Vodafone Men's Ashes
'No need to rush' Pucovski, Harris in line for Test return
Tim Paine 'devastated' by batting prodigy's latest concussion, with his Victorian teammate the 'frontrunner' to replace him in Ashes side
15 October 2021, 11:36 AM AEST
Tim Paine has labelled Will Pucovski's latest concussion a blow for Australia ahead of the Ashes, admitting he was "shattered" by the news.
Pucovski is recovering from the 10th concussion of his career, after being hit in the head while training for Victoria last week.
Paine on Friday said the young opener was still "hoping to be ready at some stage during the summer", earmarking Marcus Harris as his logical replacement for the first Vodafone Test in just under eight weeks.
The Test captain also defended the 23-year-old's technique, adamant he would not be averaging 53.41 in first-class cricket if he didn't have the ability to play the short ball.
Regardless, his head knock has hit the Australian camp hard with Pucovski having played just one Test despite being one of the country's brightest young talents.
"It was shattering when I found out," Paine said on SEN radio.
"I've spoken to him a bit the last few days, he is improving slowly. I don't think it's as bad as some of the others he's had before.
"But obviously with his history we have to be very careful with anything around the brain.
"I was devastated to hear that it's happened to him.
"But he's still hoping to be ready at some stage during this summer, so he's got plenty of support around him and we know how good he is.
"There's no need to rush him at the moment. He's still 22, 23 years of age, he's got a long time in the game if we can get it right."
First called into Australia's squad three summers ago, Pucovski finally made his Test debut against India at the SCG in January.
It came after repeated injury setbacks and personal time out of the game, with his final challenge being to overcome another concussion after an Australia A game last summer.
He then scored an impressive 62 in the first innings of his debut but hurt his shoulder in the field and was ruled out of the final Test of the summer needing surgery.
"It's a blow, no doubt," Paine said.
"In my opinion, he would've partnered David Warner in that first Test match, there's no doubt about that.
"But Marcus Harris is probably the guy waiting for the opportunity and he's just come back from a superb six months over in England.
"He's probably the frontrunner now for that role.
"He's scored a lot of first-class runs and he's someone who hasn't had an extended run at Test cricket.
"He's come in for a game or two here and there – then he gets dropped and someone else comes in."
Cricket Victoria confirmed Pucovski was hit last Tuesday, October 5, and it's understood the 23-year-old is still experiencing symptoms.
"Will is currently managing his recovery in consultation with CV's medical staff," Cricket Victoria said in a statement.
"He looks forward to returning to training as soon as he is able to do so."
The blow to Australia is exacerbated given Pucovksi was eager to return following off-season shoulder surgery, following an injury in the SCG Test.
"I've been batting pretty much about 90 per cent in the nets, which has been really good. So it's been fun to get back into it," Pucovski told cricket.com.au last month.
"There's just a few little things to tick off, but everything's going in the right direction, which is really nice."
So unlucky has Pucovski been on the injury front that he has played just five games of high-level cricket since January last year, before the pandemic, which have been a microcosm of his brilliant yet luckless career to date.
He was forced to retire hurt in two of those five games due to concussion, his participation in his Test debut ended early due to that shoulder problem, while he scored record-breaking double hundreds for Victoria in the other two games.
Pucovski's luckless run with concussion began in high school when he suffered a head knock during a game of Australian Rules football, which sidelined from all sporting activities for six months.
He's also previously cracked his head on a doorknob in his family home, been struck by a ball that ricocheted from an adjacent net, and fallen head-first into the ground when running between wickets after his bat plugged into the turf.
He told cricket.com.au in June that playing in a maiden Ashes campaign this summer was keeping him motivated through his long rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.
"(The Ashes) keep you sane in the morning when you wake up and are going through all the (rehab) exercises," he said.
Meanwhile Paine himself has returned to training this week after his own neck surgery and is not in any doubt for the December 8 Gabba Test as he is already back in light running and pilates.
Vodafone Men's Ashes v England
First Test: December 8-12, The Gabba
Second Test: December 16-20, Adelaide Oval
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Perth Stadium