The Australian selectors have taken a bold call on Will Pucovski, the breakthrough star in this year's Sheffield Shield, by picking him up for the upcoming Test series against India. Going by his blistering current form and remarkable growth during the summer, he is almost certain to make his Test debut in the first Test against the visitors and open with the veteran David Warner.
Taking his Sheffield Shield run tally to an incredible 495 after just three knocks, the 22-year-old has Australian cricket buzzing with a palpable mix of expectation and excitement. Along with his run-scoring prowess, Will Pucovski has displayed an impressive ability to absorb an enormous number of deliveries, an attribute that could serve him well down the road, especially in the longest format of the game.
Pucovski's selection is a just reward for his rich vein of form and the maturity he has displayed. The 22-year-old Victorian's stylish strokeplay could be more potent than that of Joe Burns, who has struggled against the talented Indian pace battery.
It is not the first time Will Pucovski has earned an international call-up. Following a cracking 243 not out against Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield last year, he was picked for the ensuing Sri Lankan series. However, a much-awaited Test debut wasn't to be.
Since then Will Pucovski has continued to pile up the runs in domestic cricket at a time when Australia's other regular Test opener Joe Burns has been going through a prolonged dry patch. Having been in the Australian setup after coming in place of Cameron Bancroft, Burns has failed to establish himself at the top of the order. Thus, the move to replace the out-of-form opener comes as a no brainer.
Could Will Pucovski succeed in the aftermath of his recent mental health issues?
Despite the stars aligning for him, Will Pucovski could have a few obstacles to surmount.
Since 2018, he has been afflicted by mental health issues, which has led critics to question his ability to adapt in international cricket's new bio-secure environment. The stringent COVID-19 protocols in such bubbles have taken a toll on several international players.
Jofra Archer has said that living in the bubble is like 'You're counting down days.' Indian captain Virat Kohli has also came out and suggested shorter tours.
"Mentally, it can be taxing if this continues for this long a period at a consistent rate. It has to be broken down. It has to be based on how the individuals are feeling, and I think that conversation should take place regularly," said Kohli.
With bio-secure bubbles likely to be a draining experience for players, especially in long series against a big-ticket side like India, Will Pucovski could have his hands full. In a recent podcast, Will Pucovski acknowledged as much:
"It’s one of those things where I still want to keep improving, and I want to play for Australia and do it for a long time, but I need to probably do more work than your average Joe to make sure that I’m mentally in a headspace where I can deal with that stuff."
Mental issues and the unique challenges of life in a bio-secure bubble aside, Will Pucovski will face a baptism by fire against a formidable Indian pace attack comprising of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami.
Shami and Bumrah, who were two of India's shining lights in the visitors' memorable series win down under last year, have lost none of their bowling prowess. In that light, it could have been tempting to recall Aaron Finch, but considering the Australian ODI captain's well-documented struggles against the red ball, the greenhorn Pucovski looks like a better choice.
Will Pucovski's selection, as of now, seems to be a move in the right direction for Australian cricket, but it remains to be seen how he fares against a potent bowling attack.Published 12 Nov 2020, 16:52 IST