MELBOURNE: Few young Australian cricketers have generated as much excitement as Will Pucovski in recent years but the shaggy-haired batsman is ignoring the hype as he bangs on the door for selection ahead of the Test series against India.
The 22-year-old was named among five uncapped players in a bumper 17-man Test squad on Thursday after piling up 495 runs in two Sheffield Shield matches when opening the batting for Victoria.
He will have another chance to impress selectors when he faces India’s bowlers in a tour match in Sydney from Dec. 6.
The Australia “A” game has been seen as an unofficial “bat-off” with incumbent opener Joe Burns, who has hit a lean patch for Queensland in recent Shield games.
But Pucovski has little interest in giving oxygen to the speculation and has switched off his social media accounts to be free of distractions.
“I think it’s a bit of a media buildup to be honest, the big bat-off thing,” he told reporters on Friday.
“I think all I can really control is how I go about it in my preparation and then obviously in the game so I feel like my batting’s in a really good place.
“I’m off a lot of social media, so that makes it a lot easier. You can’t get tagged on Twitter and stuff if you don’t have the app, so that’s been a pretty easy one for me.”
Australian cricket rarely fails to produce wunderkinds but experts have already marked Pucovski as a once-in-a-generation talent in the mould of Ricky Ponting or Steve Smith.
“It would be ridiculous to say he’s not ready,” former Australia captain Ian Chappell told local broadcaster Nine Network.
“What the hell is he going to prove by playing more Shield cricket?”
The pressure of playing Test cricket on home soil is at an entirely different level, though, and selectors may be wary of throwing Pucovski into the cauldron of a hugely anticipated series against Virat Kohli’s team.
The right-hander has a history of battling mental health issues and has taken time off from the game twice when on the cusp of Test selection.
Replacing Burns, whose solid opening partnership with David Warner helped Australia whitewash Pakistan and New Zealand in the last home summer, would also be a bitter pill for the incumbent.
“He’s been amazing, hasn’t he?” Australia coach Justin Langer told reporters of Pucovski on Friday. “That said … we loved the combination of Joe Burns and David Warner. At this point, I’d say that will remain the same.”
Pucovski has also struggled with a series of concussion injuries dating back to a serious head-knock suffered in school football.
He believes the concussion problems may have contributed to his mental health struggles.
“Obviously getting hit in the head a lot is not ideal from a physical or mental perspective,” he said. “But I’ve done a lot of work in that space to try and make sure my process is in a really good place.”