Another long injury lay-off for Cummins
Fast bowler Pat Cummins is set to miss a third consecutive home summer with a recurrence of his lower back stress injury. Cummins, 20, made his long-awaited return to first-class cricket on the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa over the past month but after taking five wickets in two first-class games, and none in a 50-over match, he was sent home early with back trouble that has proven serious.
"Pat returned home early from the Australia A tour of South Africa with some side/back soreness and scans have shown a partial recurrence of his lower back bone stress injury suffered in October last year when he returned home from Champions League," CA chief medical officer, Justin Paoloni, said. "He will be closely monitored to determine his return to the playing field, but expect that he will miss most of the 2013-14 domestic cricket season."
Cummins has been plagued by injuries, particularly back and foot problems, since he was Man of the Match on his Test debut in Johannesburg, where he claimed seven wickets in Australia's memorable victory in November 2011. The injuries have been so persistent that Cummins had been unable to add to his first-class tally of four matches until the recent A series in Africa, and he has not played a Sheffield Shield match since March 2011.
The management of Cummins has become a major issue for Cricket Australia's management and medical staff, who seem uncertain as to whether more bowling or less is the answer to strengthening his developing body. He returned home from his maiden Test tour in 2011 with a foot injury and a back stress fracture ruling him out of the 2012-13 home summer, and his only cricket of note in the past couple of years has been in the shorter formats.
Last June, Cummins was part of Australia's one-day international campaign in England but was sent home with a side strain, and he returned in September for T20s against Pakistan in the UAE and the World Twenty20 that followed. However, Cummins went straight on to the Champions League T20 in South Africa in October last year and returned home with the back problem that ended his home summer before it began.
Cummins travelled with the Australia A squad to England in May this year as a non-playing member of the group as Australia's management aimed to reintegrate him back into the mix. At the time, Cummins said that he had worked with a running coach in an effort to fix the mechanics of his action and straighten out the alignment of his body, hoping to place less stress on his back.
"It's going against everything I've done for the last 20 years and trying to do something totally different," Cummins told ESPNcricinfo at the time. "It's certainly been a little bit foreign, but at the same time I want to nail it down because I know it's going to turn me into a better bowler."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here