Joe Burns will feature for Italy at the T20 Cricket World Cup in 2026. GETTY IMAGES

Former Australian Test opener Joe Burns will play for Italy as they aim to qualify for the 2026 T20 World Cup as a tribute to his late brother.

Burns, who lost his brother Dominic in February, had a career spanning 23 Tests for Australia from 2014 to 2020. The 34-year-old has been part of the Queensland state squad since 2011 but did not receive a contract for the 2024-25 domestic season in Australia.

Burns shared a photo of himself wearing an Italian team jersey with the number 85, accompanied by a message. "This isn't just a number and this isn't just a jersey," he said on Instagram.

"This is for the people who I know will be looking down proudly from above. In February of this year my brother sadly passed away. 85 was his number in the last team he played (and his birth year) for the mighty Northern Federals in sub-districts."

Through his mother's heritage, Burns is qualified to represent Italy. "I often reflect on the bravery and commitment it must have taken my Grandparents when they left Italy to start a new life in Australia," Burns added.

"They found a way to make it work through adversity and this has always given me solace through life’s lessons." Italy has never secured qualification for a World Cup in any format.

Their third-place finish in European qualifying resulted in their exclusion from the 2024 T20 World Cup, scheduled to commence on 1 June in the United States and the Caribbean. "I’m so proud to represent Italy on our path to the 2026 World Cup.

"The fields of Rome may be a long way from the Gabba, MCG or our front yard growing up, but I feel like I’m coming home," he concluded.

Burns, having stints in County cricket with Leicestershire, Middlesex, Glamorgan, and Lancashire, aims to assist Italy in their quest for qualification for the 2026 edition. Italy's journey to qualify for the competition in India and Sri Lanka begins with a sub-regional tournament in Rome next month.