Australia’s new generation ready for the big time

Promising youngsters Cameron Green and Will Pucovski have served up numbers that demanded their inclusion in Australia’s extended Test squad to face India this summer.  

Victorian Will Pucovski has a thirst for scoring big hundreds. (Photo credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

In spite of the global pandemic and the uncertainly that comes with it, the clouds appear to be lifting in Australian cricket with the recent news that supporters will be allowed back into the stadiums for the upcoming summer.  

After a succession of limited overs fixtures which begin in Canberra and Sydney later this month, the highly anticipated Test series with India will commence with a day/night match starting in Adelaide on December 17th.  

Heading into the home summer there are currently just two names on the lips of all Australian cricket supporters. And no, it isn’t the obvious household names of a David Warner, Steve Smith or Pat Cummins (who have all recently been starring for their respective IPL franchises) it’s a pair of youngsters who have been tearing up the early rounds of the Sheffield Shield in Adelaide. 

Nothing gets fans more excited than electrifying up-and-coming talent standing tall and demanding selection for their national side and its looks like Australian cricket is set to unearth a couple of gems in the coming months.  

Western Australian Cameron Green, a 21-year-old allrounder who bats in the middle order and bowls quick right-arm outswingers, and Victorian Will Pucovski, 22, a classy top order batsman who has a thirst for big hundreds.  

The duo have done enough to impress coach Justin Langer and his fellow selectors Trevor Hohns and George Bailey who named them in an extended Test squad for the four-match series with India. Now both have a solid chance of receiving a Baggy Green by the summer’s end. 

Despite both men making their first-class debut within weeks of each other as far back as February 2017, they have been restricted to just 22 and 19 appearances respectively.   

Pucovski, a standout performer for both Victoria and Australia at various youth levels, has experienced a combination of ongoing concussion and mental health issues which have limited his action to just 22 matches for Victoria.  

In fact, he’s suffered a staggering eight separate concussions in just six years – the first of which occurred during a high school game of Australian rules football and confined him to six months away from education.  

After being selected for a CA XI against the touring English in late 2017, he announced himself to the Shield with 188 against Queensland in just his second match before scoring his first double hundred the following season with 243 against Western Australia despite struggling with personal issues at the time.  

Just months later he was close to receiving full Australian honours. A Test debut against Sri Lanka loomed large, however, Kurtis Patterson pipped him to the post after back-to-back hundreds in a pre-series tour match.    

Strong off the pads and happy to flay any width outside of the off-stump, the right-hander has been in scintillating form during two matches for his state this summer.    

Having previously made a name for himself in the middle order, only recently has he taken to opening the batting and the results have been astounding. In three innings against South Australia and Western Australia he’s produced scores of 255no, 202 and 38.  

In doing so he became the first batsman to record successive double hundreds in the Shield since Dene Hills in 1997/98 and what’s more remarkable is they were his first professional innings since early February.   

Promising allrounder Cameron Green has been compared to a young Ricky Ponting (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Green, on the other hand, has been described as the best young Australian batsman since Ricky Ponting emerged in the mid-nineties by former Australian captain, selector and talent manager Greg Chappell.  

However, like Pucovski, Green certainly hasn’t had it all his own way. And similar to many young fast bowlers he’s suffered his fair of injuries – noticeably stress fractures of the back – which kept him away from the game for the whole of the 2017/18 summer and have limited his bowling workload ever since.

However, he’s now averaging a touch under 50 batting at No.4 for Western Australia, and (when fully fit) can open the bowling with speeds of 85mph + all delivered at a towering height of two metres. His average with the ball is an impressive 22.53 with his 30 wickets including 5-24 as a 17-year-old debutant against current selector George Bailey’s Tasmanian side and 6-30 also against Tasmania fifteen months later.  

Despite featuring predominantly as a bowler in his early Shield days, his batting talent has been evident from a young age. No more so than when he scored a match-winning first-grade knock of 116 for Perth-based Subiaco-Floreat before his seventeenth birthday.   

Batting at number eight – having been temporarily advised to give up bowling – he scored his first Shield against Queensland a year ago when he backed up an unbeaten first-innings 87 with a match-saving 121no in the second dig. Further hundreds arrived against Tasmania (158no) and South Australia (126) before he scored a magnificent 197 off 438 balls against a strong New South Wales attack that included Test spinner Nathan Lyon last month.  

To back up his big hundred he’s also produced a pair of 56’s against South Australia and Victoria whilst also impressing in his limited return with the ball despite only two wickets.  

His all-round package could see him become a world-class middle order batsman who can also contribute as a major force with the ball, something that predecessors Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh could never fully achieve.  

Can Tim Paine shoehorn either man into the Test side? 

Pucovski has been muted as a possible replacement for Joe Burns at the top of the order. But despite his successes against South Australia and Western Australia, he has only opened the batting in three first-class innings.  

He will get another opportunity to stake his claim to open alongside David Warner in the first Test – with both himself and Burns pencilled in to play two warmup matches against the Indian tourists in Sydney early next month.

The smarter money could still be that incumbent Burns – nine years Pucovski’s senior – is given every chance to again prove his worth despite just 57 runs in five innings for Queensland this summer.   

Green is seen as more of a long-term all-round option in the middle order, likely at either five or six. But with current mainstays Travis Head and Matthew Wade both scoring freely during the opening rounds of the Shield, it’s more likely that he’ll be introduced into the ODI side first and will have to bide his time around the red-ball bubble whilst soaking up more valuable experience.   

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