Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Pucovski eyes Test squad return after 'mountain of work'
Victorian prodigy has put considerable time into his mental wellbeing and feels well equipped to take the next step this summer
Louis Cameron in Adelaide
28 October 2020, 05:55 PM AEST
Wunderkind Will Pucovski is eager to once again put his name forward for a Test debut many believe is inevitable, suggesting he is now better equipped to handle the accompanying pressures.
Sporting shaggy hair and a laidback vibe, Pucovski could have been mistaken in recent days for any other twenty-something taking walks along Glenelg beach and kicking a volleyball around with Victorian teammates on sunny afternoons in between training sessions.
But his laidback demeanour masks what he labelled a "mountain of work" in recent months on his mental health to prepare himself for the cricket season.
Pucovski was on the verge of a Test debut last summer before pulling out of contention to focus on his mental wellbeing. His luckless run was then compounded in February when he tripped running a single and suffered a concussion (the latest among many) that ruled him out for the season.
The 22-year-old, regarded as one of the country's best Test batting prospects in years, is now hopeful of putting himself back in the national frame when Victoria get their Marsh Sheffield Shield campaign underway against South Australia on Friday.
"I don't have much control over whether they pick me or not, but I'm definitely very keen," Pucovski said of his Test aspirations for this summer.
"It's been a dream of mine since I can remember. From that perspective I'm definitely very keen to hopefully put my best foot forward. But it's out of my control, so I'll just be focusing on what I can control."
Pucovksi, who has also signed his first KFC BBL deal with the Melbourne Stars, insisted that pulling out of a possible Test debut last summer was the right decision.
"It all happened pretty quickly, I guess, but I have no regrets over it, that's for sure," he said.
"I didn't feel like I was quite ready at the time, but I've done a mountain of work in the last year to try to get myself a little further down the line.
"I just feel like I'm in a really good space now, which is awesome, just in everyday life and with my cricket.
"It's been an interesting year or two, and it's probably hard for people to understand if they're not in the inner-sanctum, but I'm very happy with where I'm at and most of the people that matter to me are really happy with where I'm at."
Pucovski was praised by the likes of Tim Paine and Virat Kohli for having the courage to step away from cricket last season, amid a greater recognition of mental health issues in the game.
There was another reminder this week as Jake Weatherald pulled out of the Shield 'bubble' and the Redbacks game against Victoria to focus on his mental health.
Weatherald's withdrawal comes after Pucovski's Victorian teammates Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddinson were among others to take breaks last summer.
Cricket Australia has recently appointed former WACA employee Matt Burgin as its first 'Mental Health and Wellbeing Lead', while there has been an increased emphasis on attention to mental health this summer as players adapt to living in hubs for various competitions.
Pucovski pointed out that cricket was not the only factor in his decision to take a break.
"It's probably a bit speculative to … just assume that it's just Test selection that might push you to some weird places," he said.
"There's a lot of different things going on that I've wanted to get under control and in that sense I feel like I've done that from a holistic perspective.
"Having a broader of view of understanding who I am as a person … is probably the better way to look at it.
"In that sense I feel like I'm ready because I've put in a lot of work to make sure I'm in a good space."
The Vics will only play two games before the competition breaks for the BBL, which Pucovski will take part in for the first time.
The right-hander has never played a professional T20 game nor previously pursued a BBL deal, but has had success at Premier Cricket level and was lured by the benefits of being on a Big Bash roster this season.
"I was just ready to take that next step in the T20 stuff. I've played a fair bit with (club side) Melbourne over the last couple of years and thought it was a good opportunity to get back into it," he said.
"Especially with how the summer is panning out, being around professional environments the whole time was something I thought would be really beneficial.
"I never ruled out playing Twenty20 cricket – I just thought over the last couple of years it wasn't the right time, but now it feels like it is the right time."