Selectors will pick opener after AusA game

Rob Forsaith
·3-min read

Joe Burns appears the early frontrunner in his selection showdown with Will Pucovski, who is likely to learn after Australia A's first tour game whether a Test debut awaits in Adelaide.

National selectors have named a 17-man squad for the four-Test series against India, including Pucovski as one of five uncapped players.

Australia's XI for the first Test, which starts on December 17, is largely settled apart from the identity of David Warner's opening partner.

Pucovski has stormed into contention for a baggy green after a prolific start to the Sheffield Shield, having registered scores of 255 not out and 202 in his new role as an opener for Victoria.

Incumbent Test opener Burns scored 57 runs from five innings for Queensland in the Shield hub.

Pucovski and Burns will open together for Australia A against India A on December 6-8.

One batsman will then travel to Adelaide to start preparing for the first Test, while the other will remain in Sydney and play for Australia A in another three-day match.

Coach Justin Langer rejected the idea that the Australia A game was a "bat off" that would solely resolve the Burns-Pucovski dilemma, noting a lot more would come into selectors' conversations.

Langer praised Pucovski's superb form but made it clear the power of possession will carry serious weight.

"We loved the combination of Joe Burns and David Warner. They've got a real synergy or chemistry. They work well together," Langer said.

"So at this point I'll say that that'll remain the same."

Former Test skippers Ian Chappell, Michael Clarke and Kim Hughes are among the notable figures to have called for 22-year-old Pucovski to debut.

Langer, though, declared it would be wrong to underestimate "the job the guys have done to get us to where we are (atop the Test rankings)".

"We went through a period when there were lots of ins and outs," he said.

"In my view we should back the guys in there.

"That can change but it's a pretty strong philosophy to stick to."

Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns expressed somewhat similar sentiments on Thursday.

Some 15 members of Australia's Test squad are expected to head to Adelaide after the first tour game, most probably leaving Pucovski and Cameron Green behind to face Virat Kohli's side under lights at the SCG.

"Things can change, but I would say you will have a better idea who will open in the first Test match after that first Australia A game," Langer said.

Pucovski, who has battled concussion and mental-health issues in the past, declared on Friday he is better placed to make a Test debut compared to his previous two squad call-ups.

"If that opportunity (to open with Warner) were to present itself, it's something I'm really excited about, but it's up to the selectors," Pucovski said.

"I know Davey quite well and he's been really good to me over the last few years.

"He's messaged me, just congratulated me and said well done ... it's very nice of him to take the time to send those messages," Pucovski said.