November 27, 2021

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Predicted twist in prodigy's contract snub

3 min read
Mark Taylor expects batting prodigy Will Pucovski to earn an upgrade to Cricket Australia's central...

Mark Taylor expects batting prodigy Will Pucovski to earn an upgrade to Cricket Australia's central contract list.

Pucovski was a notable omission as CA named just 17 players on its annual list, which usually comprises its top 20 cricketers.

The Victorian batsman injured his shoulder during his long-awaited Test debut in January, his latest piece of bad luck. Taylor named him an one of his three biggest losers from the central contract list, alongside fellow absentees Travis Head and Matthew Wade.

"Jhye Richardson I think is a good selection; a good young bowler and he's probably preferred ahead of someone like Michael Neser, who's done very well for Queensland," Taylor said.

"Cameron Green, absolute had to be there. Batted No.6 for Australia and did a pretty good job. Ashton Agar is a big winner, there mainly for one-day cricket; I don't see him playing a lot of Test match cricket.

"The big losers … they're all batsmen. Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Will Pucovski, all have batted in the top six for Australia in the last year but they're all out.

"At the moment, they've been told to go back on to a state contract, which they will get; circa 150-200 grand, I suspect, which is a couple of hundred grand below where the CA contract's minimum level would be.

"What I think Trevor Hohns is trying to say is, we're not sure who … will grab those other spots which are available. Will Pucovski, I think, will be one of them for sure, provided he makes a few runs and proves he's fit.

"He's had concussion issues, he's had some mental health issues, he's also had a shoulder reco; so he's had some real issues. Looks a fine player but not given a contract; I think it's mainly just the selectors saying, if you're fit, you'll get picked, you'll get upgraded and it will be fine."

Taylor said that aside from health concerns, there were no reasons to doubt Pucovski's ability to enjoy a long Test career. He made a half-century during his Test debut against India at the SCG (62).

"I don't see a lot of weaknesses. I think technically, he's extremely sound," Taylor said.

"The game of cricket today, particularly with batting, is very different. If you'd asked me that question about Steve Smith 10 years ago, I think I would have said, 'Oh my word, how's this guy going to make runs?'

"But you look at what he does and how he plays late, has very much his own technique and averages nearly 70. I would have been wrong, as a lot of other people would have been wrong.

"It's not necessarily about technique and I think that's what we're seeing with Will. He's a fine looking player but he's had some health issues. If they're sorted out, he will play and he'll have a long career."

Taylor said that by leaving up to three spots open, Cricket Australia was also providing incentive for an unheralded player to grab a contract.

"They want someone to come up and say, 'Give me the spot, I'm the next Marnus Labuschagne. I'm averaging 33 in Shield cricket [but] give me a chance, I'll average 65 [in Test cricket]."

CA's 17 contracted cricketers 2021-22: Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Adam Zampa.

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