There had been murmurings for years in Victorian cricket circles about Will Pucovski.
"He's got time," the sages would say. "Doesn't get flustered. He's so calm."
Will Pucovski shares a laugh with Tim Paine at training on Wednesday.Credit:Getty Images
"All he needs to do is get a haircut if he's to play for Australia," he added with a laugh.
The son of a Serbian immigrant, Pucovski may not seem at first to have a rich cricket pedigree. In fact he had a bat in his hand long before he started school.
As children, he and Victoria teammate Sam Harper would watch their fathers, Jan and Bryan, play on the hill at Caulfield Park in Melbourne.
"I don't remember bowling to him as a three-year-old, but he always had a nice technique, was always hard to get out," Harper recalled on Wednesday.
When he was at Brighton Grammar, word had filtered through from the middle school to the first XI coach there was a kid in grade 7 who would be ready to play in the ones by the end of the year.
Gary McPhee was sceptical, so he invited the 12-year-old "roly-poly boy" with the round face to have a hit. The pitches were synthetic and the older boys were not super quick, but McPhee liked what he saw.
"He had time and composure," McPhee noted. "I had no doubt by the end of that day. I expected him to find it a bit harder with the pace and strength of the bigger boys. He handled everything cooly and calmly.
"He was a little kid, he was never little at cricket."
Pucovski was also turning heads further up the talent pathway at the Melbourne Cricket Club, where the likes of Dean Jones, Brad Hodge and Andrew McDonald cut their teeth.
It's a very rare talent. You not only need to have the mindset to bat for 10 hours but also the skill and the ability to do it.
He'd made a second-grade ton by the age of 15. By 16 he was in the firsts. Though brought up in the Twenty20 era, Pucovski's idea of a fun time was a long time.
"He enjoyed batting; there was a calmness to his batting," club legend Michael Sholly said. "He was in control of his game, hardly flustered, and he could bat for hours.
"It's a very rare talent. You not only need to have the mindset to bat for 10 hours but also the skill and the ability to do it."
When the experts say a batter has "got time", what they really mean is the player has the ability to pick up the line and length that fraction of a second earlier than others.
This makes Pucovski's history of head knocks all the more bizarre. It's well documented the youngster has been concussed nine times, not all while batting. His coaches at all levels say he does not have a problem with short-pitched bowling.
Paine, too, is a believer. He'd heard the praise for Pucovski through his junior days but it was when he started piling on the runs in the Sheffield Shield that he gave more thought to him. The 22-year-old could solve a few headaches at the top of the order for him.
"There's a lot of players and kids out there who are very talented and successful at junior cricket, but being able to convert that straight into Shield level at 19 or 20 when he started certainly makes you sit up and take notice," Paine said.
"I started watching straight away and just love the way he goes about it. A bit like Greeny, there's cricket talent and then there's character and the way they go about it; and those two more than anything stand out to me, their temperament and their character, the way they play the game.
"No fuss, very calm young men, who clearly have immense skill. Both those guys are a really exciting package."
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