Australia coach Justin Langer has offered up a major hint that incumbent opener Joe Burns will retain his spot for the First Test against India next month despite the superb form of Will Pucovski.
The Aussies named their extended 17-man squad for the series earlier this week with Langer addressing the media on Friday, with Pucovski’s potential debut a major line of questioning.
The 22-year-old Victorian has previously been close to earning a baggy green before mental health and concussion issues denied him that opportunity.
Pucovski is now in a better place by his own admission and just produced back-to-back double centuries in the Sheffield Shield for Victoria, while Burns has struggled for Queensland, posting only 57 runs across five knocks.
But Burns has held the opening position alongside David Warner in recent Test series to good effect, meaning he has the edge according to Langer.
“(Pucovski’s) been amazing hasn’t he and it’s exactly what we are looking for,” Langer said.
“I’ve said it for a very long time that we want guys who are outside of the team to bang so hard you can’t ignore them. The fact is he’s been so good we can’t ignore him, he’s been brilliant.
“That said I’ve also been consistent with the messaging that last summer we loved the combination of Joe Burns and David Warner, they have a real synergy, so at this point I’d say that will remain the same.
“But what Will’s doing, what Cameron Green has done, is making a real statement through sheer weight of runs and that’s always been a strong foundation for the strength of Australian cricket.”
Pucovski may have a chance to overtake Burns and make a compelling case for selection when the pair line up for Australia A in a three-day match against India in Sydney from December 6. Langer denied it would be a “bat-off” but admitted scores would be noted.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a bat-off. Joe Burns has done really well for us,” the former Australian left-hand batsman said.
“Will Pucovski, we are really looking forward to seeing how he steps up to Australia A. It will be great to see him play against India, a new step up for him, so it’s an exciting time. Competition is healthy.
“When guys have done a really good job for us - like in this case that Joe and Davey did for us last summer - there’s a reason we’re ranked the No.1 Team in Test cricket. Those sorts of partnerships are really important, so we should never underestimate that.
“Will Pucovski is doing everything humanly possible to play the first Test. But that’s what we have to weigh up. We should never underestimate the job the guys have done to get us to where we are.”
The Aussies appear set to continue with Travis Head and Matthew Wade in the middle order, with the South Australian sitting third on the Shield scoring charts this season, including two hundreds. Wade has been prolific but has only played two matches and is averaging close to 70.
Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Patrick Cummins and Nathan Lyon will likely be the preferred attack, despite pressure from James Pattinson and Mitch Swepson, with the latter taking three five-wicket hauls in the past two Shield games.