Ricky Ponting has sensationally labelled Scott Boland the 'luckiest player in Australian history' and declared selectors were right to leave him out of the third Test at the SCG. Boland has made a sensational start to his Test career with 28 wickets in just six matches at an average of 12.21.
However he hasn't been able to cement his place in Australia's side, with front-line pacemen Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood above him in the pecking order. Boland's six Test matches have all come about because of injuries to Hazlewood, but the NSW quick is now fully-fit after missing the last three matches with a side strain.
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Starc isn't playing at the SCG after injuring his finger in the second Test, but the Aussies opted to bring in Ashton Agar as a second spin option on a dry pitch in Sydney that is expected to break up and offer turn as the match progresses. That means there was no room for Boland when Australia announced its XI on Wednesday.
With Hazlewood not playing since the first Test against the West Indies in November and Australia only opting for two front-line pace bowlers, many were left to question how they could leave Boland out. On Wednesday Damien Fleming said he would have preferred Boland to play and Agar to bat at 6 or 7 as an all-rounder. Instead Matt Renshaw is batting at 6 and the Aussies will likely need to lean on the part-time bowling of Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith.
Speaking on Thursday morning ahead of the second day's play, Ponting was asked if Boland was the unluckiest player ever to represent Australia. But the former Test captain went the other way.
"He's actually the luckiest cricketer ever to represent Australia," Ponting declared. He then told Fleming: "Some of the wickets he's played on, you'd be still getting wickets nowadays." Ponting added the caveat "that's not taking anything away from what Boland has done."
Discussing the situation on Wednesday, Ponting said: "Boland's record is outstanding, he probably deserves to be in the team. But the cold, hard facts are that he wasn't in Australia's best three fast bowlers at the start of the summer."
Cricket fans unhappy after Scott Boland dropped
Boland shocked the cricket world last summer when he took 6-7 at the MCG against England in the Ashes. He then took three wickets in the second Test against the West Indies in December before three in the first Test against South Africa and another three in the second.
Discussing his team selection on Wednesday, Aussie captain Cummins said they were looking ahead to February's tour of India where spin will play a huge role. "(We'll) probably get more spin overs here, our batters are probably going to face more spin here as well," he said.
"Even personally, captaining here might be a little different to the last few Test matches. So it's a really good prep."
Cummins said he had no concerns about only carrying two fast bowlers. Labuschagne has bowled seam-up in Test cricket in the past, as well as some leg-spin.
"We'd be confident either way," Cummins said. "I feel really fresh. I've only played three Test matches and think we've averaged mid 20 overs (each) for the Tests. I'm fresh as I'm ever going to be for a fifth Test match. I'm not playing Big Bash so I get three weeks off after this."
Nevertheless, cricket fans were still fuming that Boland had been dropped. Some labelled it a 'joke' and 'disgrace'.
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