Cricket news - Australia may stick with Burns to partner Warner, feels Ponting

Ricky Ponting is surprised that David Warner's recommendation will be considered to select his opening partner

Ricky Ponting is surprised that David Warner's recommendation will be considered to select his opening partner

The much-awaited Australia-India Test series is less than a month away and there has already been a lot of talk in the home camp about who would fit best to open alongside David Warner. Australia have tried a number of options in the last few years in Matt Renshaw, Cameron Bancroft, Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris, but stuck to Joe Burns since last year.

Now, 22-year-old Will Pucovski, regarded as the next big thing in Australian cricket, has grabbed eyeballs with his stellar show recently in Sheffield Shield, scoring double hundreds in both the games he played. Although Burns is expected to open the batting in the first Test with Warner, he hasn't had a good run-up to the Test series with 29 being his highest score in five Sheffield Shield innings, thereby making many pundits wonder if the think tank should lean towards Pucovski.

Former Australian cricketer Ricky Ponting, who said Australia should back Burns as Warner's partner till the 2021-22 Ashes after the opener made 97 against Pakistan at the Gabba last year, feels Justin Langer and Co. may still stick to Burns.

"I know when I was captain, I had a pretty strong philosophy with the selectors that once you're in my team, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure you stayed there," Ponting told cricket.com.au

"I didn't want to be making changes and I always felt it was my responsibility as captain to get the absolute best out of the players I had in my team. I think it gives individuals a bit more confidence to go out and play a certain way and not be scared about their position in the line-up. That adds a lot around the group.

"Burns hasn't done much wrong. If you go back to last summer, he played really well in the first Test in Brisbane and I remember saying then to lock him in and give him a good go at it for a while.

"We read a lot into what's happened in the first few rounds of Shield cricket, and because they haven't played a Test match for so long, a lot of people are forgetting what happened last summer. The boys have been on a roll with their performances in Test cricket and I always say you don't want to be making too many changes if you don't need to.

"But I think that's where this one becomes a unique one; Burns is about 30, and you've got a young guy who seems to be at the peak of his powers, who's been touted as a very good player for Australia and has been for a few years. That's where the decision is going to be a really tough one for them."

Interestingly, chief selector Trevor Hohns had revealed that Warner would be consulted about who should be his opening partner for the first Test. "I'm surprised they're even asking him, to be honest," Ponting said. "I know what they're talking about because they have done well when they've played together. It's an interesting thing for a selector to come out and say.

"At the end of the day, they've just got to pick who they think the best player is. And if they think their best player and best option is Joe Burns, then stick with him. If they think Pucovski is a better player here and now, they should go with him."

The world cup winning captain also felt Pucovski could get a look in in the middle-order ahead of Cameron Green should there be a vacancy. "I'm just reading the tea leaves a little bit, even with what Justin had to say about the relationship between Burns and Warner, my gut feeling is they won't go to Pucovski just yet," he said.

"But it'll only be a few slip ups from a few players and we know who the next cab off the rank is going to be. (Opening) is just another string to (Pucovski's) bow. I'm sure if a middle order spot came up and they weren't thinking about playing an allrounder, I'd think his name would be mentioned ahead of Cameron Green."

On India

Virat Kohli's men won the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2-1 the last time they toured Down Under, but Ponting expects the hosts to put up a stiff challenge this time around with the return of Steve Smith and David Warner. Kohli being available for just the first Test could also play a big part he feels.

"The one thing we haven't spoken enough about is yes India were really good here last time, but with those guys (Smith and Warner) missing at the top of the order, that leaves a big gap in any team," he said.

"India will feel that without Kohli there (for three Tests), for his batting and leadership, that'll put all sorts of pressure on different players. You'd think (Ajinkya) Rahane will take over the captaincy, which will put extra pressure on him, and they've got to find someone to bat at that really important No.4 spot,"

Ponting feels there could be more questions in the Indian camp about the best XI than Australia's opening conundrum. "I don't think they'll be clear in their own mind, even now, what their batting order will look like for the first Test. Who's going to open, who'll bat at four when Kohli goes?" he opined. "The questions that are being asked around Australia with Pucovski and Green, I think India have got a few more questions to answer.

"(Fast bowlers Mohammad) Shami, Jasprit Bumrah - will it be Ishant (Sharma), with it be Umesh Yadav, will it be a young guy like (Navdeep) Saini or (Mohammad) Siraj? "They've got a lot of questions to ask as well. And which spinner? They've got a few spinners in their squad and they've got to figure out which one to pick for the pink-ball game in Adelaide."