Cricket Australia must act now to save Will Pucovski from himself


There are days in sports when the game, and the result, pale into insignificance. Will Pucovski’s withdrawal from day four of Victoria’s Sheffield Shield game against South Australia on Saturday was one of those days.

Pucovski’s concussion, reportedly the 11th of his career aged just 24, came on his return to top-class cricket, having spent the summer recovering from another blow to the head suffered in net in pre-season, which destroyed his chances of appearing in the Ashes series.

Ten times now, the Victorian has been hit in the head, spent more or less time recovering physically and mentally, and returned to show exactly why he has long been touted as one of the country’s top young prospects.

But for his own safety and that of others moving up the ranks, Cricket Australia cannot allow him to reach the eleven.

Athletes in all sports have long been encouraged to put aside their own pain for the good of the team. In cricket terms, think Graeme Smith batting with a broken hand to try and save the 2009 SCG Test; or Rick McCosker coming out in the middle with a broken jaw in the 1977 Centennial Test; or Malcolm Marshall defying a failed bowling hand to lead the West Indies to victory over England in 1984.

But it is dangerous to place a concussion on the same level as other injuries, no matter how serious. We still know too little about the impact of a blow to the head, both short and long term.

Sports around the world are beginning to come to terms with the dangers present: cricket itself introduced concussion substitutes in 2019, while the NFL, NRL and AFL, among other codes, all dealt with past legends pointing out symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

In recent years, deceased AFL players Shane Tuck and Danny Frawley have suffered from severe cases of CTE. In Frawley’s case, Victorian coroner Paresa Spanos saw him as a ‘potential contributor’ to the football great turned popular media presenter’s battle with depression.

Simply put, a concussion is not like a blown hamstring or a broken finger, where after a set layoff time a player can return with little or no long-term ramifications.

Cricket Worldwide and CA themselves have already taken steps to address this issue in recent years. For the latter in particular, Pucovski represents a defining moment.

Will Pucovski (Photo by Cameron Spencer – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

It would be surprising if Pucovski made the personal choice to step away from the game again after this latest setback. Even on Saturday, his first instinct was to try to ignore his symptoms and take the field with the Vics, before deciding a few balls in the day that he couldn’t continue.

Talent, passion for the game and a lifelong ambition to reach the highest level can and have driven athletes to push their bodies and minds beyond their limits for generations, which is what they are regularly greeted. And rightly so.

But that is precisely why it behooves CA themselves to intervene now; to allow Pucovski to decide his own future in the game is to allow a young man who lives and breathes cricket to be destroyed by it.

We are now past the point in Pucovski’s case where it matters whether he has a technical problem that makes him more likely to be hit in the head, or whether he is simply the most tragically unlucky of all time. There has to be a point where his concussion count reaches the limit of what we and cricket as a sport accept as an occupational hazard. This time has come.

For example, Justin Langer is a fine example of a player willing to risk everything for the team, even his own health.

On the first ball of his 100th Test, against South Africa in 2006, the fly-half was hit in the head by Makhaya Ntini, who later retired injured.

A few days later, as Australia prepared to embark on a tricky chase, Langer informed the team of his decision to retire from batting in that inning. Autobiography of Ricky Ponting At the end of the game details the moment.

“I’m sorry, boys,” he said quietly, but with a dark determination in his voice. “I pull the pin. I can not do it. The doctors say I can’t go out and beat today. I hope you don’t look at me thinking…I have to think about my kids…My family to think about…”

Still, the lure of winning and the fear of letting his friends down were too much for even the toughest player of his generation: with Australia eight wickets away, Langer stuffed himself and said he would hit. Ponting made the decision that he would declare if Langer found himself on strike if necessary; Luckily for both, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz ensured the captain never had to make what would have been the toughest call of his career.

“Afterwards, Lang came over and said defiantly, ‘If you had told me, our friendship would have been OVER!’ I guess it would have been over by then because I would have said “ Ponting wrote.

In this case, trade Langer for Pucovski and Ponting for Cricket Australia. The latter two have a player under their charge, who has repeatedly shown his willingness to play for the team, regardless of personal cost. Ponting, thankfully, never had to make the call: CA may not be so lucky somewhere down the line.

That’s not to say Pucovski can’t return and enjoy the success he long seemed destined for. If we go back to the AFL, Paddy McCartin, another victim of repeated harmless headers that derailed his career at St Kilda, has been given a second chance by Sydney.

But if CA doesn’t take a stand on Pucovski now and put his own health above even his own wishes, if he were to return to the game, it would be a dereliction of duty to a player whose well-being is partly theirs. responsibility. It would also serve to reinforce the dangerous precedent that ‘withstanding’ is an integral part of being an elite athlete, even for injuries we know little about and even less can predict.

What will this entail? Maybe more Will Pucovskis in the years to come. Maybe not. Just like a concussion, the future is an unknown.

But no one wants to wake up in ten, twenty or thirty years to the news that Will Pucovski has died of complications from CTE. It’s time for CA to act now and save him from himself.




Sports Grp2

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