How Steve Smith has become the world’s best Test match batsman continues to confound the cricketing world, including one of Australia’s hottest cricketing stars.
Will Pucovski has battled mental health and concussion which has kept him out of his first Baggy Green over the past three seasons despite an incredible first-class record.
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In his 22 matches of first-class cricket, Pucovski has piled on the runs, hitting six centuries including three double hundreds at an average of 55.5.
At just 22, his career could take him anywhere in the game.
The star has been on the cusp of breaking into the Australian but a concussion for Australia A against India A has kept him sidelined from an all-but certain Test debut.
In a video put out by 7 Cricket, Pucovski said a concussion in February took him to double figures, a scary thought for such a young star.
Pucovski said he believed the concussions and mental health issues were linked but he was proud about the amount of work he’d put into his mental health.
“The experts I’ve spoken to suggest having repeated head knocks can impact your emotional regulation, if that’s the right term,” he said. “The hard thing for people to understand is that 90 per cent of the time, even when I have had breaks, I’ve been going really well, it’s just that 10 per cent where other people are dealing better with that 10 per cent than I have been.”
But Pucovski admitted that he didn’t regret stepping back from cricket when previously on the cusp of making his Australian debut.
When discussing what it would mean to play for Australia, he said it gave him “tingles”.
And where would he like to debut?
“It’s always been Boxing Day for me,” he said. “You wake up on Christmas morning and for me it was always Boxing Day Eve rather that Christmas morning. Every year it was like ‘dad and I there tomorrow, we’re going to go watch’.”
But he also went on a tangent, remembering watching Steve Smith bat in the 2010 Ashes Series, when Australia got bowled out for 98.
It was just Smith’s fourth Test for Australia.
“I remember Smithy was batting at six or seven that day, and he had the weird technique,” he said. “I said to dad ‘how is this bloke playing for Australia? What is he doing? This is ridiculous’. As a junior I would have been 12 at the time and every junior coach is about top elbow up, side on to the ball. This bloke’s coming out here with the hands and everything and that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
“You’re just in so much awe about how he goes about it especially from the mental side. But I remember going there and saying ‘how is this bloke doing it? Now I’m just like he’s an absolute genius, I’d give anything to play like him.”
Since, the pair have been in the same squad with Smith giving Pucovski advice about concussions.
After a stellar start to his Ashes campaign, Smith was struck by a Jofra Archer bouncer and because the first player substituted out of the second Test due to concussion.
He also missed the third Test.
Smith said earlier this month that he told Pucovski to take his time to come back into the fold.
“Will has had a couple in the past so he’s experienced it,” Smith said earlier this month.
“It’s just about getting over that hangover effect, going over all the protocols and getting yourself to a position where you’re comfortable, firstly, to go into the nets and face some light stuff and then some bowlers and get yourself right to play out in the middle.
“I trust what I’ve done over a long period of time and I’ve faced loads of short stuff.
“I’ve obviously been hit a couple of times but I still face plenty of short stuff in the nets from bowlers that are bowling good pace.”
Unfortunately for Pucovski, it looks like he will miss the Boxing Day Test as well.
Former Test player Callum Ferguson said he was “staggered” Pucovski was still being discussed a Test debut against the current Indian attack.