Australia opener Joe Burns has conceded he didn’t capitalise on his good form last season as he returned to the Test team and is determined to put it right against India should the series be able to take place later this year.
Burns’ stop-start international career resumed last summer as he partnered David Warner through Australia’s unbeaten campaign against Pakistan and New Zealand. He made 97 at the Gabba, his home ground, as part of an opening stand of 222, but managed just one further half-century in seven innings to finish with 256 runs at 32.00.
However, he finished the truncated Sheffield Shield season strongly with Queensland, including a century against Victoria, and last week was handed a Cricket Australia contract to confirm he remains the favoured man for the role next season, having seen the chance of two Tests in Bangladesh scheduled for next month ended by Covid-19.
“I feel like I batted pretty well and left a lot of runs out there,” Burns said. “As an opening batter you get through the first hour of the first session – they’re the times you set yourself up to go on and get a really big score.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t go on and get too many big ones but I felt like I did my role pretty well. The satisfying thing for me was to go back to Queensland once the Test series finished and going on and getting those bigger scores. That confirmed to me I was in a really good spot with my batting.
“I’m just looking forward to the next season now and continuing that. If I am in that form and in those positions where you get through the first session or lunch [on] day one, you’re in a position to get a big hundred and drive the game as an opening batsman.”
This time last year Burns was about to abort a county stint with Lancashire and would eventually be diagnosed with post-viral fatigue disorder. Though he returned in time for the Australia A tour of the UK, he did not make the cut for the Ashes. Even before the pandemic he did not have plans to return to county cricket this season although he would look at another deal in the future – instead focusing on some downtime, which included a now-cancelled trip of the United States – and believes he has learnt from the illness.
“I certainly managed myself a lot differently this summer,” he said. “I was in a really good spot physically. An enforced lay-off now for everyone gives you the opportunity to get yourself right and reset. It’s probably the longest off-season anyone has had for a long time. From a physical perspective, it gives us the opportunity to be in a strong position. In the back of our minds we know once we do start playing again, it will be non-stop looking at the calendar.”
If the 2020-21 home season, which is also meant to include a one-off Test against Afghanistan, is able to take place as scheduled – albeit probably without crowds – the major challenge facing Burns will be the India Test attack which vies to be the most potent in the world. It could feature the same names who were successful in Australia in 2018-19 when they won the four-match Test series 2-1, although the home side were without David Warner and Steven Smith, who were serving their year-long bans at the time following the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, while Marnus Labuschagne has since emerged as a formidable force.
“I look at Australia and India as having two incredibly strong bowling attacks and that’s going to be so exciting to watch the teams go at it,” Burns said. “As an opening batter, that’s why it’s so exiting for myself; it’s going to be a huge challenge this summer, a big role to play in nullifying the Indian bowlers, especially early in the match, morning of day one with the new ball.”
There remain a lot of questions about how next summer will look with a report in The Australian saying the Sheffield Shield could be cut to eight rounds without a final, the WBBL reduced and pathway programmes stripped back as part of Cricket Australia’s cost-cutting measures. Burns acknowledged the pandemic was leading to huge challenges, but hoped the Shield could retain its current 10-round format.
“For me, I love the fact we have a really strong first-class system, the 10 games where you play everyone twice is really strong,” he said. “It leads to world-class players coming into Test teams. You don’t want to see that get changed or adjustments made to that. It’s pretty unique circumstances at the moment. There’s a lot of things to work through. Speaking purely as a player, I love the fact that it’s 10 rounds.”