Pattinson under back stress cloud
Twenty20 may be removed from James Pattinson's rehab diet after it emerged that the fast bowler is suffering from a recurrence of back stress trouble and has no certain return date for the resumption of his international career.
Among the re-signed pace bowling mentor Craig McDermott's more pressing assignments is to oversee further work to refine the bowling action of Pattinson, who once again fell prey to back problems following his lively return to the Test team in the deciding Test match of the South Africa series at Newlands in March.
While initially Cricket Australia described Pattinson as simply complaining of "lower back soreness", further examination has revealed evidence of stress on his back. McDermott is adamant that at the age of 24, Pattinson should not be rushed back into service until a sustainable technique can be put into place.
"With Patto it'll depend how he heals, first and foremost. That's got to improve from a clinical point of view before we get to the path we'll go down with his technical side of it," McDermott told ESPNcricinfo. "The timeline on that hasn't even been determined yet, so we'll just see how he progresses over the next few months.
"I want to make sure we take our time and get it right. He's obviously having some sort of trouble with his skeletal make up that's not coping at his age. He's almost at the age where you'd think he's not going to get too many more problems, but everyone's different. Patto does bowl fast, he's not a 130kph bowler, so we've got to make sure we get him right and take our time to bring him back nice and slowly."
Pattinson's performance in the match was particularly notable considering it was his first red ball fixture of any kind since suffering a stress fracture in the Lord's Test last year. Unready for the first bracket of Sheffield Shield matches and then in South Africa for the second, Pattinson was compelled to make his return in the Big Bash League with the Melbourne Renegades.
Efforts to improve his technique and groove it during long-from cricket were thus frustrated by a format in which pacemen are obliged to bowl at top speed but also change their action on a ball-to-ball basis for slower deliveries, wide yorkers and other variations.
"There's been some discussion about bringing him back through club cricket and formats where he can settle into a rhythm," McDermott said. "T20 cricket is always difficult to bring blokes back through, because they're under the pump, bowling different balls all the time.
"It's a yorker, then a slower-ball bouncer, then a good-length ball or a wide yorker. And if they're getting whacked by the batsmen they're not going to bowl at 80% and build things up gradually. It's not in their make-up, and it's certainly not in Patto's make-up because he's such a competitor."
Elsewhere Ryan Harris is continuing his recovery from overdue knee surgery, though McDermott agreed with the 34-year-old paceman that a return in time for Australia's next Test match assignment against Pakistan in the UAE would be doubtful. More likely is Harris' participation in the 2015 World Cup, having not played an ODI since 2012 as the selectors sought to preserve his body.
"He's definitely touch and go for Dubai, we've just got to see how his knee goes over the next few months. You've got to start bowling workloads about six or eight weeks before that to get right for Test match level," McDermott said. "We've just got to monitor him to see how his knee's coping with his rehabilitation, and see if it's possible to get him up for there.
"I don't think there's any point rushing Ryano either, we've got a lot of cricket with India, World Cup, West Indies and the Ashes, we've got to make sure he's 100% when he comes back. If he's fully fit he's certainly someone who can quite easily play in the one day team. He's got all the firepower, the variations and he's very experienced. I'm sure if he's fit he'll be certainly looked at."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig