Infotainment Factory: Batting prodigy opens up on brave battle

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Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Batting prodigy opens up on brave battle


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Victorian batting prodigy Will Pucovski has opened up on the mental health battle that took him away from cricket for six weeks just as his career was taking off.

Amid a batting crisis for Australia, Pucovski was talked about as a possible bolter for selection in the Test squad to start the India series after playing one of the most extraordinary first class innings ever seen by a 20-year-old.

But as quick as his incredible 243 off 311 balls made him the hottest young property in the game, Pucovski was gone from the public eye after removing himself from cricket so he could get treatment for an illness that was too big for him to understand.

"To be honest I think I'd been struggling for a lot longer than I'd probably let on," Pucovski told Fox Sports journalist Tom Morris in an interview for The Follow-On podcast.

"I'd say close to a year in sort of up and down slopes - there were stages where I felt better, there were stages where I was really struggling.

"Cricket had been one of those things where it was a bit of an escape for me. When things outside didn't feel quite right I'd come to cricket and have that one focus where it felt pretty natural to me.

"But Perth was the first time where it really felt like it was seeping into my cricket as well and that's when I knew this is something I need to get sorted seriously..."

Remarkably the sense that Pucovski didn't want to be on the cricket field brought with it a rare ability to concentrate perfectly on every delivery, which set the batsman up for an innings that drew comparisons with a young Ricky Ponting.

But just before he resumed his innings on 64, which he had slept on overnight, came a chat with coach Lachie Stevens where he admitted that he was in a bad place and needed to get help.

"It was quite tough even getting up and getting to the game in the morning and everything," Pucovski recalls.

" ... I was 64 not out overnight if I can remember and sort of got to the game to have my pre-morning hit in the nets and sort of pulled Lachie Stevens, one of the coaches, to the side and said 'look mate, this is what I'm going through, I don't really understand what's going on, and I don't know why it's happening, but this is what's happening' and it was quite a confronting thing but they were beyond awesome about it, there's probably a better term for that.

"But they were just so supportive from the outset. I still remember Lachie wrapping his arm around me and saying 'mate, I'm shattered for you, we'll get you sorted when you're back, but if you can do anything to try and get us some runs today, that'd be great'.

"And I said, 'don't worry mate, I'll be ready, I'll do my very best' and it turned out to be quite a good day."

To call it "quite a good day" is a massive understatement from a pure run scoring point-of-view, with Pucovski adding 180 to his overnight score in an innings that set up a big win for Victoria over Western Australia.

Underlining how unique it was, Pucovski pointed out that he usually has strong recall of the innings he plays, but this one didn't stick in the memory bank.

"I actually look back at it and I don't have much recollection of the innings, which is weird for me, because usually I can remember quite vividly what I'd done or the innings I'd played, or the days I'd been through and I honestly think I was so out of it that it almost became a natural instinct thing where you'd just watch the ball for the split second you needed to and then just be in another world almost," Pucovski said.

"Your concentration was so maximised for that short period of time that you wouldn't be fazed about anything else. In a weird way I thought it was a bit of a cheat code cause you're like, 'if I can find a way to do this consistently, obviously without what's going on, it could bode for some success'.

"But I think that was just a really rare sort of circumstance where I was sitting there thinking 'I'm in a weird place but if I can muster up enough to concentrate and keep going', I literally walked off the ground not even remotely tired and I was just like 'this is bizarre'.

"I was tired and exhausted in one way but felt like I could bat for another day sort of thing."

With a big job for his team done, Pucovski asked to leave the field when it came time for the opposition to bat and his journey back to health began back at home in Victoria.

Thankfully that journey, which will continue indefinitely, is showing positive signs and Pucovski has returned to cricket, playing one Shield game before the break in the schedule and getting back to weekly action for his club side.

He's confident that the worst is past and he has the support he needs to move forward with his cricket career and his life.

"I'm going really well to be honest. I've sort of done a fair bit of work over the last couple of months to try and turn things around and I definitely feel like I'm on the right path now, which is awesome," Pucovski said.

"I'm back enjoying cricket, I'm enjoying life and I feel somewhat like my normal self again, which is nice."

For further information about mental health, contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

Victorian batting prodigy Will Pucovski has opened up on the mental health battle that took him away from cricket for six weeks just as his career was taking off.

Amid a batting crisis for Australia, Pucovski was talked about as a possible bolter for selection in the Test squad to start the India series after playing one of the most extraordinary first class innings ever seen by a 20-year-old.

But as quick as his incredible 243 off 311 balls made him the hottest young property in the game, Pucovski was gone from the public eye after removing himself from cricket so he could get treatment for an illness that was too big for him to understand.

"To be honest I think I'd been struggling for a lot longer than I'd probably let on," Pucovski told Fox Sports journalist Tom Morris in an interview for The Follow-On podcast.

"I'd say close to a year in sort of up and down slopes - there were stages where I felt better, there were stages where I was really struggling.

"Cricket had been one of those things where it was a bit of an escape for me. When things outside didn't feel quite right I'd come to cricket and have that one focus where it felt pretty natural to me.

"But Perth was the first time where it really felt like it was seeping into my cricket as well and that's when I knew this is something I need to get sorted seriously..."

Remarkably the sense that Pucovski didn't want to be on the cricket field brought with it a rare ability to concentrate perfectly on every delivery, which set the batsman up for an innings that drew comparisons with a young Ricky Ponting.

But just before he resumed his innings on 64, which he had slept on overnight, came a chat with coach Lachie Stevens where he admitted that he was in a bad place and needed to get help.

"It was quite tough even getting up and getting to the game in the morning and everything," Pucovski recalls.

" ... I was 64 not out overnight if I can remember and sort of got to the game to have my pre-morning hit in the nets and sort of pulled Lachie Stevens, one of the coaches, to the side and said 'look mate, this is what I'm going through, I don't really understand what's going on, and I don't know why it's happening, but this is what's happening' and it was quite a confronting thing but they were beyond awesome about it, there's probably a better term for that.

"But they were just so supportive from the outset. I still remember Lachie wrapping his arm around me and saying 'mate, I'm shattered for you, we'll get you sorted when you're back, but if you can do anything to try and get us some runs today, that'd be great'.

"And I said, 'don't worry mate, I'll be ready, I'll do my very best' and it turned out to be quite a good day."

To call it "quite a good day" is a massive understatement from a pure run scoring point-of-view, with Pucovski adding 180 to his overnight score in an innings that set up a big win for Victoria over Western Australia.

Underlining how unique it was, Pucovski pointed out that he usually has strong recall of the innings he plays, but this one didn't stick in the memory bank.

"I actually look back at it and I don't have much recollection of the innings, which is weird for me, because usually I can remember quite vividly what I'd done or the innings I'd played, or the days I'd been through and I honestly think I was so out of it that it almost became a natural instinct thing where you'd just watch the ball for the split second you needed to and then just be in another world almost," Pucovski said.

"Your concentration was so maximised for that short period of time that you wouldn't be fazed about anything else. In a weird way I thought it was a bit of a cheat code cause you're like, 'if I can find a way to do this consistently, obviously without what's going on, it could bode for some success'.

"But I think that was just a really rare sort of circumstance where I was sitting there thinking 'I'm in a weird place but if I can muster up enough to concentrate and keep going', I literally walked off the ground not even remotely tired and I was just like 'this is bizarre'.

"I was tired and exhausted in one way but felt like I could bat for another day sort of thing."

With a big job for his team done, Pucovski asked to leave the field when it came time for the opposition to bat and his journey back to health began back at home in Victoria.

Thankfully that journey, which will continue indefinitely, is showing positive signs and Pucovski has returned to cricket, playing one Shield game before the break in the schedule and getting back to weekly action for his club side.

He's confident that the worst is past and he has the support he needs to move forward with his cricket career and his life.

"I'm going really well to be honest. I've sort of done a fair bit of work over the last couple of months to try and turn things around and I definitely feel like I'm on the right path now, which is awesome," Pucovski said.

"I'm back enjoying cricket, I'm enjoying life and I feel somewhat like my normal self again, which is nice."

For further information about mental health, contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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