Two of Bendigo cricket's most promising young players will represent Victoria Country under-17s in a special tournament on home soil.
Bendigo United's Xavier Austin and Strathdale-Maristians' Jack Pysing are in Victoria Country's 13-player squad to take on Victoria Metro under-17s, South Australia under-17s and the Cricket Victoria XI in a four-day tournament in Bendigo from January 10-13.
The carnival replaces the National Under-17 Championships scheduled for Tasmania, but were cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Austin and Pysing's pathway to the Victoria Country started in last summer's Dowling Shield competition and concluded with strong performances in training sessions at the Junction Oval in Melbourne.
"There was a squad of about 30 players and we had about five or six training sessions down at the Junction Oval,'' Austin said.
"In Bendigo you think you're going alright and then you get to the training in Melbourne and there's a lot of quality and no weak links. They're all very good cricketers,'' Pysing added.
Austin will bat in the top-order and bowl off-spin, while Pysing is one of the squad's pace bowlers.
Austin, 16, has been very impressive with the ball in first XI action for Bendigo United, but such is the strength of the Redbacks' batting line-up he's only had one hit with the bat.
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"I do a fair bit of batting outside of games and club training,'' Austin, who is about to enter Year 11 at Xavier College, said.
"(In terms of form) we'll have to wait and see how it is in the next few weeks.
"My bowling has been going well, it's been good to get plenty of overs and take a few wickets."
Pysing, 16, made his first XI debut with the powerful Strathdale-Maristians line-up earlier this summer and didn't look out of place.
He said the Suns' bowlers Ben and Jake DeAraugo and Sam Johnston had played a key role in his development.
"They'll sacrifice their own training session to help you out with your game,'' Pysing said.
"Not just bowling, they've even spent time with me after training to improve my batting.
"I never used to be able to hold a stick, but now I fancy myself as a bowling all-rounder, not that many other people do."
Day one of the under-17 carnival is Twenty20 matches, with Victoria Country to tackle Victoria Metro from 3pm, while SA and the CV XI play from 3pm.
Days two and three are 50-overs-per-side one-day matches.
Victoria Country plays South Australia on January 11 and the CV XI on January 12.
The top-two teams after three rounds play-off in the grand final on Thursday, January 13, while the remaining two teams clash in a consolation final.
Venues for all matches are yet to be finalised.
The carnival is the pinnacle of a bumper month of cricket for Austin and Pysing.
After representing Victoria Country, they'll prepare for the under-17 Dowling Shield competition where Austin will play for Carlton and Pysing will represent Greenvale.
On top of all that, club cricket resumes on January 8.
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