Will Pucovski won’t be in Australia’s Test squad to face Pakistan when it is announced later today, with the young Victorian batsman requesting he not be considered for selection due to mental wellbeing reasons.
The 21-year-old, who had been tipped to be included in the 14-man squad, informed team management of his decision in Perth on Tuesday evening and it was agreed he could finish Australia A’s three-day tour game against Pakistan.
Pucovski took a similar step earlier this year when picked in Australia’s squad for the two Tests against Sri Lanka, withdrawing from that series due to mental health reasons, and also took a break from domestic cricket earlier in the 2018-19 domestic season.
Cricket Australia released a statement on Thursday morning supporting the Victorian’s decision, describing it as “the right one in the circumstances”.
“We applaud Will for having the courage to discuss his situation with team management in Perth,” Cricket Australia general manager of national teams Ben 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.
“Mental health is a complex issue that unfortunately impacts many young men and women in our society. 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 now the third Australian cricketer to take a break from the sport to focus on his mental health this summer, with state teammates Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddinson making similar decisions in the past few weeks.
With Pucovski out of the selection frame for now, Travis Head is all but certain to regain his place in Australia’s middle order for the opening Test against Pakistan, while it’s also been reported that Joe Burns and Cameron Bancroft will be in the squad.
After missing out on selection for the Ashes, Burns has hardly had a standout Sheffield Shield season and failed to impress for Australia A, making a golden duck and 11 in his two innings in Perth.
However, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting the Queenslander has been picked in the squad, Burns looks set to partner David Warner at the top of the order next week.
Bancroft has also had a poor Shield season to date, and was only picked for the A side after Maddinson’s withdrawal. But a fighting 49 in the first innings, in which he top scored and was last man out, has apparently been enough to seal a spot in the squad, although he appears likely to only be used in the case of Australia needing a concussion substitute.
If Head, Burns and Bancroft are indeed the three batsmen picked in addition to David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Matthew Wade, it means Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris will be the unlucky ones to miss out.
Harris could only manage scores of 16 and 20 for Australia A, while Khawaja fared slightly better, a first-innings six mitigated by an unbeaten 37 in the second dig.
The Herald is also reporting Michael Neser is likely to be the fifth fast bowler picked, joining Victorian James Pattinson and the New South Wales trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
With Cummins, Hazlewood and spinner Nathan Lyon nigh-on certainties to play at the Gabba, it leaves Neser as a long shot to make his Test debut, with the more likely scenario being Starc and Pattinson fighting it out for the final spot in the XI.
Reported Australian Test squad
Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Travis Head, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.