Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Mental wellbeing players' priority: Paine
Following Will Pucovski's withdrawal from Test selection, Paine reaffirmed health and wellbeing comes first
Andrew Ramsey in Adelaide
14 November 2019, 08:18 PM AEST
Australia Test captain Tim Paine will contact Will Pucovski in coming days to offer his close friend support, but he acknowledges that the mental health challenges that several of the nation's leading men's players are currently dealing with are not endemic to cricket.
Paine has forged a close bond with Pucovski, who advised national selectors on Tuesday evening that he was unavailable for Test consideration and will, instead, join Victoria teammates Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddinson on the sidelines as they deal with their mental wellbeing.
The Australia skipper noted that while the challenges being faced by three high-profile cricketers have brought the issue of mental health among professional sports people into sharp focus, it is an issue that increasingly impacts all elements of the community.
And while Paine is keen to contact Pucovski, who returned home to Melbourne immediately after the conclusion of Australia A's tour match against Pakistan on Wednesday evening, he is also mindful of giving the 21-year-old some breathing space.
"I've left him alone today, I'll give him a ring probably tomorrow," Paine said in Adelaide after the completion of Tasmania's Marsh Sheffield Shield match against South Australia.
"I've obviously got a lot of time for Will as a person, he's a great young kid and it's sad to see him going through this.
"We know how talented he is.
"I think making the right decision to step away and take care of himself and get himself healthy and in the right state of mind is going to be important because we think he's someone who's got a huge Test future.
"But first and foremost we want Will to be a happy young man, and I think sometimes we forget that he's still a kid.
"He's had a lot of pressure put on him from outside sources, and expectation and hopefully he's in a position in the next few years to fulfill that potential that he's got.
"The first priority for us, and for Will, is his mental wellbeing."
Paine, who is currently growing a moustache in support of the annual Movember fundraising campaign that generates money and awareness for men's health, said his role as skipper of the men's Test team was to lend support and understanding to all players.
He said regardless of whether issues arose from on-field or off-field circumstances, it was important not to prescribe courses of action without fully understanding the nature of individuals involved and the different methods they employ to deal with challenges.
However, he noted that while top-level cricket brings with it scrutiny and pressure, the issues being experienced by professional cricketers at present are symptomatic of a wider societal concern.
"I think to say it's a cricket-related issue is wrong," Paine said.
"I think it's a big issue in all walks of life.
"It's a very complex issue, we know that, and I think Cricket Australia and cricket in general have supported the three guys in particular that are having a spell at the moment.
"We can only be there to support, and hopefully their mental wellbeing is in a good place eventually, and we can get those guys back out playing cricket.
"It's what they do, and it's for us to support them and help them through some difficult times."
Fast bowler Mitchell Starc also spoke today of the Movember campaign, and the changes that it and similar initiatives are driving to lead in the way that mental health issues are managed and perceived.
Starc said that, like Paine, he was yet to personally catch up with the three players as they dealt with their respective challenges, but he added that the trio's decision to acknowledge they were struggling and to step away from the game indefinitely sent a reaffirming message.
"It's very positive that those guys can come out and be open and honest with how they're travelling and how they're feeling," Starc said today.
"It's obviously concerning that you've got three guys who have taken themselves out of contention or cricket for little periods of time due to mental health.
"The three guys who have gone through it are very good people, good cricketers and hopefully we see them come back sooner rather than later.
"You have your pressures around cricket, the schedule is pretty ridiculous these days.
"Hopefully the three guys are going as well as they can be, and hopefully we see them on a cricket field sooner rather than later.
"The positive thing is that guys are feeling perhaps more comfortable, if you like, to be open and honest with how they're feeling whereas in the past guys might have just kicked on and tried to get through things and it could have built up to something worse.
"Movember is about trying to raise that awareness of mental health, amongst other things."
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