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Will Pucovski is all-but ruled out of the start of the Ashes series after not recovering from his latest concussion in time for Victoria's next Sheffield Shield match and his state coach Chris Rogers has cautioned against rushing him back into the national set-up.
Pucovski was hit in the nets last month and suffered his 10th concussion dating back to a football injury when he was a teenager. After he missed the trip to Sydney last week it was hoped he would pull up for the return fixture at the MCG on Friday but symptoms are persisting and he has yet to bat again in the nets.
"It's no doubt a setback. I'd say now it's unlikely he will play in the first Test," Rogers said. "All the people in these conversations understand we have an immense talent on our hands. We want him playing in three, five, 10 years so these are the decisions we are going make in his best interests and hopefully we can set him up to have a long career."
He is now highly unlikely to be included in the large group of Australian players that will head to Queensland later this month to quarantine ahead of a intrasquad match that is set to decide final Ashes selection.
Pucovski made his Test debut against India at the SCG in January and that is the last competitive game he played due to a shoulder injury sustained in the match which required reconstructive surgery.
Although there remains hope he could feature in the yet-to-be-confirmed third Shield game between Victoria and New South Wales, the condensed nature of the Ashes schedule and his lack of cricket means it is increasingly likely he may not feature at all.
"No doubt there's a lot of frustration for him, he wants to be playing," Rogers said. "It's an interesting one as well, he hasn't played for seven [nine] months so to walk straight back into the caldron and perform against very good opposition that's going to be really difficult. The decision is to look after him and allow him a bit more time to prepare in the right way rather than rush him into matches that will have a lot of intensity and scrutiny.
"In this situation there's a strong desire to get him into that Australian side because he's such a talent player but...there's got to be some thought about what's in his best interest and how that plans out. He's still so young, there's so much time left in the game for him so no need to rush him back into a Test series when he hasn't even played professional cricket and isn't 100%."
Pucovski's absence would leave his Victoria team-mate Marcus Harris as the likely opening partner for David Warner at the Gabba - the same pairing that featured against India in January. Harris started his season with a second-innings century against New South Wales to follow his strong returns with Leicestershire.
Usman Khawaja, who has made two Shield hundreds this season, will also be in the frame but could be considered for a middle-order position with the No. 5 spot yet to be locked in. Travis Head has made a strong case with a productive start for South Australia and had previously been recalled for the postponed South Africa tour earlier this year having been dropped midway through the India series.