Australian cricket selectors have shown Will Pucovski, one of the brightest batting talents in the country, a massive dollop of faith in naming him in Australia's revamped Test squad to face Sri Lanka.
- Will Pucovski became the first batsman since Ricky Ponting (and only the ninth-ever) to score a Shield double-ton before the age of 21
- He took an indefinite break from cricket to deal with a significant mental health issue immediately after scoring the double century
- Pucovski's elevation to the Test team comes as Mitchell and Shaun Marsh are dropped, alongside Aaron Finch
Pucovski's naming in the squad came as selectors dumped both the Marsh brothers and Aaron Finch after poor showings against India, while Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns received recalls.
To cricket die-hards, Pucovski's name will be familiar, even at the tender age of 20, having been touted as the next big thing in Australia's batting stocks.
Australia's reaction to the 2-1 series loss to India was not only to drop both Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, as well as Aaron Finch, from its Test line-up, but to take a massive gamble on youthful promise.
Having played just eight first-class matches for Victoria, Pucovski's elevation to the Test arena is remarkable.
Australia Test squad:
- Tim Paine (c), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Will Pucovski, Matt Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle
Pucovski became the first Australian since Ricky Ponting to score a first-class double century before his 21st birthday when he amassed 243 runs against Western Australia in October. He is one of only nine people to achieve this feat, in a list that includes Don Bradman.
What was even more remarkable about that innings was his confronting of mental health issues the night after stumps on day one of that very match.
He was 64 not out at stumps, but went back to his hotel room that night, phoned his parents and told them he was going through a mental health battle, before revealing the same news to his coaches the next morning.
"I was 64 not out overnight if I remember. I got to the game to have my pre-morning hit in the nets and pulled one of the coaches, Lachie Stevens, aside and said, 'Look mate, this is what I'm going through. I don't really understand what's going on and don't know why it's happening but this is what's happening'," Pucovski told Fox Sports' The Follow-On podcast.
Even then, he went on to complete the incredible double-century. That innings saw many calling for him to be blooded in the Test squad, but those calls came to a halt when he exited the game while fielding, before taking an indefinite break from cricket to address his mental health.
The previous Sheffield Shield season, Pucovski had to be substituted out of a match against New South Wales when he was hit in the head by a Sean Abbott bouncer.
Puckovski ducked into a short ball from Abbott and was struck on the side of the helmet, before kneeling on the ground.
The 20-year-old averages 49.00 with the bat from 13 innings, having scored two centuries and a half-ton for Victoria.
Marsh brothers gone, Burns and Renshaw recalled
The axing of the Marsh brothers is hardly a surprise, with Shaun averaging just 26.14 in the four Tests against India, while Mitchell failed to impress with bat and ball in his lone appearance against the tourists at the MCG.
Queensland pair Burns and Renshaw, who last appeared for Australia against South Africa in April, have earned selection, following public calls earlier in the summer for their inclusion in Australia's squad for the India series.
Burns has played 14 Tests, scoring three centuries and four half-centuries at an average of 36.76.
He has been averaging 47.20 in the Sheffield Shield this season, however is yet to score a century. No Australian batsman posted a hundred against India.
Opener Renshaw, who has played 11 Tests at an average of 33.47, has hardly set the world on fire in the Sheffield Shield, averaging just 19.90 from five matches.
Finch, who was dropped from Australia's XI before the fourth Test in Sydney, was also omitted from the wider squad.
All three of Pucovski, Burns and Renshaw, as well as Marnus Labuschagne, have also been named to play in the Cricket Australia XI tour match against Sri Lanka in Hobart, where the four batsmen will get invaluable preparation against the pink ball.
The Hobart fixture may prove to give Sri Lanka an edge, as the visitors will have more exposure to the pink ball than Australia ahead of the day-night Gabba Test.
Sri Lanka, like Australia, has won every day-night Test it has contested.