Pat Cummins might not have been in the Australia cricket team for the third and fourth Tests against India cricket team had it not been for James Pattinson’s request to be overlooked for selection.
Pattinson thought that fitness issues and repeated injury problems demanded he step out of the reckoning for the call-up, although Cummins, who has been struggling with similar problems, has found a place despite fitness concerns.
Cummins was called up to replace Mitchell Starc who had to fly back home because of a foot fracture. Cummins could find a place in the playing XI pace attack ahead of original squad member Jackson Bird.
But while Pattinson opted out of selection from fear of aggravating past injuries, Cummins welcomed the challenge even though he wasn’t initially planning on it.
As part of his step-by-step recovery plan, Cummins had targeted the 2018 Ashes series as his comeback stage. However, he says he is as fit as he has ever been to take on the Indian side.
“I knew I was in standby for tour a couple of months ago, but thought the [current Test fast] bowlers wouldn’t bowl too many overs and not get injured,” Cummins said ahead of his first training session with the squad in Ranchi.
“I’d always set myself little steps of getting back into the one-day side, and from that hopefully getting back in the Test side.
“I always had an eye on the Ashes next (summer), thinking that I had to play three or four (Sheffield) Shield games to put my hand up for selection. So it’s certainly come a lot quicker, but I always thought I’d get back here.
“It feels like so much has happened in five or six years. But I think since that day [when he made his Test debut], this is easily the most prepared that I’ve been for a Test match. In terms of body, form, the length that I’ve been playing the last few months,” he added.
While question marks arise over his fitness, Cummins is not too concerned as he feels pacers will be in limited demand in India.
“Over here it’s not great bowler-friendly wickets for quicks, which means more likely I won’t bowl too many overs. I felt like I tried to bowl with a bit more rhythm in the Shield game [against South Australia last week] than potentially I have done in the ODIs, where I run in and try and bowl as fast as I can every ball. I felt like I could bowl six or seven overs in a spell pretty easily and the pace felt like it was coming out pretty good,” Cummins said of his preparation and expectations for the last two matches.
The right-arm pacer made his Test debut as a teenager against South Africa in 2011. He impressed all by winning the Man of the Match award in Johannesburg but suffered several injuries soon after.
Stress fractures to his back, feet and ribs kept him out of the side and required tailored recovery plans that had to be carefully followed. Most recently, he suffered a lower lumbar fracture during Australia’s tour of England in 2015. The injury kept him out of action for more than a year.
He returned to the ODI side earlier this year for a five-match series during Pakistan’s tour of Australia and then visited New Zealand for a three-match series.
He returned to first class cricket last week, playing for New South Wales in the domestic Sheffield Shield. It was his first big match with the red ball in five years and he fared superbly, taking eight wickets and scoring 42 runs in the lower order.
India and Australia are set to play the third Test in Ranchi, starting on Thursday. The fourth Test will be played in Dharamsala from March 25 to 29.
With Starc and Mitchell Marsh out of the side, Pattinson was expected to be one of the replacements.
However, the injury-plagued pacer requested selectors not to name him in the squad so as to get more time to recover.
“I had a chat with the selectors before this series, saying that I just wanted to really get through this Shield season,” Pattinson told RSN radio, and was quoted in a report on cricket.com.au.
“I know the last two times I’ve done something like this, flown over to a series where it’s in the balance and there’s the potential of me bowling close to 40, 50 overs, which I have — in South Africa in 2014 I did it, and then last year I did the same thing in New Zealand, going in with not a lot of cricket, and it hasn’t really turned out very well for me.
“We didn’t want to make that same mistake again, because at 26, if I went over there and did my back again or something, it would be not an ideal thing for the third time.
“It was one thing that I didn’t want to do, and the selectors and physios weren’t too keen on trying to rush me back this time. They’ve given me the best possible chance of getting back and playing three, four, five Shield games and getting confidence in my body this way.”
While Pattinson lauded Cummins’ dedication and eagerness, he said that he didn’t have the youthful exuberance that the 23-year-old possessed. Pattinson said at the age of 26, he needed to be cautious to avoid damaging his body.
“It’s a hard thing. When you’ve got the talent of Pat Cummins, it’s a hard thing, especially when the series is 1-1,” Pattinson said.
“And that’s the thing that I saw the time when I went to South Africa, and last year, you want to do everything you possibly can for your country and help win, and you don’t care if you get injured.
“That’s the sort of thing I’ve done in the past, and now that I’m a bit older, you can’t really afford to do my back again and have another year off at this age.
“I’m sure Pat will go over and do well and who knows, he’ll probably be fine. But that was the risk that I’ve taken over the last couple of years and it hasn’t paid off, so it didn’t want to do that again.”