West Indies in Australia 2015-16 December 7, 2015

Coulter-Nile intent on staking his claim

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'Tough competition for spots' - Coulter-Nile

Watch Nathan Coulter-Nile up close and it is not hard to see why Australia's selectors drafted him into the squad for Hobart. Tall, strong, and athletic, he can hit the ball miles and then hurl it down the wicket at speeds approaching the 145kph mark. He is also an outstanding fielder, rivalling the best of Ryan Harris for covering ground and firing in flat returns from the outfield.

Yet his tendency to be injured and his lack of recent cricket have made Coulter-Nile a figure of some curiosity since his first call-up to the Test squad. Coulter-Nile had been a reserve alongside Doug Bollinger during the 2013-14 Ashes summer, but since then his ODI appearances have been sporadic, and he notably missed this year's World Cup due to hamstring surgery.

At 27, Coulter-Nile is aware that his opportunity is now, and he has no intention of simply making up the numbers either in this squad or the Australian bowling attack should he be granted a chance due to the heavy workloads being placed on the likes of Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle.

"Every Test is an opportunity. I mean, you take five-for in a Test it becomes very hard to drop you," Coulter-Nile said. "That's why none of the boys want to give up their spot. You don't see Sidds going, 'Oh I've got a sore back I'm going to have a rest,' because you don't want to give the opportunity to the next bloke. I'm the same. If I get an opportunity I don't want to just feel like a gap-filler, I want to press my case to play the next Test and the one after that."

The shock of not even being in contention for the World Cup after being around the limited-overs mark for some time had a considerable effect on Coulter-Nile, leaving him to reassess how seriously he took the game and how he prepared for it. That realisation did not prevent further injuries - a hamstring strain in England during the ODIs earlier this year and a shoulder problem that kept him out of action for the early part of the Sheffield Shield season - but it has hardened his outlook.

"Not to be even in contention for selection was a tough one, it was a bit of an eye opener," he said. "It was the time the penny dropped, I needed to sort my body out, sort myself out and I did and then I got injured again. It's part of the game. If you want to bowl fast and put your body through that you are going to get injured it is just something you have to deal with and get on with I guess."

Adam Voges is Coulter-Nile's state captain, and a well-placed observer of his abilities. He foresees a role similar to that played by James Pattinson, the other firebrand in the team following the retirement of Mitchell Johnson and now injury to Mitchell Starc.

"He can be used primarily as a strike bowler for us, I think," Voges said. "He bowls good pace - he can touch sort of mid 140kph and get some good shape at that pace as well. In terms of whether he gets a game or not I'm not too sure but I see him and Jimmy Pattinson in a similar vein in terms of good pace and can swing the ball. It's certainly a good asset to have.

"Obviously with his hamstring troubles that we know about, he's had some issues there. The shoulder he's coming back from was from a freak accident in a warm up game so that was just really unfortunate but from what I saw from the back end particularly from the last Shield season where he played six games in six weeks and just got better and better the more he played. The resilience was there and I think it's coming, he's just been a little bit unfortunate with his injuries."

The shock of not even being in contention for the World Cup after being around the limited-overs mark for some time had a considerable effect on Coulter-Nile, leaving him to reassess how seriously he took the game and how he prepared for it.

The fresh intensity Coulter-Nile brought to his playing of the game has had one unfortunate side-effect. A dissent charge after disputing an umpire's wide call during his return from injury in the Futures League led to a suspension from the one Shield game available to him before this week, and a moment's pause about his Test prospects. The selectors, however, kept faith with someone who has been in their plans now for several years, reasoning that he had shown enough signs of rhythm in the earlier fixture.

"I was playing a 2nd XI game to get back into the shield team and I played it as hard as I could, as aggressively as I could," Coulter-Nile said. "I stepped over the line, paid the price and I missed a Shield game, it was just very fortunate that I have got the opportunity here. That's how I play my best cricket and I don't see myself changing but I definitely will respect the umpire's decision.

"If you'd had it [the injury] for a long time and you haven't bowled I guess it's hard, but the injury I had I started bowling two weeks later, so I didn't miss a lot of bowling. I feel pretty good in that space. I feel like I play cricket 365 days of the year so I don't feel like I've missed a large portion of cricket.

"I've been bowling a long time, it's not like I've had to build back up or anything, I didn't start up on half run and build back up, I was straight off the long run and bowling flat out, so it wasn't really an issue there."

The question of whether Coulter-Nile can put all that ability together and perform on the Test match stage will remain open until he gets his chance, but said he will try not to think about that. "I don't really get drawn into how I'm going to go, I just go out there and try my best," he said. "If it comes off, it comes off. If it doesn't work this time, hopefully it works next time. I don't get caught up in how it's going to go, you can't change that."

In one net session at Bellerive Oval, Coulter-Nile lost little by comparison to the rest of the bowling attack. His talent indicates that he belongs - he awaits the chance to back that up with performance.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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