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Will Pucovski opts out of Australia squad for mental health reasons

The 20-year old batsman is expected to return to cricket for Victoria when the Shield resumes after the end of the Big Bash League in the second half of February

Daniel Brettig
Daniel Brettig
Will Pucovski leads the Victoria players from the field at stumps, Western Australia v Victoria, Sheffield Shield 2018-19, Perth, October 17, 2018

Will Pucovski leads the Victoria players from the field at stumps  •  Getty Images

Will Pucovski, the 20-year-old in Australia's squad, has been released to return home from the Canberra Test after asking to continue his progression from mental health issues that he faced earlier this summer.
Having been picked to face Sri Lanka, Pucovski was left out of the XI for both Brisbane and Canberra Tests, leaving him in limbo on the fringes of the squad away from home.
This followed his withdrawal from the Victoria Sheffield Shield team at the start of the season, in the wake of a double-century against Western Australia in Perth that underlined his outsized batting talent. In subsequent weeks, Pucovski worked with numerous experts on his mental health, but had played only one more Shield game before he was chosen by the selectors Trevor Hohns, Greg Chappell and the coach Justin Langer, who then left him out of the XI.
"Will Pucovski has been released from the Men's Test squad and will return home to Melbourne to continue managing his well being," team doctor Richard Saw said. "He reported some challenges over the past few days, and the decision has been made that the best thing for Will's welfare is for him to return home to Melbourne."
"Will has been proactive in this process and while he has made significant progress, he feels this is the best course of action to get ready to play cricket for Victoria. He worked closely with members of his family, Cricket Australia medical staff and Cricket Victoria to reach his decision."
Pucovski batted later than the rest of the squad in the nets two days before the start of the inaugural Test at Manuka Oval, and then on match eve spent a long time walking laps of the oval with a member of the team support staff, Andrew Weller.
"Will's decision to speak up and continue to ask for assistance in managing his ongoing mental health is extremely positive," Saw said. "Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria will continue to support Will, and we kindly ask that Will's privacy is respected so he can continue working towards a return to Premier Cricket and the next round of first-class cricket."
Two weeks ago, when wheeled out by Cricket Australia to provide a good news story on his selection, Pucovski discussed the journey he had been on since absenting himself from the Victoria squad.
"I'm feeling really good, as good as I have felt in a really long time," Pucovski said in Melbourne. "I've met some people along the way who have helped me turn things around. There is probably no better time to get exciting news like I have in the last 24 hours. It's not every day you get called up to represent your country, so it's been a very exciting couple of days.
"I met a lady called Emma Murray who has worked quite a bit with Richmond [club], and had a bit of attention with how they have turned things around. She has been a mentor in that space.
"I have added things like I am meditating every morning, which I honestly never really believed in until she got me on to it and things like that have helped me turn things around. I speak to her regularly and am seeing another woman who helps me with a few different things. Having that team together makes me feel really supported and in a good space to deal with that kind of stuff."
Pucovski is expected to return to cricket for Victoria when the Shield resumes after the end of the Big Bash League in the second half of February.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig