Will Pucovski will open if he debuts at Adelaide Oval but the middle order may yet prove the young gun’s best hope of grabbing a baggy green.
Pucovski and incumbent Test opener Joe Burns are locked in a selection showdown ahead of Australia’s four-Test series against India, which starts on December 17.
A final call is expected to come after a tour game that begins on December 6, when Pucovski and Burns will open together in a quintessential ‘bat off’.
However, chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, coach Justin Langer and captain Tim Paine have all dropped hints of varying bluntness that Burns is in the box seat to retain his spot.
The growing expectation is that Burns, who struggled in the Sheffield Shield hub as Pucovski posted two double-tons, will be given a chance to form a long-term partnership with David Warner.
Even if that transpires, Pucovski could still break into the top six via the middle order this summer.
Langer suggested on Wednesday the top six for the first Test will soon “become really clear”, noting Pucovski will not play ahead of Travis Head or Matthew Wade in the pink-ball clash with India.
But the former Test opener added Pucovski has made a compelling case to bat anywhere in the order, not just alongside Warner.
“For Will it’s about where the opportunities come,” Langer told reporters.
“Not just as the Australian coach but for the last 30 years it’s been drummed into me if you can bat top three in Shield cricket, you can bat anywhere.
“Someone like Will, who’s opening the batting for Victoria and has batted three, it gives him the flexibility to bat anywhere.”
Ricky Ponting is among numerous Australian greats who debuted at No.5 or No.6 then worked their way up the Test order.
Debate over whether Burns’ incumbency or Pucovski’s mountain of runs should be valued higher has already been in overdrive for weeks, with former skippers Ian Chappell and Michael Clake among those calling for the 22-year-old to debut.
“Half of Australia will think we’re right and half will think we’re wrong,” Langer said.
“We think very, very highly of Will.
“When the opportunity comes, he’s ready to play Test cricket.
“The opportunity hopefully will come for him at some point, whether it’s this series or a series to come.”
Meanwhile, uncapped quicks Michael Neser and Sean Abbott will remain on drinks duty throughout the four-Test series if all goes to plan.
Mitchell Starc is the only member of Australia’s ‘big four’ to have recently played red-ball cricket, with Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson all having taken part in the Indian Premier League.
Langer is upbeat the star pacemen will build up sufficient workloads to ensure they aren’t rotated at any point this summer.
“But who knows … things can change so quickly,” he said.