Will Pucovski is set to debut against Sri Lanka.
Will Pucovski is set to debut against Sri Lanka.

Pucovski selection not the gamble it seems

When you go bold in the selection room, it's always comforting to see someone who went even bolder hit the jackpot.

At first glance, the selection of 20-year-old Will Pucovski for next week's Gabba Test against Sri Lanka may seem an audacious gamble.

But India were all set to pitch their wonder boy Prithvi Shaw against Australia's new-ball attack this summer, and he is almost two years younger than Pucovski.

Shaw, ruled out of India's tour of Australia due to an ankle injury sustained in a fielding mishap, scored a Test century on debut, and India already have more faith in him than most members of their top order, even though he has played only two Tests.

The message is that if you are good enough, you are generally old enough.

After just eight first-class games, it is too difficult to tell whether Pucovski is the once-in-a-generation player he is touted as, but the signs are encouraging.

For all of the boldness of youth, it's still probably a good thing Pucovski will be eased into Test cricket against a moderate team.

History tells us the truly exceptional players deserve to be blooded young, but also that there is no such thing as a smooth ride.

Don Bradman was dropped once and Ricky Ponting went in an out of the team several times as he flirted with his potential before a switch flicked and he roared off to become one of the greats of the game.

Steve Waugh started young and struggled with the burden of being the new wonder boy, to the point he almost took perverse relief when his NSW teammates nicknamed him Boy Blunder.

It was not until he was omitted from a Test touring side that he realised he was playing the way everyone else wanted him to and not the more conservative way he was suited to.

He changed his game and immediately became a better player.

For the best of the best however, age generally didn't matter.

Sachin Tendulkar, who made his debut at 16 for India, and West Indian icon Sir Garfield Sobers, who started at 17, stayed at the top for two decades.

 

Sachin Tendulkar debuted at 16.
Sachin Tendulkar debuted at 16.

 

India first discussed playing Tendulkar in a Test when he was 14 but felt the idea was too outrageous. When he went so well in his later teens it was generally agreed he could have played at 14.

Fourteen!

Since Pucovski was selected, there has been much talk about his promotion.

But when it comes to the super young, it's generally the Asian nations rather than Australia who have been the trendsetters.

The only Australian on the list of the 25 youngest players in Tests is former captain Ian Craig, and he's No 25.

Craig struggled at Test level but the same could not be said of another teenage debutant, Doug Walters, who scored 155 on debut at the Gabba against England in 1965 at the age of 19.

When Walters walked off the Gabba after his innings, the first hand he shook was former captain Richie Benaud who said, "before you sign anything see me''.

Even in an era before player managers and private sponsorships had become a major force, Benaud was concerned Walters could be swamped, and wanted to make sure he was given proper guidance.

You can only imagine the number of opportunities awaiting Pucovski if he shines at the Gabba.

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News Corp Australia


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