Pucovski wins Bradman Young Cricketer
Outstanding young talent joins a prestigious roll of honour in claiming the 2019 award as nation's best young male cricketer
11 February 2019, 07:51 PM AEST
Will Pucovski might have narrowly missed joining the brethren of the Baggy Green cap last month, but he has been inducted into an even more exclusive club as the nation's brightest young men's cricket talent.
Pucovski, who turned 21 barely a week ago, was tonight named Bradman Young Male Cricketer of the Year at the Australian Cricket Awards in Melbourne.
He received almost half of the available votes from his playing peers (46 per cent) to finish ahead of Australia limited-overs quick Billy Stanlake (20 per cent) and Tasmania seamer Gabe Bell (seven per cent).
As such, the Victorian batter – who was called up to the Australia Test squad for the recently completed Domain Series against Sri Lanka – joins an exclusive of just 19 other members to have earned the prestigious honour.
That roll call includes the inaugural winner, Brett Lee (in 2000) as well as a number of other emerging stars such as Test-capped Nathan Bracken, Shane Watson, Nathan Hauritz, Shaun Tait, Dan Cullen, Ben Hilfenhaus, the late Phillip Hughes, John Hastings, Trent Copeland, David Warner, Joe Burns, Hilton Cartwright and last year's winner, Jhye Richardson.
The award is decided by all Australia-based national, state and KFC Big Bash League contracted players who cast their vote for the player (outside their own team) they consider to be the brightest young talent.
To be eligible for the award, contenders must be 24 years or younger throughout the 12-month voting period (from 8 December 2017 to 11 December 2018) and not played more than 10 first-class games and a total of less than 25 appearances in List-A (eg Australia A and JLT Cup) and BBL fixtures.
The fact that Pucovski played just five games during that period, while others in contention for the award figured in two or three-times as many, underscores the potential that most cricket observers see in the right-hander.
Across those five games, Pucovski averaged 76.29 with a highest score of 243 for Victoria in the JLT Sheffield Shield earlier this summer, which was almost double the average of the next-best performed batter, New South Wales's Jack Edwards (average 36.43).
On the strength of his Sheffield Shield form, Pucovski was close to making his Test debut in the opening match against Sri Lanka at the Gabba before selectors opted for in-form NSW batter Kurtis Patterson.
The esteem in which Pucovski is held was obvious on the eve of the Brisbane Test, when men's team captain Tim Paine drew comparisons with former Australia skipper and fellow Tasmanian, Ricky Ponting.
"They can both bat, I don't think there's any doubt about that," Paine said.
"Just the way he (Pucovski) holds himself is really impressive.
"He's got a little bit of an aura about him, but in a quiet, softly spoken kind of way.
"I think the way he goes about his batting is really simple as well, and it's been clear … that he's going to be up to this level.
"And it's exciting to have someone of that sort of talent, and for him to be so mature and calm for his age I think it's really exciting for us as a team and as a country to have someone like that come on to the scene. It's been a while."
Like Ponting, who made his Shield debut as a teenager and first played for Australia just weeks after turning 21, Pucovski's ability was well known before he had finished secondary school.
After stirring whispers in Melbourne's Premier Cricket community through his performances for Brighton Grammar in the inter-school competition and the Melbourne Cricket Club, it was his deeds at the 2016 national under-19 championships that announced him to a wider audience.
The teenager plundered four consecutive centuries and amassed an unprecedented 650 runs at that annual under-age carnival before being selected for a Cricket Australia XI in a 50-over warm-up game against touring Pakistan in January, 2017.
Pucovski was released from the national men's squad during the Canberra Test against Sri Lanka earlier this month to allow him to return home early to Melbourne, to aid in the management of the mental wellbeing issues he has reported.
The 21-year-old's decision to speak up about the challenges facing him earned the praise of Australia men's team coach Justin Langer during the Canberra Test.
"He's been with the group in the last couple of weeks, and he's a sensational young bloke," Langer said.
"I love watching him bat, he's a gun fielder, he works really hard but he's obviously wanting to get on top of it and he's gone home for a few days.
"He's got some Shield cricket coming up, and we're looking forward to seeing him healthy and well.
"He deserves it because he's such a good young bloke."