MELBOURNE - Christmas has come early for cricket mad Archie Schiller with confirmation the seven-year-old will lead Australia in the iconic Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

The announcement Archie will be co-captain alongside Tim Paine was made at this afternoon’s BUPA Family Day at Yarra Park ahead of the third Domain Test against India starting on Wednesday. The leg-spinner from Adelaide is set to partner star off-spinner Nathan Lyon after his ascension to the leadership role.

Archie turned seven on Saturday – the same day Paine delivered the news to the bubbly youngster.

Archie’s inclusion in an extended Test squad was made public earlier this month and he learned the news via a phone call from coach Justin Langer, while the national team was in the UAE for their recent series against Pakistan.

Archie also rubbed shoulders with his heroes during a training session at Adelaide Oval earlier this month. All this has been made possible through Make-A-Wish Australia, which learned of Archie’s circumstances and aspirations when he prepared for his most recent operation.

He has already stared down more adversity than his sporting heroes will likely know in a lifetime When he was just three months old, his heart condition diagnosed weeks after his birth required an urgent trip from Nuriootpa in South Australia to Melbourne where he underwent urgent surgery lasting more than seven hours.

Six months later, he endured a second bout as specialists fought to fix the faulty valves and irregular rhythms of Archie’s bravely beating heart. When those measures showed signs of failing last December, the family ventured back to Melbourne for his third open-heart procedure and faced the reality they risked returning home without their son.

“We were told that it could go either way,” Archie’s mum Sarah recalled. “We’ve learned to take nothing for granted, and to cherish every day we have with him. Archie 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.”

Archie pulled through his latest ordeal, and Melbourne once more looms as the centre of Christmas 2018 for Archie, three-year-old Harry, dad Damien and Sarah. But, thankfully, this time the circumstances are much different.

“Obviously Arch 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.”

Archie’s addition is another boost for an Australia side on a high after their series-levelling victory at Perth Stadium in the second Test.

SQUADS

AUSTRALIA: Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Mitch Marsh (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Archie Schiller

INDIA: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.