How Aussie batting prodigy found peace of mind
A half-century for Australia A in a tour match is small beginnings but it shows that Will Pucovski is in a good place and back on track for selection in The Ashes.
Pucovski, 21, retrospectively thanked selectors for overlooking him in last summer's Test series against Sri Lanka because he was not ready to wear the baggy green.
Pucovski, who is in England playing for Australia A, crafted 51 (73) in the five-wicket win against Gloucestshire.
The Victorian models his game on Test captains Kane Williamson (New Zealand) and Joe Root (England) and credited mindfulness coach Emma Murray for helping his public battle with depression.
Pucovski undoes his gloves when at the non-strikers to relax and then wiggles his toes as he enters his batting stance to trigger his mind back into action.
But Murray has also been teaching Pucovski to implement routines between balls, before games and the night before in a bid to look at cricket objectively.
"As a young guy, and I actually heard Wadey (Matthew Wade) say this, you really ride on every single innings," Pucovski said.
"If you make runs it's the best thing ever and if you fail it feels like the end of the world.
"I'm not going to base whether I've failed or succeeded at a personal level based on my result, but more on how I went about it.
"For example, ball zero to 20 I was out of my routine a bit because I was a little bit nervous, so how do I control that the next time I bat?
"It's a work in progress. I feel like I've come a long way since working with Emma for the last nine months or so, there's definitely a lot for me to still learn in that space.
"I feel like I'm in a position where that's going to be more important to me than working on technical things and those aspects of cricket.
"It's going to be more the mental side."
Pucovski was a bombshell selection in the Test squad against Sri Lanka but then, in an ever bigger surprise, did not play either Test as Kurtis Patterson jumped the queue.
Pucovski left the squad on the eve of his 21st birthday to continue his battle with mental health at home.
"There's a lot I took out of (being in the squad)," he said.
"Getting a feel for what it's like at the next level and just being around blokes that have played 50, 60 Test matches for Australia and learning how they go about it.
"Probably upon reflection it was a good thing I didn't get picked, I wasn't quite ready at the time and things work out in funny ways.
"I'm definitely better off for the experience."
Pucovski returned to Victoria and helped the state win the Sheffield Shield.
He is working "religiously" on facing short balls after suffering three nasty concussions that led to time away from the game.
The mature batsman, who averaged 54.1 last Shield season, adores the batting style of Root and Williamson.
"(They're) both more traditional batsmen, which I classify myself as, I'm not exactly a power hitter," he said.
"The way they manipulate the field and work through their innings and their teams seem to be built around the way they bat, so that's something I want to try and develop down the track."
On the Ashes, he said: "This might sound bad, but if I'm not selected I don't think I'll be losing much sleep over it.
"I'll just go back and say I had a great time in England with Australia A, I'm 21 years old, there's plenty of things ahead."