Vodafone Test Series v India
Pucovski unplugs as he makes waves towards Test side
Young batting star disconnects from social media as he looks to block out the wall of noise pushing for him to play Test cricket
9 November 2020, 08:58 PM AEST
When Will Pucovski talks about deleting social media and work-related apps off his phone, he could be any 22-year-old discussing the pitfalls of growing up in the 21st century.
Sporting long, curly hair that he pared back last week from a shaggy mess to a more manageable mullet, Pucovski is navigating his way through the same challenges of young adulthood we have all faced, or will face.
But there is only one 22-year-old in the country who could make the Test captain, driving slowly past in a seven-seater van in the Karen Rolton Oval carpark, lean over the passenger seat and call out dryly, "Made a few runs, have you?"
Tim Paine is not yet sharing a dressing room with Pucovski, but he could be soon. He's not even playing against him during this ongoing round of Marsh Sheffield Shield matches; the fact he's in the same place due only to the unique fixturing of these early season matches that sees all six teams based in Adelaide.
The extra attention of the nation’s first-class cricketers is in addition to the regular focus the competition attracts from the public early in the summer as Baggy Green hopefuls make their case to be picked for Australia.
But the fact a great deal of the recent hype has centred on Pucovski does make him a little different to most 22-year-olds.
Not that he's noticed much of the attention.
After batting against SA and WA for almost 1,005 minutes and scoring 457 runs before finally getting out on Monday, Pucovski's inclusion in the Test team to face India next month has been demanded by three of Paine's predecessors.
Yet the only cricket-related content Pucovski has looked at in recent weeks was an awkward photo taken of him when he reached his century against WA on Sunday.
"It was actually Cameron White who sent me the photo yesterday – he's incapable of giving a compliment without a little backhander," Pucovski told cricket.com.au with a laugh, referencing his first Victorian captain.
"He made sure I saw that from every angle, and a few of my mates got stuck into me about it as well. I wasn't too happy about that one, but it's all a bit of a laugh.
"I haven't really read anything about (Test selection) and it's completely out of my control. All I can do is present myself every day and hopefully do well for the team."
Aside from an occasional Instagram scroll to see how his partner, friends or dogs are faring, Pucovski removed all social media from his phone earlier this year.
It's been hard to be a normal 22-year-old in Melbourne this year, as Victoria endured some of the world's toughest COVID-19 restrictions. In Adelaide, when he's not in the middle of a cricket ground making runs, it’s been a bit easier.
"We're staying in a lovely place down at the beach and maximising that, going for a few walks - I've decided that's a better way to go about it than spending days buried in your phone," Pucovski says.
"On the whole I've been better off without it. You spend a lot of your days scrolling through Twitter or Instagram for pointless reasons.
"As an athlete you can get caught up in it – I don't feel like I ever have, but it's more from a general well-being perspective.
"It means I'm able to do better things with my life, to be honest."
It's hard to argue with that.
By Monday evening, Pucovski had scored more runs in two innings than any other batter in the competition.
After blazing an unbeaten 255 against SA last weekend, he backed it up over the past two days with 202 against WA to become the first Victorian since Bill Ponsford 93 years ago to score consecutive double hundreds.
Add to that the fact he only found out on the eve of the SA match that he would be opening the batting, and it's one of the more incredible starts to a Sheffield Shield season in recent memory.
While he's now expected to challenge Joe Burns for the Test opening spot, Pucovski is not necessarily wedded to facing the new ball.
"I wouldn't say it's something I've actively wanted to do but when it was proposed to me, it was more of a team balance thing," he said.
"Batting at No.3 (normally), I don't really see much of a difference to opening, because half the time you're in there earlier anyway. I wasn't that fazed to be honest.
"It's been good to get some runs opening but I'd also happily shuffle down to three if that was the best thing for the (Victorian) team."
Pucovski has faced well-documented challenges with his mental health in recent seasons and explained the exercises he has done to help him overcome them have been beneficial when he’s batting.
He resumed on 183 not out on Monday against WA and admitted there were times during his innings when he lost concentration.
"I don't think that inner competitiveness wavers, it's more just that inner fatigue over a week or two," he said.
"There was probably a stage or two where I found myself losing it a bit, but I was able to switch back into gear, which felt really good – just knowing I can switch back on and get back into that zone.
"It's about getting into a batting bubble and I found myself – for the first time in a couple of weeks – just leaving that a little bit. It was only for a short period when different things were going on in the game. I've developed the processes now where I know how to get myself back into that space.
"For me it hasn't necessarily been about the runs, it's been more about the process. I've been happy with how I've been backing my instincts and just playing off intuition and the more I can do that more regularly, the results will hopefully come.
"I've been a bit lucky in the last couple of weeks that big runs have come about. Cricket is a tough game where you are going really well and you're not making runs as well, so you've got to cash in when they are going your way."
If there is a sense he is making up for lost time, it's because he is.
It was a requirement for Victoria to quarantine for two weeks while every other team was able to travel to Adelaide without restriction, meaning they will only play two games in the initial Sheffield Shield bubble.
Australia's first Test against India is a day-night game at nearby Adelaide Oval in a bit over a months' time, while there are two tour games that precede it that shape as a further opportunity to push his case for inclusion.
But Pucovski has not cast his mind much further past his side pushing for victory against WA over the next two days, after their game against the Redbacks ended in a stalemate.
"After six weeks away here and the whole quarantine stuff, I'm pretty keen to go home, see my family, see my mates, see my girlfriend, see my dog," he said. "That's all I'm worried about.
"I'll try to finish the job here and get back Thursday, and enjoy some smashed avo at the local café."
Just like any other 22-year-old.