Chris Rogers, the former Australia Test opener and new Victoria coach, hopes to be able to help Will Pucovski break into the Australia side for the international career he has been on the cusp of for a couple of seasons.
Pucovski, 22, came close to a Test debut against Sri Lanka in 2019 and was part of the Australia A set-up ahead of last year’s Ashes series.
However, he has had to deal with multiple concussions during his short career – the most recent coming late last season against England Lions when he stumbled taking a run – and has also taken breaks from the game to manage his mental health.
In 20 first-class matches, Pucovski has made 1225 runs at 42.24 with a best of 243 against Western Australia at the start of the 2018-19 season which followed a 188-run knock late in the previous summer against Queensland.
“Will’s at a really interesting point in his own career,” Rogers said. “Obviously there’s the issues regarding the concussions and so forth but I don’t think anyone’s doubting his ability. It’s about finding out what he thinks he needs to do to take the next step and finding ways to support that.
“I think he’s at that age where he’s really come to terms with everything about his game. He’s had some experiences now that have tested him and would no doubt have built a lot of that resilience. It’s going to be a little bit up to him but with a lot of support from the coaching staff as well.
“I think he’s a fantastic player. What stands out for me is his mindset. I think that’s really quite impressive for a guy his age. He almost looks like he plays as a very experienced player, so it’s probably helping him develop that as well.”
Like any domestic coach, Rogers will be marrying the dual demands of domestic success with producing players for the international stage and he said that having more Victoria names in Australia squads was a key aim of his role.
Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell are the Victoria players in the limited-overs squad for the England tour while fast bowler James Pattinson is the only one around the Test set-up although may not make the first choice XI.
The batting line-up features Marcus Harris and Nic Maddinson who have had a previous taste of the Australia level: Harris was part of the Ashes series last year but lost his spot after struggling in tough batting conditions, to be replaced by Joe Burns, while Maddinson’s brief Test career came in 2016 with his last white-ball appearance in 2018.
Harris would probably be in the frame as top-order cover if enlarged Test squads are needed this season as has been flagged by Justin Langer while two prolific first-class seasons for Maddinson, which have brought 1353 runs at 83.93, has put him back on the selectors’ radar and earned him Australia A call-ups last season. Maddinson withdrew from the squad to face Pakistan in Perth for mental health reasons then scored 52 against England Lions in February.
“I think Nic just needs to perform,” Rogers said. “He’s someone who has found his style, how he wants to approach the game and has had some success doing that. It’s important then to support what he does and make sure he’s accountable for his performances. But if he wants to perform for Australia, I don’t think I’m the only one who will tell him that, he just needs to put the runs on the board and he’s doing that. “
As a former left-handed opener, Rogers has the ideal skillset to offer Harris any specialist advice he may need. “I have some ideas about how Marcus can go about it and that will be working with him,” he said. “He’s at that right [time] where he should be playing the best cricket of his life and it’s just being there to help him to do that.”
The prospect of larger international squads taking more players out of domestic cricket – meaning state depth will be tested – is also something Rogers sees as a good challenge.
“It might mean some of the better players in the state teams are unavailable and therefore you have to have your resources tested and opportunities might come for younger players,” he said. “If you look at the Victoria squad – it’s pretty young. I know from when I first moved over it was a vastly different squad, but with that comes so much excitement and opportunity.”