CA will have the aid of the results of internal players Apps, direct conversations with a player and the feedback of coaches and potentially teammates to help determine whether a player is mentally up to dealing with the international spotlight.
When it comes to selection, Alex Kountouris, CA’s head of medicine and sports science, said players returning from mental-health issues would be treated in the same manner as if they were returning from injury.
“For Will, there is repetition, doing the same thing, being exposed to some of those stresses. We are expecting that won’t be problem. There will be a time point,” he said.
“This might be a bad example but it’s no different to some players that have had chronic injuries. Did we ever think that Pat Cummins would come back and play? When you are struggling, you feel you are a long way away. I think in this case, it will be the same. He (Pucovski) is quite young. With time, maturity, being able to have the right support around him … the reason they (Pucovski, Maxwell and Maddinson) are having this is to come back and be better.”
The uncapped Pucovski has three times had to pull out of cricket in the past year while Maddinson, a former Test batsman, has had ongoing issues.
“It is one of the factors you consider like anything else … if someone has had a recurrent hamstring there is always going to be a risk there but once you have demonstrated the risk is very low, you move on. That hasn’t been discussed as a problem,” Kountouris said.
CA continues to work feverishly to help players deal with any issues. In conjunction with the Australian Cricketers Association and mental health organisation Orygen, the governing body conducted face-to-face surveys (computerised results are anonymous) through the 2014-15 season, the off-season of 2016 and will finish a third survey early in the new year. The results are compared to earlier surveys and the wider public.
“In the past what we have seen is that our players are no more or less effected by mental health and wellbeing issues than anyone else in society in the same age group,” Kountouris said.
“We are a mirror of society. Obviously, there are going to be different stresses that could impact players. Some of the stresses, everyone is subjected to, it could be relationships, but there might be some that are related to elite sport more. It could be travel, it could be other things, profile, that come with it.
“We then put things in place and see where we can have an impact and make a change. That’s why we are doing the survey again.”
Players are also encouraged to use the screen tool on their CA Apps, detailing any mental health issues on a monthly basis. On this App, they also post everyday wellness details, including sleep patterns and fatigue.
CA will soon unveil a wellbeing education program that has been in the “pipeline” for 12 months.
“We are just about to role that out for players – different modules will be conducted through the season and next season and beyond,” Kountouris said.
A major development will be having a psychologist on hand at pathway under-17 and under-19 men’s and under-18s women’s tournaments.
While some psychologists declare players need a better work-life balance, even when on tour, Kountouris said it was an individual decision, for some players thrived through hectic travel and stress while, for others, it was a “potential trigger”.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.