Young trio’s huge appeal for Test debuts
Australia's agitated cricket selectors have lost all patience with mediocrity and appear on the verge of rushing three debutants into Thursday's first Test.
The decision to contradict their own policy and catapult 25-year-old batsman Kurtis Patterson into the Test squad to face Sri Lanka at the Gabba is a clear sign that Australia are in equal measures desperate and determined to find new stars.
Having one reserve batsman in a home squad is unusual. The party in Brisbane now has two.
Just 24 hours ago Joe Burns appeared certain of opening the batting against Sri Lanka, yet he may now miss out, along with Matthew Renshaw, with Patterson coming from the clouds to join 20-year-old Will Pucovski and young quick Jhye Richardson in being firmly in line for baggy green debuts in the first Test.
Selectors are trying to navigate their way along a most narrow tightrope between backing their gut instinct on long-term Test talent and not handing out caps for free.
But Chairman Trevor Hohns said Patterson's timely deliverance of two unbeaten centuries against the Sri Lankans in a tour game at the weekend demanded a backflip from the selection panel given the uncharted territory Australian cricket finds itself in.
"Kurtis has been pushing his case for selection for some time, he has been a consistent top order player for NSW, was a member of the Australia A tour of India prior to the commencement of our summer and was most recently selected to compete in the day-night tour match against Sri Lanka in Hobart," explained Hohns.
"We have been asking batters around the country to score hundreds if they want to be considered for selection, and giving Kurtis' consistent performances for NSW and his two unbeaten centuries in last week's tour match against our upcoming opponent, Sri Lanka, we believe he deserves to be added to the Test squad."
Cricket Australia had earlier indicated that the original squad was final in regards to the batsmen chosen and stated that the tour match in Hobart was not a selection trial.
However, the fact Patterson outperformed Test squad members Burns, Renshaw, Pucovski and Marnus Labuschagne in such emphatic style forced a backflip to recognise the timeliness of his performance.
If Patterson plays the Test, as is now expected, a player like Burns may feel highly aggrieved given normal circumstances dictate that the squad chosen is the squad chosen, and the fact the game against the Sri Lankans was not a first-class fixture.
Despite his double failure in Hobart, Burns has been the most consistent Shield performer over the past two seasons, although selectors had already shown a reluctance for picking him by leaving him out of an Australia A tour of India, a Test tour of the UAE and the summer-opening series against India.
There was a feeling on Monday that selectors' only error may have been boxing them into a corner by finalising the squad so far out from the Test - with many supporting the common sense rule applied to Patterson's call-up.
Pucovski is the white knight in the squad Ricky Ponting has declared as certain to play.
Perhaps the biggest decision now for selectors is whether to make it three rookies by promoting whippet speedster Richardson ahead of the veteran Peter Siddle who has been in the squad since day one of the summer.
Particularly with an Ashes and World Cup on the horizon, there is pressure on selectors to use the rare instance that Josh Hazlewood is injured to inject some young blood - given they already know what Siddle could offer in English conditions.
Patterson admits he was caught by surprise when his phone rang from Hohns.
"I got the call from Trevor around 8pm (Sunday night). I was obviously elated," he said.
"I had no expectations coming out of that Sri Lanka game that anything would occur. I was getting ready to pack my bags for (Sydney) Thunder training the next day, but then got the call and flew up here first thing."
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