Vodafone Men's Ashes
'Lucky' Pucovski reveals long road back from surgery
Will Pucovski looks ahead to the Ashes, reflects on his rollercoaster summer and details the full extent of his season-ending shoulder injury
8 June 2021, 07:27 PM AEST
The cancellation of Australia's Test tour of South Africa has saved Will Pucovski from a potentially desperate race against time to be fully fit for this summer's Ashes campaign.
Pucovski has revealed the full extent of the serious shoulder injury he suffered on Test debut last summer, which required surgery in February and will prevent him from batting until at least August.
The Victorian is hopeful of being fit for the start of the domestic season ahead of the Ashes in December but says the timeline for his return would have been much tighter had the South African tour gone ahead as scheduled.
Pucovski had planned to bat through the pain for four Tests against the Proteas before returning home for surgery in April, with the expectation that he would recover in time for the summer.
But having gone under the knife two months earlier than expected after the South African tour was called off, he learnt that his injury was far more serious than first thought.
"I was shattered at the time (when the tour was cancelled) but looking back on it now, it wasn't the worst thing to happen,” Pucovski told cricket.com.au this week.
"They initially weren't 100 per cent sure from the scans (if surgery was required); they thought I probably did need it, but that it wasn't absolutely urgent. But I decided to get it done and when they went in there, they told me I really needed it.
"I'm pretty lucky I got it done a little bit earlier to get it right for next season.
"I'm still a couple of months away, at least, from going into the nets, but it still gives me a fair bit of time. Even if I'm not in until August, I'll have a month or two before the season starts."
Having been idle for eight weeks following surgery, Pucovski is back running again and spends most days doing "pretty boring" rehab exercises while dreaming of a maiden Ashes campaign.
The 23-year-old concedes his ability to dive and throw in the field will likely be limited for some time, but he's confident of starting the Marsh Sheffield Shield season ahead of Australia's one-off Test against Afghanistan and the five against England.
"(The Ashes) keep you sane in the morning when you wake up and are going through all the exercises," he said.
"I've started a bit of shadow batting, which sounds a bit silly, but it's just about trying to remember the mental side of what to do.
"I've got no exact timeline, which makes it a bit tough, but I think it'll be a couple of months, at least, before it's full-on bat v ball in the nets.
"But that could fluctuate – it could be earlier, it could be later. It just depends on the progress of the shoulder.
"Ideally, the first Shield game will be my number one goal."
While the axing of the South African tour turned out to be a blessing in disguise, it did cost Pucovski a chance to build on his impressive Test debut against India in January.
He was then overlooked for one of 17 Cricket Australia central contracts in April despite being an incumbent Test opener at the time of his injury.
"It's pretty hard to say it wasn't disappointing at the time – it obviously was," he said of missing a contract, acknowledging he can be upgraded if he plays three Tests in the next 12 months.
"But they had their reasons and you have to quickly learn to accept that and just move on.
"The main reasons I got were that I haven't played enough cricket over the past few years for a variety of reasons, and the other one was that they want to contract blokes who win games for Australia rather than just blokes who are in the best XI. So I guess on both of those criteria, I missed out.
"It was a bit of a shame and a bit disappointing, but it's one of those things. You face a lot of disappointment in professional sport, so I've moved on and used it as a bit of motivation.
"We have the right to earn contracts through playing matches, so it doesn't mean it's never. It just wasn't to be this year.
"(I) wouldn't have minded the security of (knowing), 'They really rate you, you've got a contract'. And obviously the financial security is always good as well.
"But it's one of those things where you've got to work hard and get back into that top 17 that they have."
Pucovski has spoken openly about his mental health battles in recent years and says maintaining a good head space remains an ongoing process.
After a rollercoaster summer that included a record-breaking run in the Shield, a serious concussion, a long-awaited Test debut and then season-ending surgery, and despite another harsh lockdown in his home city of Melbourne, he says he's mentally in a good place.
"It was a weird summer – I was either on cloud nine, or down in the dumps with an injury," he said. "It was quite bizarre.
"You go from 100 to zero pretty quickly. I was just so flat for a couple of weeks because you've ridden the high of your Test debut and being in that environment and getting a taste of it, then (you) miss out through injury.
"(But) I'm going really well and I've come a long way in that space in the past few years. There are days when you feel flat, there are days when you don't feel flat and the whole process of accepting that everything is what it is and rolling through every day as it comes has been my biggest challenge.
"But I've got to a place now where I'm pretty good with that. I've got a lot of processes in place and I've got a good team around me. So everything is good on that front."
Vodafone Men's Ashes v England
Dec 8-12: First Test, The Gabba
Dec 16-20: Second Test, Adelaide Oval
Dec 26-30: Third Test, MCG
Jan 5-9: Fourth Test, SCG
Jan 14-18: Fifth Test, Perth Stadium