Michael Clarke has made an outlandish prediction over Steve Smith’s mooted shift to open for Australia against West Indies

If Steve Smith opted to retire today, he already sits comfortably among the best batters Australia has produced.

But his former teammate Michael Clarke believes if Smith is shifted into Dave Warner’s opening role, the right-hander might take his game to a whole new level.

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Following Australia’s 3-0 series sweep of Pakistan, the biggest talking point in Australian cricket has been over who will replace Warner, who retired from Test cricket after more than 100 appearances atop the order.

Selectors have opted against shifting a specialist opener into the role, which is bad news for Cam Bancroft, Marcus Harris and Matt Renshaw.

Although skipper Pat Cummins didn’t seem a huge fan of the idea when it was put to him, the fact Smith publicly declared his desire for the move means it quickly became a real possibility.

The Australian squad for a two-Test series with the West Indies is being announced on Wednesday and Clarke, who handed the captaincy to Smith back in 2015, has no doubts over whether it would succeed.

“I tell you now about Steve Smith; if he wants to open the batting and they give him the chance, he will be the No. 1 Test opener within 12 months,” Clarke said on ESPN cricket show, Around the Wicket.

“If you can bat at No. 3, you can bat anywhere in the order. Technically he is good enough, he lets the ball go well, he’s got a great eye, he’s got beautiful hands.

“He’s that good a player — and it might be that challenge that he is looking for.”

The thought of a rejuvenated Smith is an exciting prospect, as the batting junkie hasn’t consistently produced his best over the last couple of seasons.

Smith’s batting average, previously well over 60, has slipped to 58.01 and Clarke believes the 34-year-old could break one of cricket’s all-time records if he is out in the middle from ball one.

“If he opens the batting, he will be the best opener within 12 months,” Clarke added. ”And don’t be surprised if he breaks Brian Lara’s 400 (runs) record because he is that good.”

Lara batted at No. 3 for the West Indies when he set that incredible milestone against England back in 2004.

Having already played 105 Test matches for his country, Smith retains his fierce desire to score runs and often shows his disgust when he gets out.

It let to Smith being labelled “petulant” when he was dismissed falling for a Pakistan trap at the SCG and took his time walking from the field.

Clarke feels that intensity would serve him well as an opener.

“He’d rather face every ball than give a few balls to somebody else,” Clarke said.

“He could open the batting there’s no doubt about it. He could adjust, he could find a way.

“If he wants to do it then I think they will allow him to do it.

“Listening to (captain) Patty Cummins’ quotes, I think it’s a simple swap.

“I think Cameron Green is going to come in to open the batting for David Warner, unless someone like Steve Smith wants to do it.”

The first Test against the West Indies gets underway in Adelaide on January 17.

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