January 9, 2019
Will Pucovski has been parachuted into Australia’s Test squad after just eight first-class games, while openers Joe Burns and Matthew Renshaw have also been called up.
Pucovski, the 20-year-old prodigy who scored 243 at the start of the Sheffield Shield season but took a break from cricket because of a mental health issue, has been included in Australia’s 13-man squad for the two-Test series against Sri Lanka.
Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Peter Handscomb and Aaron Finch have all been axed after struggling in the four-Test series against India.
Selectors opted against including a fast-bowling allrounder, overlooking both Marsh and Marcus Stoinis.
Next week’s tour game in Hobart shapes as a selection showdown that will help Australia settle on their top six for the day-night Test in Brisbane that starts on 24 January.
Marnus Labuschagne, Pucovski, Burns and Renshaw have been picked in the Cricket Australia XI that will face Sri Lanka in the visitors’ only tune-up before the first Test, a thee-day game starting on 17 January.
One of those four batsmen won’t be part of the Test XI at the Gabba, where Peter Siddle will again be on drinks duty barring a setback to one of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Mitch Marsh, appointed joint vice-captain last year, will have a chance to fight his way back into Ashes contention but it shapes as the end of 35-year-old Shaun Marsh’s stop-start Test career that begun in 2011.
“Ultimately Aaron, Peter, Shaun and Mitch have not produced the performances expected of them with the bat at Test level,” chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns.
“They have been given good opportunity, but have not produced the scores we need.
“All four are very good players, and the door is by no means closed for them to return to play Test cricket.
“They will all feature in the ODI series against India, and each of them forms an integral part of our white-ball strategy.”
Pucovski has long been rated the nation’s next big thing but a series of head knocks stalled his progress in recent years.
The right-hander started Victoria’s campaign with a bang, becoming the ninth player in Shield history to score a double-century before a 21st birthday.
He then took an extended break from the sport, only returning for the final Shield game before the red-ball competition was put on hold for Big Bash League.
Australia’s 13-man Test squad: Marcus Harris, Joe Burns, Matthew Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Will Pucovksi, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine (capt), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle.