Phillip Hughes, who has played for his country 17 times as an opener but not since against New Zealand in December 2011, was preferred ahead of Rob Quiney and Usman Khawaja to fill the void left by the retired Ponting.
Ponting, the second-highest Test run-scorer of all-time behind India's Sachin Tendulkar, played his final and record-equalling 168th Test for Australia against South Africa in Perth, which finished on Monday.
Hughes, 24, has satisfied selectors that he has overcome technical issues which made him vulnerable to the rising ball and which led to his axing in the past.
"It is actually really special this time," Hughes told reporters ahead of the first Test in Hobart starting on December 14.
"The sacrifices that I have made in the last 12 months have been quite big. I knew I had to do them ... so to me, I can go in there with a fresh mind."
Skipper Michael Clarke has still to decide on his batting order against Sri Lanka, but the opening pair of David Warner and Ed Cowan are expected to remain leaving Hughes seen as coming in at number three.
Chief selector John Inverarity revealed that the panel opted against throwing Hughes in against the strong South African pace attack and gave Quiney his chance in the first two Tests before he was dropped for a lack of runs.
"We did feel that throwing him (Hughes) in against the world No.1 with their attack was probably not the ideal set of circumstances for him," Inverarity said in announcing the squad.
Inverarity is confident the left-hander has now made the necessary tweaks to his game to succeed at the highest level.
"We look to Phil Hughes to be one of our players for the future - a real long-term player," he said.
"I think Phil's in a very good place at the moment. His technique, if you watched him closely 12 months ago and now, his scoring range is very different.
"He's scoring through the leg-side, off his pads much better, driving on the on-side and pulling short balls, which wasn't the case 12 months ago.
"So I think he's developed his game and it's much harder now for bowlers, in a sense, to corner him."
Hughes said he would bat anywhere, believing in his technical changes honed in a year of personal sacrifice which involved a stint in English county cricket with Worcestershire and a move from New South Wales to South Australia.
"I had to change a couple of things but I feel comfortable ... I have had chances before but I'm grateful for this one and I just hope I can really get in there and cement my spot," he said.
Selectors also recalled pace bowlers Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus for the December 14-18 Hobart Test for injured quicks John Hastings (back) and Josh Hazlewood (foot) from the side that lost to the Proteas by 309 runs in Perth.
Australia - Michael Clarke (capt), Shane Watson, David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, Mike Hussey, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon.
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