JLT One-Day Cup 2018
Pucovski eases mind with simple mantra
Young Victorian comes to grips with his harsh reality after copping three separate head knocks last summer
9 September 2018, 05:39 PM AEST
Will Pucovski, the batting prodigy whose career has been coloured by a succession of concussion injuries, has adopted a simple mantra for the season ahead: "You're definitely going to get hit again".
It's a counterintuitive message more likely to come out of a boxer's mouth than a cricketer's.
But the acceptance of his harsh reality has helped Pucovski come to grips with a summer that coupled the greatest example to date of his rare talent with three more blows to a head that's already copped more than its fair share.
The Victorian's 2017-18 season begun how the previous one had ended; leaving the field after a knock to his noggin, this one from a Ben Cutting bouncer in a JLT One-Day Cup game at North Sydney.
Another followed in his return weeks later in a Toyota Futures League match on the outskirts of Melbourne, where he was escorted from the field after again being struck while batting. The same misfortune then befell him in a Sheffield Shield match at the Junction Oval and once again cut his season short.
All this after a luckless series of childhood blows that included a sling tackle during a schoolyard football match, a ball ricocheting from an adjoining net during cricket training, and hitting his head on a door in his own house.
Not to mention his first-class debut, in February 2017, being overshadowed by a ball randomly shooting up off the MCG turf and onto his skull.
In between the latter two blows from last summer Pucovski flashed a reminder of why he's tolerated the hardship, posting a marathon maiden first-class century and finishing with a bumper 188 off 414 balls against Queensland.
Given the litany head knocks, few would begrudge the 20-year-old if exasperation had become his default outlook when discussing them. But Pucovski has learnt to roll with the punches.
"It's been one of my mantras over the preseason – when I'm worrying about something, I just ask myself whether it's helping to worry about it, and most of the time the answer is no," he told cricket.com.au.
"I've done a mountain of work in the preseason. At the start, I was a bit like I didn't ever want to get hit again.
"But as the preseason went on, I had a few discussions with a few people. They just said, 'No, you're definitely going to get hit again. You've got get that out of your mind and play it how you would play it'.
"I'm getting better at it – since I've taken that mentality, it's helped me a lot from a mental point of view."
Pucovski has reviewed each of the incidents in isolation with Victorian coaches and come to the conclusion that not only is there no major technical flaw to address, but also that he's not often dismissed by short-pitched bowling.
"We had a look at the three incidents where I got hit and there weren't too many technical issues there," he said.
"Between nets and training and games, you face thousands of balls and I've got hit three times in the head. It's a pretty low percentage, but unfortunately with the history I've had I'm a bit predisposed to it.
"I haven’t really gotten out to the short ball that much. (The effects of the multiple blows) are overexaggerated a bit – I've never come back from getting hit and felt like I've lost anything.
"I'm more likely to miss some cricket on the back of those head knocks than other players. That's a bit frustrating but I feel I'm in a pretty good place with it now."
Pucovski is due for some better luck, and the coming summer shapes as an exciting time to be a young Victorian cricketer.
A core of experienced campaigners remain but the Vics’ squad has a distinctly younger feel to it with the likes of Pucovski, Will Sutherland, Tom O'Connell and Sam Harper among a host of others all pushing for spots.
"Our plan is to take Victorian cricket into the next phase of its existence and success," Pucovski said.
"We're hopeful and aspire to do that – we've joked in conversations about it over the last few months. There's a few blokes towards the end of their careers and a fair few just beginning theirs now.
"We've been talking about how it'd awesome in three to five years if we're the core of the Shield team and the one-day team.
"I won't lie, we'd love to do it. At the same time, there's still a good balance of older, wiser heads to help you out, so it doesn't feel completely foreign as youngsters trying to find our way."