Comparisons with Warner: Ponting backs Fraser-McGurk to become a Test player

Australia

Ricky Ponting believes young sensation Jake Fraser-McGurk can be a Test match player for Australia and thinks he needs to be exposed to international cricket as much as possible to help fast-track his development as a three-format cricketer.

Fraser-McGurk made a statement in his second ODI on Tuesday smashing 41 from just 18 balls with five fours and three sixes as the home side mowed down West Indies’ target of just 87 inside seven overs in Canberra.

Ponting, who was speaking on Wednesday after being unveiled as Washington Freedom’s new MLC coach, was in no doubt that Fraser-McGurk can play Test cricket for Australia despite averaging just 22.39 in his first 13 first-class matches.

“Absolutely,” Ponting told reporters in Melbourne. “Just because of the talent that he’s got. And we’ve seen with other players in the past, even like a Shahid Afridi or something like that, that came on the stage as an ultra-talented ball-striking 17-year-old that can bowl legspin and before you know it, he’s probably played [27] Test matches.

“When you’ve got that sort of talent you need to be exposed to cricket at the highest level to work it out. And I think Jake can do that yet. I’m definitely backing one day to play Test cricket.”

Ponting compared Fraser-McGurk to David Warner in terms of his talent and was adamant that he should be fast-tracked similarly to what Warner was.

“I was on record at the start of the summer saying I think he’s someone that can be well and truly fast-tracked through the Australian system,” Ponting said. “Because the natural talent that he’s got reminds me a bit of David Warner’s introduction into Australian cricket. When we saw [Warner] at the start, I think everyone doubted whether he was going to be good enough to play Test cricket technically.

“But with the talent and the skill that he had, which I think Jake has got as much talent as what Davey had coming through, then I think the earlier they can get him into the system and get him playing and let him work out for himself the best way to have success in all the different formats, I think it will be great for Australian cricket.”

There are some differences between the journeys that Warner and Fraser-McGurk have had in progressing through the Australian cricket pathway.

Warner famously played T20I and ODI cricket for Australia before he played a first-class game. His T20I, ODI and first-class debuts all came after his 22nd birthday.

Warner then made 960 runs at an average of 60 in his first 11 first-class matches, including two Sheffield Shield centuries for New South Wales and a 211 for Australia A against a Zimbabwe XI before making his Test debut at 25.

Fraser-McGurk made his first-class debut at 17 for Victoria but struggled in his early years in domestic cricket before a move to South Australia this season re-ignited his career, making a List A world-record 29-ball century and his first first-class century before lighting up the BBL for Melbourne Renegades.

But Ponting believes Fraser-McGurk has already made huge leaps in his game and is ready to tackle international cricket.

“I’m not sure he had a real clear plan or idea of what the best version of himself was and how he needed to play [with Victoria],” Ponting said. “But what I’ve seen since he’s moved to South Australia in Shield cricket and one-day cricket for them and then what he brought to the Renegades this year, I think it’s pretty clear now the way that he wants to go about it and play his cricket.

“Now he might have to temper that and change that here and there at different times in different situations and in different formats of the game. But I think when you’ve got that talent, I think he can do that. So he’s a really exciting young bloke that I’m looking forward to seeing him develop over the next couple of years.”

Fraser-McGurk was not named in Australia’s T20I squads for the upcoming series’ against West Indies and New Zealand, with those six games the last they will play before the T20 World Cup in June. Ponting did not believe Fraser-McGurk should be parachuted into the T20 World Cup squad but thinks it is in Australian cricket’s interest to have him playing sooner rather than later.

“Obviously, there’s only so many people you can pick in the World Cup squad, isn’t there,” Ponting said. “He’ll get other opportunities. But the more he can get the earlier he can get them at a younger age, the better it will be.

“I’m not saying at all that he should have been picked in the World Cup squad because they’ve put together a really good squad anyway, and one that on paper will look as good as probably any team going there. He’ll have to bide his time. But as we saw yesterday, he looks pretty keen to make the most of the opportunities that he gets.”

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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