Warner in, Pucovski ready if picked: Paine

Scott Bailey and Rob Forsaith
·3-min read

Will Pucovski is set to become the first Australian opener to debut at the SCG since Mark Taylor, with the Victorian expected to be thrown into the deep end against India.

Australia are yet to confirm their side for Thursday's crucial third Test in Sydney, with the series level at 1-1 and two matches to play.

But all indications are that Pucovski and a fit-again David Warner will open, with one of Travis Head or Matt Wade to feel the squeeze in the middle order.

Pucovski batted for more than an hour in the nets on Wednesday, after surviving a work out against the short ball on Tuesday on return from concussion.

Warner again moved freely after his injured groin kept him out for more than a month, and Australia will put their faith in him to lift the tempo.

It's likely to mean a hard call on either Wade or Head.

Neither have passed 50 as Australia's batting faltered in the first two Tests, but while Wade filled in as an opener Head hasn't made the most of his starts.

Regardless though, a debut for Pucovski will feel like a long time coming despite his relatively young age of 22.

Just as future-captain Taylor faced the mighty West Indian attack in his 1989 debut, Pucovski steps into an SCG pressure cooker with the series on the line.

He turned heads as a teenager and even got the attention of Australia's captain Tim Paine well before he scored 243 as a 20-year-old in just his second Sheffield Shield match.

"There are a lot of players and kids out there who are very talented and successful at junior cricket," Paine said.

"But being able to convert that straight into Shield level at 19 or 20 when he started certainly makes you sit up and take notice.

"I started watching straight away and just love the way he goes about it.

"When he's on the ground and in the middle he's one of those who's got a great temperament, he's very calm, very in control."

Pucovski has previously had several brushes with Australia's team, withdrawing twice to deal with personal issues.

He also suffered the ninth concussion of his career just four weeks ago when a debut looked certain after back-to-back Shield double centuries.

Paine however has no concerns over Pucovski likely being targeted with the short ball, labelling it no different to any other debutant.

And he would know the right-hander's mentality too, having taken Pucovski under his wings and bonding over PlayStation games.

"I just wanted to try to make him comfortable and make him feel part of the group," Paine said.

"And we struck up a pretty good friendship, even though there's a fair age difference (of 14 years).

"We're pretty similar off the field, we have similar interests, he likes a bit of smack talk.

"So it probably started out like that but now I spend a lot of time with him because I enjoy spending time with him.

"If I can spend time with him one on one and quietly then I start to learn a bit more about how he ticks and that can help me captain and lead him."