Young Australian batsman Will Pucovski opted out of contention for a spot in the Test team for the upcoming Test series against Pakistan owing to mental health struggles which he reported after Australia A folded on 122 in the first innings of the tour game in Perth.
Pucovski only mustered five runs in the first innings and later at the end of the day's play, he informed his predicament to the team's management and expressed his desire to the support staff regarding his unavailability for national duties. The 21-year-old has an impressive first-class cricket record; he scored 1143 runs at an average of 41 and is considered as a strong contender for cementing a place in Australia's middle order.
"We applaud Will for having the courage to discuss his situation with team management in Perth. Cricket will come next and we'll deal with that when the time's right. But as it currently stands, the right thing for Will is to focus on his own health and well-being and we'll support him through that," head of national teams Ben Oliver told SEN Radio.
Cricket Australia has never stigmatized mental health concerns which are perhaps not deemed as important in Asian sides but the management in Australia has lauded players for proactively reporting such issues and appreciated players from not shying away from seeking help.
Australia test Team captain, Tim Paine, has shared his sympathy with Pucovski and said: "I've obviously got a lot of time for Will as a person, he's a great young kid and it's sad to see him going through this. I think it's [mental health] a big issue in all walks of life."
The gruelling demands of professional sports can get to players who have to sustain high-pressure situations, remain constantly in the spotlight and are often subjected to intense media scrutiny.
“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," Oliver added.
Previously, Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddinson reported similar psychological troubles and excused themselves from international cricket commitments. Cricket Australia (CA) has been very supportive of the players who are battling mental health problems and setting a praiseworthy example for other boards. Nic pulled out of Australia A match while belligerent batsman Maxwell excused from the recently concluded T20I series against Pakistan, citing mental health difficulties after a demanding cricket season.
This is not the first time the talented batsman has reported psychological health issues; Pucovski took a long hiatus after smashing 243 for Victoria against Western Australia and also during a Test against Sri Lanka earlier this year where he wasn't part of the playing XI but he left the team midway in the series. He skipped Big Bash League this year as well.
After the last season's heroics with the bat for Victoria, the young sensation said: "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 said.
Despite mental health being a rising problem and affecting series preparations, Cricket Australia has fully backed the rising star and has demonstrated great concern for the mental well-being of every cricketer who is part of the fraternity.
"Cricket Australia has committed to being open about the challenges faced in managing mental health," Alex Kountouris, Cricket Australia's sports science and sports medicine manager, affirmed.
Cricket administrators all over the world are starting to pay heed to the escalating health crisis and are taking measures to address players' health.
Coach Justin Langer and Australia’s chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, have praised players for reaching out to the management and have reassured that mental health issues will have no bearing on their selection for the forthcoming matches.
Jonathan Trott, Marcus Trescothick, and Virat Kohli have also battled similar issues in their life. The Indian skipper has put his weight behind players who are undergoing distress and has drawn the attention of all stakeholders to remove players' insecurities so they are open about their state of mind.
“I’ve gone through a phase in my career where I felt like it was the end of the world. These things should be respected and not taken in a negative way," remarked Kohli at a news conference in India.