Australia coach says David Warner 'very likely' for third Test

David Warner of Australia during an Australian nets session at the Sydney Cricket Ground on January 5, 2021
David Warner of Australia during an Australian nets session at the Sydney Cricket Ground on January 5, 2021
Image: Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

Australia coach Justin Langer has all but confirmed David Warner will return for the third Test against India and said uncapped opener Will Pucovski is available for selection after clearing concussion protocols.

Regular opener Warner has been racing to be fit for the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) Test starting Thursday after missing the first two matches in Adelaide and Melbourne with a groin strain.

Warner admitted last week he was unlikely to be fully fit but Langer told reporters on Tuesday the lefthander was "very, very, very likely" to play at the SCG where Tim Paine's Australia will hope to take a 2-1 lead in the four-match series.

Warner is expected to replace the dropped Joe Burns but selectors will have to decide whether Pucovski should partner Warner at the top of the order or retain Matthew Wade as a makeshift opener.

Pundits have expressed concern about the risks of picking 22-year-old Pucovski, who was unavailable for the first Tests after suffering concussion when struck in the helmet by a short ball in a tour match.

Pucovski has a history of concussion problems and India's pace attack, led by the formidable Jasprit Bumrah, pelted the Australians with bouncers in Melbourne, striking specialist batsmen Marnus Labuschagne and Wade on the helmet.

Yet Langer said there was "no reason" why Pucovski could not be selected.

"All the concussion protocols ... have been passed," he said.

"It's just working out the balance of our team, where we're at in the series ... we weigh up whether this Test match is right, or the next Test match is right."

Pucovski's inclusion would likely mean Wade reverting to his usual spot in the middle order and batsman Travis Head being dropped after scores of 38 and 17 in the defeat in Melbourne.

Langer said Head was a "good player" but declined to back his inclusion for Sydney.

"He's one of the guys currently in the team. Whether that changes for this game, I can't tell you. We've got some decisions to make ... probably after this afternoon's (training) session."

Meanwhile, KL Rahul's hopes of featuring in the Test series against Australia were snuffed out on Tuesday when the India batsman was ruled out of the last two matches with a wrist injury.

"KL Rahul sprained his left wrist while batting in the nets at the MCG during Team India’s practice session on Saturday," the Indian cricket board (BCCI) said in a statement.

"The wicketkeeper-batsman will not be available for the remaining two Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as he will need about three weeks time to recover completely and regain full strength."

Rahul, who can bat at the top as well as in the middle order, played the limited-overs matches against Australia but could not break into the Test squad in the first two matches.

His name was doing the rounds for the third Test in Sydney from Thursday as India, who levelled the series 1-1 in Melbourne, grapple with form and injury issues.

The tourists, missing regular skipper Virat Kohli who is on paternity leave, have already lost the pace duo of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav to injuries.

They replaced an out-of-form Prithvi Shaw with Shubman Gill in Melbourne but continue to fret over Mayank Agarwal's form after the opener managed a total of 31 runs in four innings.

Rahul would return home to continue his rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, the BCCI added. 

- Reuters


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