SYDNEY - In the wake of Will Pucovski’s early exit from the Australian squad to better deal with his mental health issues, the Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts has revealed that the governing body will seek to extend the amount of time the families and partners of players and support staff can spend with the team during the long-haul World Cup and Ashes tour of England this year.

Speaking the morning after Pucovski chose to leave the Australian squad to return home to the support network he has established after taking time out from the game for mental health reasons earlier this summer, Roberts said that CA was looking at ways of establishing more of a “home base” for the touring teams, particularly players and staff likely to be needed for both the ICC tournament and the five Tests against England to follow.

The World Cup squad is set to depart for England in mid-May, with players and staff involved in both assignments not set to return home until late September following the fifth Test at The Oval, entailing a trip of more than four months. Roberts said that it was important for Cricket Australia to find ways to allow the players and staff to find some semblance of normality and family connection over this long period away from home, beyond the period of about two and a half weeks in which partners and family are usually offered financial support to travel with the team.

“If you look at this winter we’ll have some players who are competing in the World Cup and then the Ashes - they’ll be over there for more than four months,” Roberts told SEN Radio. “So we’re actually having discussions now about what can we do to establish a bit of a sense of a home base in the UK for those players and our support staff who are there for such a long time.

“How can we get their families in perhaps more than we might have in previous times, because that’s going to be a really exciting period, having a World Cup and an Ashes back to back in England, it’s a once in a lifetime experience for a player or a member of our support team, but at the same time we’ve got to help manage through that process, so it’s something we’re actually talking about now.”

Addressing Pucovski’s situation, Roberts said that CA needed to be conversant with the fact that similar episodes are only going to become more prevalent in sport and life in general. “Mental health and wellbeing challenges are more prevalent right across society now aren’t they and it is a rollercoaster that people suffering mental health issues are riding,” he said. “Will’s handling that really maturely and we’ve got a lot of support around him in the form of the team doctor, the sports psych with the men’s team...I’m really proud of the network we’ve now got in place.

“I spoke with Will yesterday morning and he was in good spirits in that conversation but it’s really important that he and we acknowledge how he can manage those challenging times. Good on him for identifying that he was experiencing more challenges and that it would be helpful not playing in this Test now, more helpful to move away from this environment and prepare him for getting back on the field in other forms of the game in coming weeks.”

Roberts also pointed to the amount of investment committed to player welfare and development under the terms of the MoU struck with the Australian Cricketers Association in 2017. “We’ve invested about AUD13 million over five years in professional development and wellbeing for players,” he said.

“It’s just so important to help players manage their wellbeing and also to have something outside their cricket so in those down times, all cricketers experience the bad times as well as the good, it’s really important they’ve got something to think about to occupy their minds outside their cricket.”

Australia’s coach Justin Langer, meanwhile, denied that the process of picking Pucovski so soon after he returned to the game, exposing him to the hype of international cricket and then choosing not to select him for either of the two Tests in Brisbane and Canberra, had contributed to the decision to return home early.

“I don’t think that [hype then non-selection] has anything to do with it. He and I have had a lot of really good conversations,” Langer told ABC Radio. “There’s a lot of hype, but that’s the Australian cricket team. I’ve been fascinated by the scrutiny coming into the job, I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I’m feeling it. I can only imagine how some of the young guys are feeling about all the scrutiny. That’s just part of the business we’re in I think it would be great experience for him to have stepped into the jungle for a couple of weeks and see what it’s like, and I’m sure in the future he’s a good young player and he’ll get another chance.”

“In one way it’s sad, in other ways it’s great courage for a young man. There’s a lot of talk about mental health and he’s been fantastic. He’s been with the group in the last couple of weeks, he’s a sensational young bloke, love watching him bat, he’s a gun fielder, works really hard, but he’s obviously wanting to get on top of it and he’s gone home for a few days and he’s got some Shield cricket coming up and looking forward to seeing him healthy and well. He deserves it, because he’s such a good young bloke.”