Will Pucovski’s debut took an age to come around. His excellent 62 showed it was worth the wait

Australia finished 2-166 from 55 overs on a rain-shortened first day of the Sydney Test, but it was Test debutant Will Pucovski’s sparkling maiden Test innings of 62 — in which he overcame the pace and bumpers of Jasprit Bumrah, the wily spin of Ravichandran Ashwin and the sketchy running between the wickets of Marnus Labuschagne — that dominated proceedings.

Few Australian Test debuts of recent decades have been as hotly anticipated as this one, nor as drawn-out.

Widely considered a generational batting talent, Pucovski has overcome numerous concussions and a series of mental health setbacks to take his place at cricket’s most prestigious level.

His resilience to do so made him a winner before he’d even walked out to bat.

In times so gloomy, it was impossible not to smile with the Victorian as he received his baggy green cap from Andrew McDonald.


With the thick mud flap of hair hanging out the back, Pucovski looked more like Angus Young than a cricketer. But he puffed out his chest, took a few deep breaths, strode to the middle of the SCG and played with complete ease from his first delivery.

The inevitable bouncer came in the fifth ball of Bumrah’s first over. It was a little too short and the spongy SCG pitch made it balloon too high.

The sense of calm Pucovski projected thereafter was the opposite of what most Australian cricket lovers felt when considering this debut — something closer to a paternal sense of fear.

We needn’t have worried. The runs were one thing, the confidence with which they were scored another.

Even Bumrah — a bowler who has tormented Test veterans — was made to look unthreatening.

Australia batsman Will Pucovski drives and India bowler Jasprit Bumrah fields during the cricket Test at the SCG.Australia batsman Will Pucovski drives and India bowler Jasprit Bumrah fields during the cricket Test at the SCG.
Pucovski’s driving down the ground looked good early.(AP: Rick Rycroft)

How? Pucovski possesses what only the best sportspeople do: time, and an abundance of it. It means the game, and fast bowling in particular, seem to slow down for him. It also means the ball tends to end up exactly where he wants it.

What caught the eye most was his ability to create something out of nothing and pick gaps with a finesse not seen from Australian batsmen in this series — not just the brute power that characterises the modern game.


When Mohammed Siraj angled one in towards his hip, Pucovski rose high, turned the face of the bat right as the ball struck its dead centre and flicked through mid-wicket with a magnificent flourish.

A good player could attempt that shot a thousand times and never strike it so perfectly.

Pucovski’s job was more difficult against Ashwin’s spin, but their battle provided another insight.

Ashwin is lethal not just for his variations of pace and flight, but because he bowls as straight as any top spinner in the world. It means that every mode of dismissal is always in play.

Pucovski refused to play him in the sitting duck style that has brought others undone. Mostly, he played off the back foot, moving further than most to the leg side to free himself up and hit through the vacant cover region.

More experienced batsmen are often not so brave, knowing that if they miss, Ashwin hits. For Pucovski, it worked.

A qualifier: Ashwin should have claimed his wicket on 26.

Instead, Rishabh Pant — hands apart in the “crocodile” position, providing a textbook demonstration of what keepers should not do — dropped a regulation chance from an outside edge.

Australia batsman Will Pucovski looks back as India wicketkeeper drops the cricket ball. Bowler Ravi Ashwin looks on.Australia batsman Will Pucovski looks back as India wicketkeeper drops the cricket ball. Bowler Ravi Ashwin looks on.
Will Pucovski was dropped twice by Rishabh Pant in the space of three overs.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

Six runs later, off Mohammed Siraj, Pant fumbled and then claimed another catch that wasn’t. If he could catch with his mouth, Pant would be cleaner than Alan Knott.

Pucovski, meanwhile, became more expansive as his mature hand progressed. He passed the half-century mark by cracking Navdeep Saini’s first two balls in Test cricket for boundaries.

Of course, having looked the least threatening of India’s attack, Saini then got him — LBW, shuffling across the crease.

Pucovski will probably perish this way often, but it’s also the position from which he’ll score many of his mountains of runs.

His first week in Test cricket has already been an eventful one and there were two unrelated events that revealed something about the world inhabited by COVID-era cricketers and Pucovski’s place within it.

The first was when Tim Paine was asked about the uncertainty surrounding the venues for this Test and the next.

Wearing a green blazer, whites and a pink baggy cap, Tim Paine walks through up the SCG race past members seatsWearing a green blazer, whites and a pink baggy cap, Tim Paine walks through up the SCG race past members seats
Sydney’s Pink Test is going ahead as scheduled.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

“We’re happy to play anywhere, any time,” he said at the toss, arguing that it was a matter for Cricket Australia and the BCCI to settle.

To these ears, Paine’s stance — effectively submitting to the money-driven whims of administrators — suggested a reversion to the model where players are happy to be told what to do.

The second was the widely-held view leading into this game that Pucovski’s request for a second opinion from an independent neurologist was the case of an apprehensive player looking for a way out of representing his country.

To put it bluntly, it was a thinly-veiled accusation that he was scared.

Yet it also seemed just as much like the behaviour of an independent-minded young man who does not unquestioningly accept pronouncements from above.

And if Pucovski was scared out there on the SCG, pity the bowling attacks who face him when he’s feeling fearless.