Alan Jones’ dubious call on cricket star
Rising Australian cricket star Will Pucovski won't make his international debut at The Gabba against Pakistan next week after asking not to be considered for the first Test of the summer because of mental health reasons.
Many were expecting the talented 21-year-old to be given a baggy green and slot into the middle order but he made the brave decision to pull out of the selection race.
Reacting to the news, broadcaster and former Wallabies coach Alan Jones said "there's something not right happening at the moment in Australian cricket".
"I've been in sport at this level for a long time. I don't understand this," Jones said.
"The inside word is players are frustrated with the mixed messages and lack of communication from selectors. Whether that's the issue, I have no idea."
Cricket Australia (CA) revealed Pucovski's decision in a statement this morning and the organisation's General Manager of National Teams Ben Oliver praised the young gun for being honest about his issues.
"We applaud Will for having the courage to discuss his situation with team management in Perth," Oliver said. "Will's decision not to nominate for Test selection was the right one in the circumstances and one that everyone in the Australian cricket family supports.
"By Will bravely taking this position, he will undoubtedly inspire others facing similar challenges to speak up and take positive steps towards improving their mental wellbeing.
"The most important thing now is for Will to be given the time, space and expert support that he needs to return to full health as soon as possible."
Pucovski is the latest Aussie star to withdraw because of mental health issues. Short-form all-rounder Glenn Maxwell smacked 62 against Sri Lanka in the opening T20 of the summer but after the second match of the series in Brisbane revealed he was taking a break from the game.
He did not feature in any of the T20s against Pakistan.
Like Pucovski, Victorian batsman Nic Maddinson was selected for Australia A's three-day warm-up clash against Pakistan in Perth that finished yesterday but pulled out before the match, citing mental health reasons.
Pucovski, who debuted for Victoria in 2017, has taken time away from cricket previously because of mental health issues.
He was one of a handful of players in the Australia A team pushing their cases for Test selection over the past few days.
Two spots are up for grabs in Australia's top six and Pucovski was considered a frontrunner to nab the middle order berth ahead of Travis Head while Usman Khawaja, Joe Burns and Marcus Harris fought for the right to open alongside David Warner in Brisbane.
However, all of those players failed in the first innings "bat-off" as Pucovski made just five. Burns (11) and Harris (20) struggled again in the second dig while Khawaja (37 not out) and Head (13 not out) were unbeaten at stumps on the final day.
Pakistan dominated the match, piling on 428 in the first innings before skittling Australia A for just 122. The visitors then declared their second innings at 3/152 to give the locals' top order one final chance to shine.
Speculation mounted on Wednesday Pucovski was in line for a Test debut after what looked like a friendly interaction with national coach Justin Langer.
The pair were seen chatting and smiling together at Optus Stadium, and later Harris offered up a high five and a handshake to his younger teammate, leading many to believe he'd been told he was in the first XI in Brisbane.
However, as we know now, that clearly wasn't the case.
There you go, you never really know even if you see it with your own eyes. Pucovski was just having a chat to Langer yesterday about stuff, and life, after withdrawing himself from test consideration.— Adam Peacock (@adampeacock3) November 13, 2019
He’s a top young bloke.
Pucovski became the first Aussie since Ricky Ponting to score a first class double century before their 21st birthday when he racked up 243 against Western Australia in October 2018, but later revealed all was not well when he went to stumps on day one unbeaten on 64.
"It was one of those things where what it looked like from the outside wasn't quite matching up with what it was on the inside … I was more confused than at any other time in my life," Pucovski told The Follow-On podcast in January.
"I was 64 not out overnight if I remember. I got to the game to have my pre-morning hit in the nets and pulled one of the coaches, Lachie Stevens, aside and said, 'Look mate, this is what I'm going through. I don't really understand what's going on and don't know why it's happening but this is what's happening'."
The right-hander missed about six weeks of cricket after that episode before returning to play for the Bushrangers in December.
Pucovski was called into the Australian squad last summer for the two-Test series against Sri Lanka but selectors opted against blooding him in the international arena as concerns over his mental wellbeing lingered.
Pucovski has scored four tons and four half-centuries in 18 first class matches at an average of 40.82.
The Australian squad for the first Test against Pakistan will be named later today.