Melbourne: In a heart-warming gesture ahead of Christmas, Australia have added seven-year-old cricket-crazy Archie Schiller in their extended 15-member squad ahead of the Boxing Day Test against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground here.
Archie, who suffers from a heart ailment, dreams of captaining Australia and it has been confirmed he would co-captain Tim Paine in the third Test against India, starting 26 December.
The move was made possible by the Make-A-Wish Australia Foundation.
According to cricket.com.au, the announcement was made on Sunday at the BUPA Family Day at Yarra Park.
It turned out to be a memorable seventh birthday on Saturday for Archie, a leg-spinner from Adelaide, as Paine delivered the news on the same day.
Archie's inclusion in an extended Australian Test squad was made public earlier this month and he learned the news via a phone call from coach Justin Langer.
The young leg-spinner also practised with the Australian team during a training session at the Adelaide Oval earlier this month.
When Archie was just three months old, it came to light that he had faulty heart valves. Weeks after his birth he underwent an urgent surgery lasting more than seven hours in Melbourne.
And six months later, he underwent a second surgery before he went under the knife again in last December.
"We were told that it could go either way. We've learned to take nothing for granted, and to cherish every day we have with him," Schiller's mother Sarah recalled.
"Archie (Schiller) misses a lot of school which has a big impact on his friendships, because if you miss your turn at batting or being goal umpire (at football), there's no second chances.
"The other day he came home and said 'I couldn't find my friends and didn't have the energy to run after them, so I just sat and read a book'. To me that was heartbreaking, even though it was a really responsible, grown-up decision to make," she added.
Paine said the decision to make Archie the co-captain was their way of fulfilling his long-cherished dream.
"Obviously Arch (Schiller) has been through a really tough period and his family, Paine said.
"When his dad asked him what he wanted to do, he said 'I want to captain Australia'. I think it's been picked up along the way and we're rapt to have someone like that around. He adds a bit of perspective I think.
"Sometimes we live a life, it's very good, but you can be consumed in your own life at times, so to have someone like that around is actually really inspiring for our group. It's great to have him around and we look forward to his debut on Boxing Day," he added.
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The announcement came hours after Australia's second largest city exited a months-long coronavirus lockdown which enabled the MCG to confirm it would stage its traditional Boxing Day Test.