Michael Klinger's long wait for an international cap is over, named as one of three debutants in Australia's side for the opening KFC T20 INTL against Sri Lanka at the MCG.
Klinger, Perth Scorchers teammate Ashton Turner and towering quick Billy Stanlake were all handed their T20 caps before skipper Aaron Finch lost the toss, with the tourists sending Australia in to bat.
Australia's star-studded coaching staff for the series completed the pre-match cap presentations; Klinger received Australian cap No.84 from his regular domestic coach Justin Langer, Stanlake was handed cap No.85 from his Adelaide Strikers coach Jason Gillespie, and Turner received cap No.86 from Ricky Ponting.
At 36, Klinger is the oldest Australian to make his international T20 debut and the 10th-oldest across the three formats.
Jhye Richardson, another uncapped player in the Australian squad, and Kusal Mendis were named as 12th men.
Australia XI: Aaron Finch (c), Michael Klinger, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Ashton Turner, Tim Paine (wk), James Faulkner, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye, Billy Stanlake
Sri Lanka XI: Dickwella, Malinga, Munaweera, Tharanga, Gunaratne, Prasanna, Sanjaya, Siriwardana, Kapugedara, Kulasekara, Sandakan
On Thursday, Klinger said he was just soaking up the opportunity to be part of an Australian squad as he prepared for a possible hometown international debut.
Klinger, who begun his first-class career with Victoria before moving to South Australia and then Western Australia, finally earned an international call-up almost two decades since his domestic debut.
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And although his international call-up came with 16 of the country’s best players unavailable for selection due to Test duty, nothing is going to put a dampener on the veteran batsman's maiden experience in national colours.
While there are two very different Australia teams currently preparing for two very different challenges – with the T20 squad in Melbourne while the Test players prepare for their four-match tour of India in Mumbai – Klinger insists there’s still plenty at stake for him and his new teammates as they take on Sri Lanka in Melbourne, Geelong and Adelaide.
“Some of the bigger name guys aren’t around, but everyone who gets an opportunity will give it their best shot,” he said on Thursday.
“I can say for me personally, I couldn’t care more about this than anything else.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to represent my country and the other 10 guys who run out on the field tomorrow, we’ll be doing our best to win the series.”
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Touted as a potential Australian representative for more than two decades only to be overlooked time and time again, Klinger said it was ‘a dream come true’ that the timing had finally worked in his favour.
The 36-year-old is refusing to look any further ahead than the next three matches as he simply laps up the chance to finally be part of an Australian squad.
“We’ll just get through this three-game series first," Klinger said.
“Obviously there are some players unavailable in India and my timing was right this time, other times it hasn’t been.
“I’ll hopefully perform well in this series and we’ll see what happens after that.
“In terms of this whole week, I’m just going to enjoy it. It’s taken awhile for me to get this opportunity.
“I lapped up training yesterday, getting throwdowns from (assistant coach) Ricky Ponting, who I looked up to as a youngster.
“I’m just trying to enjoy this week but I’ll also focus hard at game times and try to perform well.”
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Should that long-awaited debut come on Friday, the chance to play at the MCG in front of friends and family would make the experience even more special for Melbourne-born Klinger.
“The WACA is my home ground but all of my family, other than my wife and kids who are flying to Melbourne tonight, are based in Melbourne," said Klinger.
“I grew up and went to school in Melbourne, it’s great not only for me but for (those people) who’ve supported me over a long period of time.
“It would be great to get that first game in Melbourne.”
A final XI has yet to be revealed for Friday’s match, but Klinger is eyeing off a spot at the top of the order alongside captain Aaron Finch.
“That’s where I’ve batted for a long period in Twenty20 cricket," he said.
“Aaron Finch is a class opener so if it works out it would be great to open with him.”
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And while the right-hander says ‘never say never’ to the thought of one day earning a Baggy Green, he admits that these days he’s realistic about his chances.
“In Test cricket they’re looking in a new direction so it’s going to be tough work," Klinger conceded.
“Now I’m at an older age I’m a lot more realistic about these things, so I’m just trying to enjoy it now.”