Australia news November 2, 2012

Time for Cummins to slow down

His body cannot be expected to stand up to the demands that have been placed on it by New South Wales, the Sydney Sixers and Cricket Australia

Breaking into prominence in Australian cricket as a 17-year-old schoolboy in 2010-11, Pat Cummins seemed too good to be true. Fast as any in the country, he was also tall, sported a late outswinger, and possessed an instinct for how to bowl that is usually the exclusive preserve of only the best and most seasoned of fast men.

Two years on, with Cummins facing his second consecutive home summer on the treatment table, it turns out that this story was indeed too much of a fairytale to be sustained in the cluttered reality of 21st century cricket. Cummins' bowling skills, natural attributes and intelligence have not diminished, but while he is still a teenager, his body cannot be expected to stand up to the demands that have been placed on it by New South Wales, Sydney Sixers and Cricket Australia.

A back stress fracture has offered time for Cummins and those around him to think seriously about how the past year since his Test debut in South Africa has unfolded. It has been punctuated by injuries to his foot, side and back, a lot of T20 matches, a great deal of travel, and by his own admission a departure from the bowling fundamentals that put him in the Australian side in the first place.

The most recent episode in South Africa does not reflect a great deal of credit on the Sixers. While CA had sent their bowling coach, Ali de Winter, to the T20 Champions League to monitor the workloads of the national team representatives taking part in the event, Cummins' admission that he was starting to feel sore towards the back end of the event did not reach de Winter, the physio Alex Kountouris, or the team performance manager, Pat Howard, as early as possible.

This lapse between Cummins confessing to some minor discomfort and CA's staff knowing of it may have prevented them from calling him home early. As it was, he bowled in the semi-final and final without feeling too inconvenienced, but no one will now know whether the current stress fracture might have stayed merely a less serious stress reaction without those matches.

CA is known to be disappointed at being kept out of the loop, though the Sixers' reasons for keeping the matter to themselves are unclear. It is plausible that they feared the loss of another key part of their team after already being stripped of the services of Shane Watson as part of a pre-planned move to give the Australian vice-captain more time at home to prepare for the Test summer.

Irrespective of when or how it first became clear that Cummins was sore again, the fact of his recurring injuries endorses the view that he has risen too far, too fast. Many were seduced by the possibility that a bowler so young might be ready to win matches for Australia, and his performance in Johannesburg a year ago brought that excitement to a feverish pitch.

It must be remembered that not only has Cummins barely played for his state, he has barely played for his club. NSW selectors first chose Cummins at a time when a glut of other injuries had limited their bowling stocks, but they kept picking him because of how impressive he seemed, or more accurately, how impressive he was. Similarly Australia's selectors - first the panel of Andrew Hilditch and latterly that of John Inverarity - have returned to Cummins several times as soon as he was fit after injury because of how beguiled they were by his combination of speed, skill and intelligence.

"Jason Gillespie, Mitchell Johnson... had a string of injuries over a few years and came out the other side. So I'm not too fussed. I'd love to be playing but I realise it's not a rare thing to occur"

Now all must acknowledge and accept that Cummins' path cannot be any different to that of most fast bowlers before him, who have generally endured periods of injury and pain before entering serious national team calculations later in life. Cummins noted the stories of Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Mitchell Johnson as examples of this.

"There's other people like Jason Gillespie, Mitchell Johnson, there's a whole string of fast bowlers who are were pushing the 140-150kph barrier at 18, 19, 20 years old, and none of them went through unscathed," Cummins said. "They all had a string of injuries over a few years and came out the other side. So I'm not too fussed. I'd love to be playing, but I realise it's not a rare thing to occur."

The revelation that Cummins had been scheduled to visit the Australian Institute of Sport for examination of his action, and its potential to contribute to his injuries, is telling. It confirms that some among Cummins' mentors agree that he is still developing, still finding the correct bowling action and method for his body.

There are pointed parallels here with the careers of Lee and Gillespie, who both underwent drastic changes to their bowling actions in their earliest days. In Lee's case, there were five years of setbacks and experiments between his first-class debut in 1994-95 and his first Test in 1999. Those changes were forced by a string of injuries, but ultimately resulted in a bowling method that was both swifter and more durable than the original. In this Cummins can find some consolation, knowing that the action he used to great effect in Johannesburg a year ago does not have to be the one he carries right through his career.

For now, however, he must cope with the bewilderment and frustration of another major injury. As he put it: "I'm sick of coming home and not playing the summer." His minders for state, T20 club and country must be sick of it too, and it is to be hoped that they will now take a longer view to ensure that the promise Cummins has shown so far is not entirely undermined by impatience to have him bowling again as soon as possible.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Neil on November 4, 2012, 23:06 GMT

    I dont think the T2 is the reason Cummins has broken down again. If you look at the injuries he has, he is obviulsy vulnerable as a lot of young fast bowlers are. he may have started one or 2 test matches more, but i doubt he would have finished them, by reducing . But I think there is a real benefit in focusing more on 1st class games. If you look at Cummins record, he has bowled nearly twice as many balls in T2 as he has in 1st class games. The great fats bowlers like MArshall, Lillee or Hadlee as examples, all learnt through regular first class cricket to develop the ability to cut the ball, use the seam and find good lengths, so they coiuld bowl effectice spells at reduced pace and take the strain of their body, still leaving them with the reserve to crank matters up when it was needed. Cummins will never learn these skills in T2 and i fear his test career would be nothing but explosive cameos. You look at him and think this should be the next Waqar Younis, not Patrick Patterson...

  • Cameron on November 4, 2012, 10:32 GMT

    James Pattinson made a very good point today. Firstly he made the point that he is only 19 and many fast bowlers, including himself, go through a patch of injuries at that age. Secondly he said that he finds that even though 20 20 is only four overs he feels there is a higher potential for injury than first class cricket due to the need to bowl so many variations, changes of pace and angles on the crease. Pattinson himself has had four first class matches in the lead in to the first test this week, has bowled 120 odd overs, is the leading wicket taker for the season and has really found his rhythm. He is the real deal and will lead the Aus pace attack for a long time. I only hope that in two to three years we will have an attack of Pattinson, Cummins and Starc. Just need Lyon to keep improving and it will be a formidable attack. Would be nice to see Cricket Australua and Cummins agree that he will focus on First Class and Test Cricket over the next two years.

  • darius on November 4, 2012, 10:22 GMT

    i think cl t20 was not required at all,why dont they scrap the tournament which does not attracts attention and causing injury to young promising players,t20 in true sense is killing cricket.moreover cummuins has to make some slight adjustments in his action,speed is his identity,compromise is not advised

  • Guy on November 4, 2012, 8:23 GMT

    @Joshua Samuels, I think you make a very good point about Amir building up pace in a spell. This is also fits with what others are saying elsewhere re the effect of Cummins bowling one over spells in T20s. Re my earlier post and @Chark_attack's, Amir is also a great example of a whippy, thin bowler with great flexibility and pace, rather than muscle bulk. Cummins should aspire to Amir's physique more than say that of Ryan Harris (or Shane Watson's!).

  • Andrew on November 3, 2012, 21:45 GMT

    @Joshua Samuels - I agree with what you said about Aamir being remarkable - but I often doubt the reliablility of birth dates in Pakistan - particularly if they are from a rural region. So I am not 100% sure that is a good comparison to Cummins.

  • Mark on November 3, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    I wouldnt say his action needs work. Id say he needs to get his body used to bowling long spells maybe not play t20's for a year or so and just do sheild and county comps as it is specific bowling muscles that he needs to work and as @moppa said gym bulk isnt what is needed@ Joshua Samuels i agree with how Remarkable Amir was however i disagree with you on him slowing down and gaining muscle see @moppas comment

  • Dummy4 on November 3, 2012, 10:17 GMT

    Good luck and get better soon Cummins! Hopefully Mitchell Starc can fill in for you.

  • Dummy4 on November 3, 2012, 10:11 GMT

    This accounts should all remind us how remarkable Mohammad Amir's bowling was. He came at an even earlier age than Cummins and was the backbone of his country's bowling for a remarkable time at that age, without succumbing to injuries nowhere like Cummins is doing. It deeply saddens me that cricket has lost one of its great young talents in such a manner. I hope he is able to recover and come back soon to excite and entertain cricket fans all around. Nb:- I think one of the reasons bowlers like Amir dont succumb to injuries as often is due to their gradual build up to pace than the method of go out at full pace at the start. Cummins should focus on extracting movement and swing fist and gradually building up his pace as his body gets stronger and matures. He should also gain a lot more mass and muscle to be strong all around and to bowl with pace without extreme effort. Good Luck to him. I hope CA takes better care of him next time around.

  • Philip on November 3, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    Too much has been expected from him for some time and that may yet mean he delivers too little in the long run. I would think more time at FC level was required. If he was to change his action, surely that is the right environment for such a process to be fine-tuned.

  • vivek on November 3, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    He should play first class cricket, county cricket for 3-4 years and do a lot of long spells of bowling, where he doesn't have to go up to high intensity at the start of a bowling spell. That will develop his bowling spell and his action too. I don't think any change in action should be dictated by coaches. He should find out how he can bowl long spells and discover his own talent on his own. T20 and one day is not good for developing fast bowlers because they have to hit high intensity very quickly and for short periods. Once a bowler has developed a good base for a few years, ODI and T20 is not a problem.

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