OPINION

Bat Pucovski in the middle order on debut

IN THE MIDDLE: Will Pucovski should make his Test debut in the middle order. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
IN THE MIDDLE: Will Pucovski should make his Test debut in the middle order. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Will Pucovski's much-anticipated Australian Test debut should be in the middle order, not as an opening batsman.

Once he has received the all-clear to resume after another setback with concussion, it would be asking too much of the young Victorian to partner David Warner against the Indian attack.

While makeshift opener Matthew Wade has yet to make a big score after getting starts in three of the four innings, the Tasmanian is worth retaining at the top of the order, at least in the short term, having displayed customary grit.

Pucovski has been promoted to open this season, but he has spent most of his first-class career in the middle order and batted at No. 5 in his first Sheffield Shield game for Victoria almost four years ago.

Young batsman should not face India's opening bowling attack in his Test debut

In a bygone era, young players were eased into the Test team as they adjusted to the elite level and this policy generally served Australia well.

Even the world's greatest batsman Sir Donald Bradman came in at No.7 on debut against England in Brisbane in 1928-29.

Keith Stackpole came in as a No. 8 batsman and part-time leg-spinner in 1966 before eventually moving up the order as a pugnacious opener.

Earlier in the same Ashes series, Doug Walters scored a century on debut at the Gabba batting at No. 6.

In the next Ashes series in Australia in 1970-71, Greg Chappell, batting at No. 7, replicated Walters' feat with a century on debut at the WACA Ground.

He would move up the order quickly to become one of the all-time greats.

A quarter of a century later on the same ground, Ricky Ponting fell just four runs short of a debut Test ton against Sri Lanka when batting at No. 5.

He would move to No. 3 and eventually become Australia's highest run-scorer in Test cricket.

Like Stackpole, Australia's premier batsman Steve Smith was a leg-spinner and batted at No.8 on debut against Pakistan at Lord's in 2010.

But there are also cases of Australian players either being promoted too early or given too much responsibility.

Usman Khawaja was thrust into the No. 3 slot on debut in the 2010-11 Ashes series and subsequently struggled to establish a regular position in the Australian Test team.

Khawaja, who is not in the squad for this series against India, has an impressive record at home, averaging almost 53 per innings in Tests here but only 24.4 outside Australia.

The left-hander's overall average in 44 Tests is a respectable 40.66.

An argument against batting Pucovski at No. 5 is that there would be a lack of experience in the middle order, with West Australian Cameron Green coming in next at No. 6.

But Green demonstrated with his defiant, resolute knock in the second innings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last week that he has what it takes to succeed at this level and that innings should boost his confidence for the remainder of the series.

Technically the tall all-rounder is correct as a batsman - he has all the shots and hits with immense power.

Green just needs to learn how to be better at rotating the strike and find the gaps which should come with experience.

After suffering a huge setback in Adelaide, India reaped the benefits of showing faith in its two Test debutants, Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj, in Melbourne.

Both looked comfortable at the level after the tourists were forced to find replacements for skipper Virat Kohli and injured paceman Mohammed Shami.

Opening batsman Gill impressed with his excellent technique and played with admirable composure.

The enthusiastic Siraj stepped up in a key role with the ball after the Indians lost frontline bowler Umesh Yadav early in Australia's second innings.

Yadav's likely replacement for the Sydney Cricket Ground's Pink Test is experienced batsman Rohit Sharma, whose return will provide another boost for the tourists.

India is likely to go with the two pacemen Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah and spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, with support from part-time spinner Hanuma Vihari.

Early finishes hurt TV networks

EARLY FINISH: The Boxing Day Test finished with almost a day and a half to spare. Photo: Brett Keating/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

EARLY FINISH: The Boxing Day Test finished with almost a day and a half to spare. Photo: Brett Keating/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Host broadcaster Channel 7's uneasy relationship with Cricket Australia, already frosty because of a dispute over this summer's schedule, would not have improved after the opening two Tests.

The network, which paid millions of dollars in a six-year deal signed in 2018 with pay-TV partner Fox Sports, lost almost four days' live content after early finishes to both games.

The first Test in Adelaide lasted barely two-and-a-half days and the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne was completed with almost a day and a half to spare.

Although the Tests have attracted large audiences in this country and in the sub-continent, the early finishes would have resulted in lost revenue for the cash-strapped network.

With the series delicately poised, there will be plenty of viewers in the remaining two Tests, but Seven and Fox Sports executives will be hoping they go the full five days.

It is not Cricket Australia's fault that the games have not gone the distance and undoubtedly officials will be praying for a revival from the home team.

Twitter: @hpkotton59

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas