Green to prioritise red-ball for India Test battle

A stint in the Sheffield Shield before the NZ tour proved the perfect preparation for Australia's No.4

Cameron Green is likely to prioritise red-ball cricket for Western Australia ahead of limited-overs internationals at the start of the next Australian summer to ensure he has the best possible preparation for the heavyweight Test battle against India.

Despite his all-round skills set being in demand for all formats, selectors opted not to include Green in recent T20I series against West Indies and New Zealand and instead earmarked him for WA's Marsh Sheffield Shield fixture against Tasmania in Hobart.

The 24-year-old duly peeled off an unbeaten 103 in that game, which proved an ideal warm-up for the ensuing first Test against NZ on a similarly bowler-friendly surface at Wellington's Basin Reserve where he was named player of the match for his career-high 174no in his team's thumping win.

Green's day: Allrounder reaches century in final over

The success of that template, coupled with the manner in which Green has adapted to his promotion to number four in the Test batting order, has the men's team brains trust thinking another stint in Shield cricket might prove the best lead-in to Australia's next Test assignment.

As such, coach Andrew McDonald has flagged Green could be rested from scheduled ODIs and T20Is against Pakistan that will kick off the men's 2024-25 international home season, with an eye to the five-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy campaign to follow.

Australia have not beaten India in a Test series for a decade, which includes India's past two visits to Australia in 2018-19 and 2020-21.

"He's become an all-three format player and we thought his greatest challenge was flipping between the formats," McDonald said of his increasingly vital all-round asset.

"We felt that by keeping Cam in one format for a period of time gave him the best chance, and that won't always be the case with everyone.

"Other players can go (more readily) from one-day international cricket into Test cricket, and it's probably the more experienced players who have done it over a period of time.

"It's a big decision to leave anyone out of international cricket when they're potentially in the best eleven, so I'm glad he embraced that when we had that conversation with him, and the return on it is pretty immediate.

"The next stress point on that will be next summer, leading into the Indian Test series where we've got Pakistan in ODI cricket and T20 cricket.

"I'd like to probably err on the side of preparing him through red-ball – we know how good a white-ball player he is, so you put a priority on what it looks like next summer.

"The white-ball cricket's important, but geez that Test summer's important, so I think with the results he's had (at Wellington) he'll probably come to us and say 'can you give us a couple of Shield games before the first Test against India?'."

The opportunity to have international players find red-ball form in the domestic first-class competition is a luxury that New Zealand coach Gary Stead has eyed enviously.

With NZ's equivalent Plunket Shield competition in hiatus from mid-November until late February as domestic white-ball competitions are played, the Black Caps' capacity to readily replace injured players with those showing first-class form has been sorely tested.

"None of our cricketers have been in a first-class game, unless they've been in a Test match, since November," Stead said today in confirming opener Devon Conway (fractured thumb) and young pace bowler Will O'Rourke (hamstring) were unavailable for the second Test starting Friday.

"I would love, as national coach, to see us play some Plunket Shield prior to going into Test matches.

"It's something that's high on my agenda, to try and get New Zealand Cricket to keep thinking about the structure of our season."

Green's importance to Australia's Test planning is underscored by the reshuffle of the batting line-up in the wake of David Warner's retirement, with Steve Smith elevated to opener, and Green slotted into Smith's number four role.

And even though Australia are also preparing for a T20 World Cup later this year, for which Green remains in the selection mix, it was deemed more valuable for him to play Shield cricket than in recent T20Is given he will be exposed to plenty of 20-over cricket in his upcoming IPL stint.

Green's match-winning knock at the Basin Reserve – more than doubling the next-highest individual score on a challenging pitch – provided vindication for the radical reshuffle of the batting line-up, and underscored why he is held in such esteem by the game's shrewdest judges.

The rationale for Green's re-inclusion, after he had been squeezed from his previous number six berth by fellow allrounder Mitchell Marsh's irresistible form, was simply that selectors wanted the nation's best six batters in the starting XI.

"His preferred position, as we've seen in Shield cricket, is number four and we think he can be a long-term option there," McDonald said today.

"This is a big step towards that.

"The conversations are that he's a quality player, and the statistics that everyone was looking at early in his (international) career probably didn't reflect the player that was in front of us.

"I think we've seen a snapshot of that now, and the public has been able to see what we've seen over a period of time."

McDonald also pointed out the template applied to Green, having him turn out for a Shield match as preparation for the two-Test Qantas Tour of NZ, reflects what is best in that specific circumstance and will not necessarily apply to other players in a similar position.

That can be seen by Australia opener and reigning ICC Test Player of the Year Usman Khawaja's decision not to play in Queensland's recent Shield encounter against South Australia, where national teammates Marnus Labuschagne and Alex Carey were involved.

After Green with 174no and 34, Khawaja was the only other Australia batter to pass 25 in each innings of the opening Test with scores of 33 and 28 against the new ball on the bouncy Basin deck.

By contrast, Labuschagne (1 and 2) and Carey (10 and 3) struggled against NZ despite returning significant scores in their preceding Shield appearance for Queensland and SA respectively.

Test skipper Pat Cummins dismissed any suggestions Labuschagne's position in the team was in doubt despite his run of four consecutive single-figure scores, and that view was endorsed by McDonald who saw encouraging signs in the right-hander's brief stay in the second innings at Wellington.

Despite being caught down the leg side from the 13th delivery he faced, Labuschagne had shown positive intent after the loss of opener Smith in the first over which the men's team coach regards as a benchmark of the former world number one's batting.

McDonald confirmed that Labuschagne knows he can perform better and is working hard to pull himself out of his current lean spell, but played down worries over failures by the team's top six to reach a collective return of 200 in their past five innings completed Test innings.

"I don't think there's any great concern from our point of view, in terms of we want the top six or seven batters to be performing as a collective," McDonald said.

Batting has 'left the door ajar' too often: McDonald

"So while the rest are performing around that and you're winning games of cricket, the concern levels are fractionally lower.

"Over time there's going to be some ebbs and flows in your career and I thought in the second innings … the intent and the energy he (Labuschagne) brought to the crease – and it was only two runs, so I don't want to get carried away – but that's what we see when he's at his best.

"We saw that at Sydney (against Pakistan) in the second innings, we saw that at Manchester (in last year's Ashes) where he had the intent to score and put it back on the bowler.

"Sometimes the conditions don't allow that, and you have to absorb a little bit more.

"But sometimes he under-values, even in difficult conditions, when he's showing that intent how much pressure he can put back on to the bowling unit of the opponent."

Phillips runs through Aussies before Smith stars in slips

McDonald acknowledged Carey's near identical dismissals in both innings at Wellington – driving away from his body and holing out to a catcher at extra cover – provided a point of reflection.

He noted the second innings method against the Black Caps' part-time off-spinner Glenn Phillips was one the Australia keeper might look back on with some regret, but the left-hander was not being judged overly harshly in the wake of the team's 172-run win at the Basin.

"They're going on at the moment," McDonald said when asked if conversations were being had about Carey's couple of batting lapses.

"He's disappointed with that as a method to Glenn Phillips.

"He's encouraged himself to play off the back foot, it's an error in judgement.

"We're not going to hang him on one or two innings, over a period of time we'll see how that plays out."

Qantas Tour of New Zealand

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February 29 – March 4: Australia won the first Test by 172 runs

March 8-12: Second Test, Christchurch, 9am AEDT

Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc

New Zealand Test squad: Tim Southee (c), Tom Blundell (wk), Matt Henry, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ben Sears, Kane Williamson, Will Young.