November 13, 2019 / 10:11 PM / 25 days ago

Pucovski withdraws from test selection for 'mental wellbeing'

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Promising batsman Will Pucovski has ruled himself out of selection for Australia’s test series against Pakistan due to “matters pertaining to mental wellbeing”, Cricket Australia said on Thursday.

The 21-year-old right-hander is the third Australian cricketer to report mental health problems to staff in just over two weeks, with former test batsman Nic Maddinson and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell both taking breaks from the game.

Uncapped Pucovski was considered a good chance to be named in the Australia squad for the two-test series against Pakistan to be released later on Thursday.

He reported his issue to team management in Perth while playing for Australia A against Pakistan, where he was out for five in the first innings and did not bat in the second.

Pucovski, who hit 243 for Victoria in a Sheffield Shield game against Western Australia last year, has previously taken a six-week break from cricket because of mental health issues and left the Australia squad that played Sri Lanka this year for the same reason.

Ben Oliver, Cricket Australia’s (CA) EGM of National Teams, said Australian cricket would always place the wellbeing of its people ahead of performance.

“We applaud Will for having the courage to discuss his situation with team management,” he 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.”

Maxwell, a veteran of 110 one-day internationals, 61 T20Is and seven tests, remains on an indefinite break from cricket after pulling out midway through the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka last month.

Maddinson, who played three tests in 2016, withdrew from this week’s Australia A match on mental health grounds.

Maddinson had previously struggled with mental health issues and took a break from the game in 2017 after being dropped from the test squad.

The slew of cricketers reporting mental health problems has placed Australia’s player management regime under the microscope in the leadup to the Pakistan series.

Former test batsman Shane Watson, announced as president of the Australian Cricketers’ Association this week, said mental health was a “huge” focus for the players’ union and they had been collaborating with CA on mental health strategies.

A recent mental health survey carried out by third-party consultants Orygen found about a quarter of the elite cricketing population were affected by mental health difficulties, putting the sport on par with the wider population, local media reported this week.

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Mitch Phillips in London; editing by Ed Osmond

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