Injured Cummins to have action assessed
Pat Cummins has revealed he was booked into the Australian Institute of Sport to have his bowling action examined for signs that it had contributed to his injury-ridden year before the back stress fracture that has blocked him out of a second home summer in a row.
Cummins, 19, is expected to miss nearly all of the 2012-13 season due to a stress fracture in his lower back. The diagnosis means Cummins will not be part of the Test series against South Africa or Sri Lanka, and almost certainly will not be considered for the Test tour of India in February, while his possible involvement in the Ashes tour of England might depend on whether he is able to play any first-class cricket before then.
On his return to Sydney from Melbourne where examinations confirmed the fracture, Cummins said there had been plans afoot for some time to have his action assessed scientifically. He also admitted that the surfeit of Twenty20 cricket he had played in the UAE, Sri Lanka and South Africa in recent weeks had allowed bad habits to creep into his technique.
The back stress fracture means the aforementioned AIS appointment will not be taken up while Cummins rests, but it is understood that analysis is likely to begin with pre-existing video footage.
"We were talking about going down to the AIS, we were already booked in to have a look at my action while we had time. We'd been planning to do it for a while, just to see what it came up with," Cummins said. "One thing I noticed was I might've been falling away a bit more than say a year ago. When I'm bowling with a red ball I try to swing it and when I'm swinging the ball everything's going well.
"But when you're bowling cross seamers with a white ball you kind of fall into bad habits maybe."
The most recent first-class match Cummins played was his Test debut last November in Johannesburg, where he collected seven wickets and was Man of the Match. Australia's selectors had hoped he would be available for the third Test against South Africa at the WACA, but scans in Melbourne this week confirmed that he would be out of the equation for an extended period.
Cummins had back soreness during the Champions League Twenty20 but kept playing, including in the Sydney Sixers' victory in the final. That might have seemed a risky course of action given his injury history, but Australia's team physio Alex Kountouris said the niggle at the Champions League did not appear a major issue.
"He had a little bit of back pain towards the back end of the Champions League, which wasn't a big concern," Kountouris said. "He played all the games and was training and was functioning okay. But because of his age and his history we decided to investigate it and unfortunately he's got an early stage stress fracture of his spine, which is disappointing.
"The good news is we've got it nice and early, because we have had a high index of suspicion with him. Now we're going to manage it early and expect to get a good outcome from it. He's now going to start his rehab. We do expect him to miss most of the season, if not all of it. But he will come back and he'll be fine once he gets back in to playing cricket again.
"Pat had a spine bone stress injury a few years ago but the current injury is new and in an entirely different part of the spine. We expect he will recover fully from this injury and will be closely monitored to determine his return to the playing field, but expect that he will miss most of the 2012-13 domestic cricket season."
As far as his management is concerned, Cummins said there was nothing he would have changed about the past few months, as he recovered from a side strain he picked up in England to play a series of T20 matches. However the latest setback is sure to cause another round of thinking about how Cummins should be handled.
"I've got to sit down with the people that manage me and give them my thoughts as well," Cummins said. "It's a group effort. I probably wouldn't have changed anything from the last few months. I thought I was bowling enough and not bowling too much. I got through 20 games in the last few months so it was playing every two or three days.
"The one thing with all young people is they're more susceptible with injuries, you can't really be too wrapped up in trying to pick and choose. If you're ready to go you've got to go out there and play, and if you get injured that's just what happens. It's what's on the schedule, so looking forward if it's not the end of this summer hopefully the Champions Trophy in England and obviously the Ashes is a major goal. Certainly not ruled that out yet, hopefully I'll be right for them."
Cummins missed most of last summer due to a foot injury and has managed only four first-class matches - including his Test debut - in his short career. He also suffered a side strain during the one-day tour of England this year and was sent home mid-series.
His latest injury means Australia will have one less bowler to rotate through the Test attack this summer, which could mean a heavier workload for James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc. Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus are the mature-bodied fast bowlers in the group, while there remains a chance of Ryan Harris recovering from injury in time for the series against Sri Lanka.
Brydon Coverdale and Daniel Brettig are assistant editors at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here