Victoria’s Will Pucovski, aged just 20 and with just eight first-class appearances to his name, has been called up to Australia’s Test squad for their series against Sri Lanka.
While he hasn’t been on the professional circuit for very long, Pucovski has already built up quite the reputation. But how has he made it into the Test squad so early in his career?
Who the hell?
Will Pucovski made his List A debut in January 2017 aged just 18 for Cricket Australia XI against Pakistan during their tour of Australia. He then made his Sheffield Shield debut for Victoria the next month, one day before his 19th birthday. Now 20, Pucovski has been causing stirs in Australian cricket, and it was only a matter of time before the national selectors took note after a string of strong performances for his state side.
His ability to occupy the crease has impressed many including former Aussie all-rounder Dave Hussey who called him a “quality talent”. He averages 49.00 so far in his short career and recorded a career best 243 against Western Australia earlier this season.
Sam Curran and Prithvi Shaw were two of the breakout stars of 2018, but who will be the players to make a similar impact in 2019? https://t.co/y715qG3ruM
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) January 8, 2019
What’s his story?
While his call up leaves him the envy of young Australian batters all over the country, Pucovski’s rise to the top has been littered with bad luck. In recent years, he has been hit in the head seven times from various incidents including while playing cricket, playing Aussie Rules football for his college, and even cracking his head on a door at home.
Four of these have left him with concussions, including one which kicked and hit him in the head during his debut while he was fielding, and another last season after taking a Sean Abbott bouncer flush on the helmet and needing to be subbed out of the game. Despite these setbacks he has continually come back and performed at the highest level. Less than three weeks after his debut, he recorded his maiden first class century against Queensland in a mammoth innings of 188 off 414 balls.
He recorded his second career century earlier this season in October with 243 against Western Australia off only 313 balls, becoming eighth youngest ever player to score a double century in Shield cricket aged just 20 years and 257 days.
Unfortunately, he faced hardship again immediately following the game, telling Victoria coaches that he had been experiencing mental health issues. He requested time away from the game and subsequently spent time with mental health expert Emma Murray, who has aided professional sportsmen at AFL team Richmond in the past.
He now says he has coping mechanisms in place to cope with the onset of dips in his mental state, including daily morning meditation. On his return to first-class cricket in December he recorded a half-century against Western Australia in Melbourne, showing further grit on return from tough times.
The step up to Test level will be his most difficult challenge yet, but there is no denying his talent and class as a top order batsman. The obvious challenge facing Pucovski will be whether he can adjust to Test cricket so soon after his first-class debut. Should he gain selection to the XI and do well, he will then have the exciting prospect of playing in an away Ashes series later this year.
He will go into the series with the knowledge that he is backed by many in his life and in the cricket community. He has said “a lot of the messages I’ve received today is you’ve got there for a reason, so just try to play your way and embrace that as much as you can.”
Not one to be daunted by a challenge, on receipt of his call-up, Pucovski said he’s feeling “as good as [he has] felt in a really long time.”