Australia to rotate young fast bowlers in Tests
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