warner said.
“They’re going to try to swing the ball early and get it up.
“And he’s going to be allowed to get into his game and his game plan. He gets into the rhythm of how he wants to hit and he can dictate.
“So I’m actually looking forward to seeing how he does.
“When you’re the best hitter, you’re always going to adjust. We know he can do that, he’s capable of that.”
Smith is expected to step up preparations for his first Test at the top this weekend, with Australia’s players reconvening in Adelaide ahead of Wednesday’s opening match against the West Indies.
The selectors’ decision to move Smith up means Australia are likely to need two new openers in the coming years when he and Usman Khawaja retire.
But Warner said it was worth it given there is now new blood in the middle order with 29-year-old Marnus Labuschagn and 24-year-old Cameron Green.
“It’s a good taste for Greeny at 24,” Warner said.
“Smithy probably has a year or two in him. Usman probably another year or two in him. They’re going to have to find two new guys at the top.
“But to get that number four replacement as well, that’s your foundation at three and four.
“So if they can knock that down, they have a base in the middle. Then they just have to find some more openers.”
Warner’s view on Smith’s move is supported by the fact that the former No.1 batsman averages 106.2 when he comes to the crease in the opening two overs of a Test innings.
Smith also matched Bradman’s average of 110.54 in the 2019 Ashes when he was regularly called to the crease early in the innings.
“I’m (excited). I love facing the newer ball,” Smith said on Fox Sports before his Sixers beat Warner’s Thunder in the BBL on Friday night.
“I think you look back at the 2019 Ashes, I was there most of the time quite early on when I was facing the new ball.
“I also batted at number three for a couple of years and was early on and got on quite well against the new ball.
“So it’s nothing new or foreign to me. I enjoy coming in and getting into it and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”