A likely Test debut. Filling the shoes of David Warner. Forming a new opening partnership with Joe Burns. Tackling the pink ball. Facing Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and the rest of the India attack. While that may read like a daunting list, Will Pucovski is keeping it all perspective ahead of a fortnight that, barring some unlikely events, will see him open the batting for Australia at Adelaide Oval.
“It’s still just another ball coming down at you,” was a common refrain from Pucovski as he spoke two days out from the Australia A match against the Indians at Drummoyne Oval.
Until Warner injured his groin in the second ODI at the SCG last week, it was looking unlikely that Pucovski would debut at the start of the Test series despite back-to-back double hundreds in the Sheffield Shield. A host of names including the national selection Trevor Hohns, coach Justin Langer, captain Tim Paine and Warner himself had vouched for the incumbent Burns despite his lean start to the season.
Now, however, with Warner seemingly scrubbed from at least the opening Test of the series with what is expected to be a four-week recovery, Pucovski is set to walk out alongside Burns to open Australia’s innings.
Pucovski had not been paying any attention to talk of a “bat-off” between him and Burns in the Australia A match – instead, he is training at Junction Oval in Melbourne and enjoying some trips down the coast after the Shield hub finished – and the fact a Test debut is now far more realistic is not changing much.
“Selection, injury and stuff like that is out of my control,” he said. “Obviously, you never want anyone to be injured, especially such a good player and as a group, we would love to be available for the first Test. If I play in Adelaide, I play; if Dave gets up and I don’t play, it’s just one of those things. Hope he gets better as fast as possible.”
“If you are in the 17-man [Test] squad you know you are pretty close either way. It’s not a huge difference, to be honest.”
One of the reasons Pucovski was appearing unlikely to debut before Warner’s injury was the successful opening stand formed between the latter and Burns in which they have an average partnership of 50.55 across 27 innings.
“Joe and I get along really well, which is obviously a good start,” Pucovski said. “We haven’t batted together heaps, but that’s cricket, you end up batting with people you don’t bat with very often – so long as you know how to bounce off each other, get each other going or know what each other requires that’s all that matters. We’ve had a few conversations, just about little things, to help each other through.”
Depending on how the opening Test plays out, there is a chance that Australia’s openers will have to combat the most challenging period of a day-night Test during dusk as the lights take hold into the final session. Pucovski has played two day-night first-class matches, against England in 2017-18 and Pakistan last season, with scores of 4, 5 and 1 but is currently a player riding a wave of form and confidence.
“It can be a bit different, but it’s pretty cool and pretty fun especially once it gets into that dusk evening time,” Pucovski said. “It’s one of those things growing up you never really thought would happen but that’s part of Test cricket now and it’s an unbelievable atmosphere.
“I haven’t been playing in a Test with a crowd and the pink ball, but just watching, when Australia played New Zealand at Adelaide two or three years ago, I just happened to be in Adelaide and we went down for an hour or two and it was an incredible atmosphere.”
Neither is Pucovski overthinking the step up in class when he faces the Indian attack. “Obviously they are very good bowlers, but I’ve faced a lot of very good bowling in first-class cricket. At the end of the day, I look at it as it’s just a ball coming down and you and I just have to do my best to react in the best way possible.”
Overall, there was excitement in Pucovski’s voice about what lies ahead. “It’s pretty cool, you watch these blokes on TV dominating around the world and never think that could be me facing them one day,” he said. “But it could become a reality.”