Burns, who has featured in 15 Tests as an opener since his debut in Sri Lanka in 2018, will look to return to the England fold for the three Tests, after recuperating from an ankle injury that he sustained while playing football during training in January. The freak injury had ruled him out of the last three Tests on England’s South Africa tour, with Zac Crawley filling in as his replacement, partnering Dom Sibley at the top.
Atherton feels that Burns should re-enter the fray, also earmarking him for a potential leadership role, given that Joe Root, the regular captain, could miss the first Test owing to the birth of his child.
“I would get Rory Burns back in straight away,” Atherton said on Sky Cricket’s The Cricket Show. “Obviously depends on whether Root [is unavailable]… I will get him instead of Crawley so actually, [you have] the combination that you had before Burns got injured.”
After managing two fifties in his first 14 innings, Burns announced himself with an Ashes hundred in Birmingham last year, ending 2019 with a century and a fifty in New Zealand, and an 84 in the Boxing Day Test in South Africa. His leadership credentials include a Championship win for Surrey in 2018 – their first title in 16 years.
“I thought he was doing so well – freak injury, Crawley came in, did okay.,” said Atherton. “But, I would go back to Burns. I thought he was progressing beautifully.
“He also just does add a potential leadership candidate to that Test team down the line, if required. And I thought he was doing fabulously well before the injury came.”