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Is Joe Burns burnt?

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28th December, 2020

In the 1993 film Groundhog Day Bill Murray became trapped in a time loop and was forced to relive the same day over and over again. In 2020 the Australian national team is persisting with the faltering Joe Burns in an equally painful experience.

The only way Bill Murray extricated himself from the time loop was to be open and honest and live the perfect day. This article is an attempt to review the facts and dissect the varies theories to hopefully help Australia break this recurring nightmare.

Statistical comparison

India England Pakistan New Zealand India
Joe Burns 97, 4 9, 53, 0, 35, 18, 40 8, 51*, 0
Marcus Harris 26, 26, 70, 20, 13, 22, 79, 2* 8, 19, 13, 6, 3,9
Cameron Bancroft 8,7, 13, 16
Usman Khawaja 27, 4*
Aaron Finch 0, 11, 50, 25, 3, 8

I have collated data dating back to the Indian tour of Australia in 2018. The most recent scores are on the right. I did not include David Warner.

Burns has played 11 innings in his current stint as opened and has scored 315 runs with an average of 31.5.

Prior to Burns, Marcus Harris occupied the opening position. He amassed 58 runs over six innings at an average of 9.7.

Before Harris it was Cameron Bancroft. He scored 44 runs over four innings at an average of 11.

Preceding Bancroft were Harris and Aaron Finch. Harris scored 258 runs over eight innings at an average of 36.9. Finch scored 97 runs over six innings at an average of 16.1.


Burns’s average compares favourably to Harris (in England), Bancroft and Finch. Harris’s average against India during their last tour was 36.9, which is slightly better than Burns.

One could argue that Burns has had easier batting conditions playing Pakistan, New Zealand and India in domestic settings, whereas Bancroft and Harris had to deal with a swinging Dukes ball in England and a rampaging Stuart Broad.

One could also argue the Indian attack on their previous tour of 2018 was superior to the current crop. Ishant Sharma was steaming in with a fully fit, pre-back injury Jasprit Bumrah.

Overall the collective conversion rate of all of these openers is poor. These statistics do not support blind loyalty to Burns, nor do they support the recall of any of the aforementioned alternatives.

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I’m never sure whether it is better to be dismissed in the same manner each time or whether it is preferable to be dismissed in a multitude of ways. I’m not sure which option confers the best prognosis.

Most recently Burns was dismissed caught behind playing a forward defence to Bumrah. The ball nipped away from him. I could have driven my Wolkwagen Golf through the gap between his bat and pad.

Bumrah was bowling well and continued to trouble all batsmen throughout the innings. However, there was a feeling of inevitability about Burns’s dismissal. He never looked likely, with constant playing and missing.

In the first Test he was dismissed LBW by Jasprit Bumrah.


The decision went to DRS and he was given out somewhat unluckily on an umpire’s call. He looked uncomfortable throughout his entire innings. Respected pundits including Ricky Ponting were saying that he exhibited some technical issues during his innings. One of those was his head position making him off balance. Perhaps this contributed to his dismissal.

My impression is that Burns has technical issues and continues to find ways of getting himself out.

The theories

He looks out of sorts. I never followed the Queensland loyalists arguing that he should be persisted with as he might find his form against India. If he can’t score runs in the domestic Shield season, tour games against India and against lesser attacks in Australian conditions, why would he be likely to find form against a comparatively strong Indian attack?


Another theory trotted out by the usual suspects is that we need to create a culture where it’s harder to get out of the Australian team than it is to get in. This harks back to the era of our strong 1990s teams. Such was the generational depth of talent that we had a backlog of talent scattered throughout the domestic scene. The default option to support incumbency resulted in several talented batsmen being stuck in the domestic competition despite averaging in the 50s.

But just because we had successful teams then does not mean we can transplant it into our current set-up. We must not confuse correlation with causation.

Burns seems to get favourable treatment due to intangible factors like his chemistry with Warner. I think this is irrelevant. Warner is not a selector. We should simply pick the best players.

The forecas

In summary, his statistics and technique do not support his retention in the team. Matthew Wade’s scores at opener of eight, 33 and 30 are not exemplary either, but he deserves further opportunities given his form at No. 6.

If Warner is fit, he must return for the third Test. Joe Burns is burnt.