Boots investigated as potential source of foot injuries
Boots worn by the young fast bowlers Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood are being investigated by Cricket Australia as a potential source of the foot injuries that have cruelled their summer.
Pat Howard, the Australia team performance manager, has requested the investigation after noting that Cummins, Pattinson and Hazlewood were all wearing the same type of Asics cricket boots while sustaining foot injuries.
"I've asked exactly the same question," Howard told ESPNcricinfo. "It's a fair question, we're not suggesting it is the reason, but it is something that has to be reviewed as part of the overall.
"Workloads, body management, history, age, footwear, all those things have got to be reviewed as part of the bigger picture.
"There's lots of people wearing Asics that haven't had that problem. It is definitely being reviewed, but the reality is they're all young men and it is also about how much bowling have they done in the lead-up to this period [to getting injured]."
Cummins complained of heel pain during his Test debut against South Africa in Johannesburg, and has not played a competitive match since after the early signs of stress fractures were spotted.
Pattinson scooped 25 wickets in four Tests before complaining of foot pain during the second innings of the SCG Test, and was ruled out of the remainder of the series against India when scans also revealed stress hot spots in the metatarsal bone.
Hazlewood, who made his ODI debut for Australia in 2010, returned to action for New South Wales this summer after a lengthy recovery from back stress fractures, but has been put out of action for the remainder of the domestic summer due to a fracture in his left foot.
When he took the job as team performance manager from a background of rugby and pharmacy, Howard promised to ask awkward questions, and the one of fast bowlers' footwear is not the most convenient. Asics, manufacturers of the boots worn by the fast bowling trio, took up a lucrative equipment and sponsorship deal with CA at the start of the summer.
Asics boots have long been the favoured footwear of fast bowlers in Australia, and are also popular in England.
Howard said that while the injuries had been unfortunate for those concerned, they had also allowed the selectors to expand the pool of fast bowlers they are confident of choosing for international duty, whether they be in the marquee series against India or lower profile engagements against New Zealand or the West Indies.
"We have changed the mandate for what we look for out of different series," Howard said. "What we have done well and the selectors and the coaches and the medical staff have worked really hard on, is having Mitchell Starc and Ryan Harris there around the Test team.
"They were coming into the squad in Sydney, bowling in the nets in Melbourne, we wanted these guys in and around because we knew the workloads had been very high for the likes of James Pattinson and we had to make sure players were ready to go.
"Part of it is mitigating injury and part of it is making sure the next guys are raring and ready to go. We know players will be injured and one of the positive things we've got out of this summer is we've got a lot of bowlers we believe in, and we actually believe there's a couple more we can believe in. That's been a positive out of the summer."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo