SYDNEY: Young batting prodigy Will Pucovski was parachuted into the Australia squad for two Tests against Sri Lanka in a shock call-up Wednesday, with veteran Shaun Marsh and his brother Mitch dumped.
Also axed from the 13-man squad after their humbling 2-1 series defeat to India were underperforming opener Aaron Finch and middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb.
In-form Joe Burns was recalled for the first time since the South Africa tour early last year and could open the innings with rookie Marcus Harris, who did enough against India to keep his place.
But they face competition from Matt Renshaw, who has been handed another opportunity despite misfiring in the domestic Sheffield Shield this season.
Off-spinning allrounder Marnus Labuschagne was retained from the team that played the rain-affected drawn Test in Sydney this week, as was Travis Head.
Selectors kept faith with their pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, with veteran Peter Siddle also included.
National selector Trevor Hohns said “there is no doubt the India series produced some disappointing results” and change was needed, after four Tests characterised by the failure of any Australian batsmen to score a century.
“Ultimately Aaron, Peter, Shaun and Mitch have not produced the performances expected of them with the bat at the Test level,” he said.
“They have been given a good opportunity, but have not produced the scores we need.”
He added, however, that the door was not closed and they must now prove themselves again in domestic cricket and the one-day series against India this month.
Pucovski was the shock call-up. The 20-year-old is one of the brightest batting talents in the country, scoring a double century for Victoria last year.
But he has only played eight first-class matches, and after that double ton took a break from cricket because of a mental health issue.
“Will Pucovski is an exciting young player who is making his mark in the Sheffield Shield. He is another player with a track record of making centuries,” said Hohns.
“We look forward to him joining the squad and congratulate him on his first national call-up.”
Burns, who has played 14 Tests, has been knocking on the door this season with Queensland, while Renshaw has been unlucky not to get another call-up until now, since his last appearance at Johannesburg in April.
“We see him as a long-term prospect as a Test player and have confidence in his ability to bounce back following a string of low scores early in the Shield season,” said Hohns of the 22-year-old.
Burns, Renshaw and Pucovski will all play for a Cricket Australia XI against Sri Lanka ahead of the Tests in preparation.
The first Tests will be a day-nighter in Brisbane from January 24, with the second in Canberra from February 1.
Australia squad: Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Tim Paine (capt), Will Pucovski, Matt Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle
Cricket Australia XI: Joe Burns (capt), Kurtis Patterson, Scott Boland, Jake Doran, Jon Holland, Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Will Pucovski, Jason Sangha, Matt Renshaw, Chris Tremain