An Open Challenge with positions available

David Warner on the comeback trail in the MCG nets. Image Source: cricket.com.au

As India surged to a powerful position at the conclusion of Day 2 at the MCG, the Australian team and fans are sweating on the fitness of opening batsman David Warner.

A dynamic player who can’t come back soon enough.

While Ajinkya Rahane and his Indian team were taking to the Australian bowlers in the middle of a gloomy and stormy MCG, Warner was out the back in the nets doing everything that he can to play a meaningful role in the remaining two test matches.

Matches that both appear destined to be live test matches in the scheme of the series.

As Australia sweats on the fitness of its star opening batsman, beyond the surface, the looming question that Australian cricket will need to find an answer too looms large.

After the falters and failures of its patchwork opening combination in the first innings in Adelaide and again in Melbourne, sending a chain reaction through the batting line-up, the question no test team wants to encounter until it meets them on their doorstep.

 Where is the country’s next great opening batsman?

Warner will return to the Australian side soon at the expense of an underperforming middle-order batsman or specialist opener Joe Burns who’s form leading into and thus far this series has been nothing short of woeful.

But how much longer will he (Warner) be a viable option to be relied upon for?

Having just turned 34 there is time enough for a meaningful contribution from the dashing left-hander for less than a handful of summers to come.

Wander a number of years down the road when the baggy green is hung up and Warner is either settled down in retirement in the lavish eastern suburbs of Sydney or is making the most of being a gun for hire on the global Twenty20 circuit squeezing every bit of ability and coin out of what is already a glittering career, the Australian team will be out searching for the next great test opener and wondering where they might come from.

It puts the Australian team in a precarious position and it’s something they need to address soon.

Old enemies England are still looking for their long-term solution to replace Andrew Strauss at the top of the order and now have two positions waiting to be properly cemented with Alastair Cook’s retirement a little over 18 months ago too.

Two world-class openers who just don’t grow on trees.

While Rory Burns and Dom Sibley are occupying the positions currently, both are yet to prove that they are the long-term answer which is something Australia will desperately want to bed down by the time Warner steps away from the Test arena.

The Contenders

Will Pucovski

He’s been on the doorstep quite a bit recently and even as far back as a month ago was a shoe-in to walk out onto Adelaide Oval with Warner prior to getting hit on the head again in the tour match at Drummoyne Oval. It all kind of went pear-shaped from there.

Long considered as the prodigious young talent to lock down the middle order for years to come who was promoted to the top of the order under the tutelage of new Victorian Coach Chris Rogers,

Pucovski has taken to opening the batting like a duck to water. Peeling off two double centuries to start the Sheffield Shield season.

While he seems the logical solution, we are yet to see him at the top level to properly pass judgment. 

Marcus Harris

Replace a dashing left-hander with a dashing left-hander? Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Called into the squad a week prior to the first test sent tounges a wagging that he was the recipient of the selectors SOS call for an opener but it wasn’t to be as they stuck with their incumbents and their love for a left/right-hand combination at the top.

Harris’ two stints in the Test side have been far from convincing. A high score of 72 against India at the SCG with an average of 24.10 from 9 tests is nothing to write home about.

Add in a handful of nice scores in the 20s and 30s before scooping one to point and throwing your wicket away only adds to the tease of a young career with promise.

Though, Harris is young enough to still break through and enjoy a long and successful career at the top of the order for Australia.

Matthew Renshaw

The forgotten man of Australian Cricket some might say. Called in for a debut at 20 years of age, finishing a debut year in the baggy green with a big century at the SCG, an average of 33.47, and tours to both India and Bangladesh.

He was the old fashioned opener the country had been yearning for as someone who put a price tag on his wicket, played every ball on its merit, and had sticky hands at first slip.

All before being jettisoned for Cameron Bancroft prior to the home Ashes the following summer.

How long until Matthew Renshaw returns from the wilderness? Image Source: cricket.com.au

Has had a few problems with concussion, health, and form over recent years but has made efforts to continually work on his game in a bid to get back into the national side.

While he personally, might not be in any rush to get back there, with 11 tests already under his belt and with time on his side still being 24 years of age, time may not be called just yet on his stagnant career.

Sam Whiteman

The Western Australian has thrown the gloves away in recent years following a number of injury-plagued years throughout his career to date.

But the 28-year-old is in the midst of a Shield season of his life with five scores over 50, going on to post a century twice.

One of the form openers in the country who is yet to be considered or called upon for national duty.

But has time on his side and could yet be rewarded for strong shield season and a first class record which is stacking up with some of his incumbent counterparts.

Cameron Bancroft

Another one from the tried and tested, Bancroft is still in the thoughts of the Australian selector but appears a fair way off a recall as he continues to be found out at state level through his technical chinks.

The right hander who to the surprise of most, won his place in the opening test of the Ashes last winter before being removed for the final three tests was found wanting against the moving ball.

It would appear a long shot for Bancroft to win his place back into the national team following his two previous modest stints only yielding an average of 26.23 from 18 hits.

A classic case of earning an opportunity and failing to properly grasp it.

Bryce Street

One from generation next. The left hander from Queensland is starting to make an impression at First Class level with a bright start to his career. Averaging 35.27 from 11 matches to date, the left hander, who emerged last season with elevation to a full Queensland contract is one of a number of Bulls players in contention for a top order spot at state level.

His 2 centuries, both coming against Western Australia, has impressed with his ability to bat for long periods of time and absorb the new ball.

Australia loves the left/right-hand combination at the top of the order, which only makes the decision for the next test tricker considering the form of Joe Burns and Matthew Wade’s wish to return to his favorable middle-order position.

While Warner will come back soon in the short term, the long game and long term answer is the big one for Australian Cricket.

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