CRICKET NEWS - Highly-rated young prospects Will Pucovski and Cameron Green were Thursday included in an expanded 17-man Test squad to face India as Australia looks to the future.
Opener Pucovski, 22, and all-rounder Green, 21, have been hammering on the door this season, impressing in the domestic Sheffield Shield with a host of former Australian greats urging their inclusion.
The selectors - coach Justin Langer, Trevor Hohns and George Bailey - heeded the calls, but not at the expense of the out-of-form Joe Burns, who retains his spot alongside regular opener David Warner.
Rookie spinner Mitchell Swepson and seamer Sean Abbott, along with fast bowler Michael Neser, who has long been on the fringes, also made the grade and are in line for debuts.
"It is such a positive sign for Australian cricket to have so many good young players stepping into contention," said Hohns. "Two of those many standout players were of course Cameron Green and Will Pucovski."
"Their undeniable form demanded selection and we are very pleased to have these young men in the squad for what will be a tremendous Test series against an extremely formidable opponent."
World number one Australia, led by Tim Paine, play four Tests against Virat Kohli's second-ranked India starting with a day-night fixture in Adelaide on December 17.
They then move to the traditional Boxing Day Test in Melbourne before heading to Sydney and Brisbane, with Kohli set to miss the final three games to return home for the birth of his first child.
India will need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Australia due to coronavirus concerns, and Kohli would have to repeat the exercise if he wanted to come back, making it highly unlikely he will do so.
The two sides meet in three one-dayers and three Twenty20s from November 27 in the lead-up. Those matches will be followed by two Australia A fixtures against Indian sides in Sydney to prepare for the Tests.
Pucovski, who was in the Test set-up last summer but has struggled with mental health issues, has plundered back-to-back double centuries in his last two games as an opener for Victoria to make his call-up all-but inevitable.
He recently said he was in a good head space and ready to challenge for a Test berth once again, vying with incumbent Burns, who has had a lean spell.
Batting all-rounder Green, described by Greg Chappell as the best he has seen since Ricky Ponting, has also been firing with a classy 197 for Western Australia last month.
He is considered less likely to get a start, at least in the opening Test, with Travis Head and Matthew Wade currently filling the middle order, and Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith locked in at three and four.
The pace attack virtually picked itself, with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and James Pattinson all regulars, and Neser and Abbott breathing down their necks.
Swepson pressed his case with three consecutive five-wicket hauls in the Sheffield Shield and was preferred to Adam Zampa as Nathan Lyon's understudy.
"Mitch Swepson is another who has excelled and is in fine form for Queensland. He gives the side a strong second spin option to Nathan Lyon and we feel he is ready and deserving of the opportunity," said Hohns.
"Sean Abbott has also been outstanding at the start of the summer and comes in to his first Test squad as a very strong fast bowling option."
Australia squad: Sean Abbott, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Tim Paine (capt), James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner
Australia A squad: Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Joe Burns, Jackson Bird, Alex Carey, Harry Conway, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Nic Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Mark Steketee, Will Sutherland, Mitchell Swepson