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Australia to rotate young fast bowlers in Tests

Brydon Coverdale

September 25, 2012

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James Pattinson appeals unsuccessfully, Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 3rd day, January 5, 2012
James Pattinson struggled with injury after the Sydney Test last summer © Getty Images
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Australia's young fast bowlers Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc are set to rotate through the Test side this season in an effort to manage their workloads and prevent injuries. Australia's coach Mickey Arthur said team selections would need to be made with sports science in mind after the selectors last summer ignored the advice of sports scientists, who told them Pattinson was likely to break down during the Sydney Test against India.

Pattinson entered last season with only six first-class matches to his name but his strong performances in his initial appearances in the baggy green encouraged the selectors to pick him in Sydney for his fourth Test in five weeks. Towards the end of the SCG Test he complained of pain in his left foot and scans showed the early signs of stress fractures, which then sidelined him for two months.

"The sports scientists tell me that our guys under the age of 25 can bowl 52 to 55 days in a year," Arthur told reporters in Sri Lanka this week. "Whereas guys like Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson, over the age of the 25, they can probably give you 75 [days] at high intensity.

"We were told by the sports scientists that James Pattinson would break down in the Sydney Test match. We then got all that information and [captain] Michael Clarke and myself and the selector on duty, we thought that the impact he'd made in Melbourne, it was worth taking that risk. Even though he broke down, he got four wickets in the first innings, he got Gautam Gambhir in the first over of that Test match, arguably he put us on the road to win that Test. That was a risk that we thought was worthwhile."

With Ryan Harris already ruled out of the three-Test series against South Africa as he recovers from shoulder surgery, it will be extra important for the Australians to keep Cummins, Pattinson and Starc fit and well. Cummins, 19, has suffered injuries this year and has not played a Test since his outstanding debut in Johannesburg last November, and Arthur said it was likely he would play only once during the South African series.

"That is what the sports scientists are telling me and I've got to go along with that," Arthur said. "We'd like to play him in everything, but it's not possible. Much like we did with Mitchell Starc last year, he travelled with us to most venues, ended up getting three Test matches I think in the year, five or six ODIs but he was with us all the time and we are really seeing the benefits of that now."

Cummins and Starc are with the Australia squad in Sri Lanka at the World T20 while Pattinson, 22, has been at home in Melbourne preparing for Victoria's first matches of the season, a Ryobi Cup match on Sunday in Perth followed by a Sheffield Shield game. Pattinson said he understood the need for the team management to restrict the workload of the younger fast bowlers.

"I can definitely see where they're coming from," Pattinson said. "As a fast bowler you don't really want to miss games ... but the way things are going now there's so much cricket all over the world, Twenty20 and Test cricket is getting more and more every time. I think we are a pretty young bowling side coming through and you don't want to get burned out too early. As much as we want to play we do listen to them and they really have our best interests [at heart].

"For me personally it's hard to play all three formats. I found that over the first year of being involved, especially with my body and even the mental side of it does get a bit draining. With Starcy playing the shorter format of the game recently and going over to England and getting some experience over there is great, Patty Cummins is playing the shorter format now and getting some experience that way. I think the way they're doing it now is very good and it's going to hold us in good stead come three or four years like Mickey was talking about, once we reach that age of 25 and become a bit more mature."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Meety on (September 26, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

@ygkd on (September 26 2012, 08:16 AM GMT) - I think the load will be shared fairly well around the National set up across 3 formats. I think we'll see a lot of MJ, Bollinger & McKay in the short forms & given we play a few medium pace allrounders, we should be able to spread the workload. I would of thought that getting overs under the belt would of been the ideal way to go about things, but this 55 day quota/ puts a bit of a dampener on that. @jonesy2 on (September 26 2012, 06:20 AM GMT) - I think Starc offers a bit more than Patto atm. Can't wait for the Gabba!

Posted by Moppa on (September 26, 2012, 9:25 GMT)

@xylo, yes! The answer is: never! @Cokes, do you really think that Pattinson and Cummins get injured because they don't do enough jogging? I don't really see how a lack cardio exercise relates to heel stress fractures, back strains etc. Puzzling. No doubt Ntini was tough, but I suspect the problem for these young quicks is a bit more complex than you imply. In general the premise of the article is odd - firstly Siddle and Hilfenhaus are shoo-ins for the Gabba (and a fit Ryan Harris probably would be too) so the younger guys will have to work hard to get into the side, before we worry about rotating them out of it. Starc, Pattinson and Cummins all have great potential but will have to fight for the spots left over from the older guys for a little while yet. In any case it seems 'rotation' will naturally happen due to injuries. I would only support deliberate rotation in ODIs, or perhaps in back-to-back Tests to minimise the risk of breakdown during the match.

Posted by Hammond on (September 26, 2012, 9:19 GMT)

@ygkd- CA would share the load if they could, however they keep having nightmares about their preferred bowling line up going for 1/517 against England. Hence rushing in young blokes that aren't improving their bowling abilities against callous youthful batsman in Shield cricket that wouldn't know proper batting technique even if they ran over it in their brand new HSV ute. Tough times ahead for Aussie cricket.

Posted by ygkd on (September 26, 2012, 8:16 GMT)

I've read a few comments but "Rotation-policy will make Oz best in world" is still not an argument I fully understand. I must be out-of-date because I thought bowlers needed overs under their belts for rhythm and, for that reason, a bowler's schedule shouldn't be too cluttered, but neither should it be too bare as to not provide that essential rhythm. So it's not so much the rotation that bothers my thought processes as much as the implementation. As always, the devil's in the detail. Come to that, perhaps we should be asking the question - can we be too reliant on young quicks? How about some older bodies and more experienced heads to share the load?

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (September 26, 2012, 6:20 GMT)

@MattyP1979 I do not think the Saffas averages could get any better after the recent debacle in England, remember if you get out your average drops.

Posted by jonesy2 on (September 26, 2012, 6:20 GMT)

this is an example why australia are the best team in the world and will continue to be for next 15 or so years. i think the fast bowlers for the first test against the proteas will be patto, sidds and hilf, then cummins and starc can come in if need be. im already excited to see these guys bowling at the saffa batsmen, after smacking around englands medium pace dobble brigade they should hopefully have a rough time. proper test cricket awaits..

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (September 26, 2012, 6:15 GMT)

I do not believe you should rotate players, pick the most in form and let the others take there spots either on form or injured. during our glory days we had any number of batsmen capable of playing test matches because IMO they were playing against some good test class bowling in the shield or milk whatever it was called at the time. now when they get a break from tests they do not play 4 or 5 day cricket, they are learning nothing playing 20/20 cricket @xylo yes apparently the poms are looking to buy him, and if he signs with England he will be a world beater, just ask them they think there team is full of them.

Posted by unregisteredalien on (September 26, 2012, 4:41 GMT)

@xylo, you just made me snort coffee out of my nose.

Posted by Hammond on (September 26, 2012, 2:13 GMT)

FYI it's actually the RMS Titanic, and given that it was near midnight in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean no-one was actually sitting on the deck chairs. Still the parralells with the unbridled optimism of both the current Australian cricket administration and the White Star Line and what is about to happen in the next 18 months to Australian cricket is very apt I think.

Posted by Meety on (September 26, 2012, 1:16 GMT)

@Chris_P on (September 25 2012, 23:56 PM GMT) - just on bowling strength, I would say Sth Oz have the "weakest" bowling line up in the Shield, YET a full strength attack could be any 5 of George, Putland, Christian, Richardson, Bailey & Lyon, (not to mention the Saffa). That is an attack (if inc the Saffa), would have 4 International bowlers. IMO, this is PART of the reason why we don't have bloated FC batting stats in domestic Oz cricket atm. I think favourable weather conditions was helpful to pace bowlers as well.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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