Cape Cobras v New South Wales, CLT20, Chennai September 24, 2011

Cummins should work on his variety - Gibbs

Herschelle Gibbs looked spent but pleased with his work as he strode into the post match press conference, and then he stumbled. His smiling visage broke into a wince as cramps gave him a mini-Rafael Nadal moment even before he reached his seat. His captain Justin Kemp saw the funny side of things. "Signs of ageing," he quipped. Gibbs' response was spontaneous: "You'll get there one day."

One of the undeniable joys of franchise-based Twenty20 is that it renders age a tad irrelevant. Retired freelancers like Matthew Hayden have a splash, as do youngsters who are yet to cut their teeth in the longer formats. At 37, Gibbs is one of the older players in this tournament. Patrick Cummins, the one New South Wales player to make an impression in their defeat, is less than half his age.

Cummins was one of the architects of New South Wales' Big Bash win. Coming in to fill the void left by Brett Lee's absence, Cummins ended up as the highest wicket-taker in the tournament, picking up 11 sticks in six games. Armed with a young constitution and the limitless ambition to bowl "as fast as I can", the 18-year-old Cummins screams in and lets the white ball go whang.

There was no let-up in that pace and bounce on his Champions League debut. The Chepauk track is slow at the best of times, but today it was at its somnolent best. That didn't deter Cummins from charging in with his free-spirited action and getting a bouncer to take off past Gibbs, and almost over the wicket-keeper's head. That didn't stop him from hustling Gibbs with another bouncer that had enough wings to fly over fine-leg for six off a top edge. Chennai has not seen pace of this kind in a long while. Ah, the joys of youth!

But youth is a double-edged sword for a fast bowler. At 18, Cummins is yet to develop the musculature that can sustain a bowler of his ambition. It is a point Greg Chappell made recently when he said Cummins was still "two or three" years away from maturity as a bowler.

New South Wales were too generous at the other end for Cummins' inspired burst to turn the game, and Gibbs easily took control of the chase. Gibbs liked what he saw of the fast bowler, but believed he was too one-dimensional. "I think you feel that he's got enough pace," Gibbs said. "But in Twenty20 cricket especially, it is not always about pace. You have got to be able to play wisely and use your change-ups."

"I think that he used the same theory ball after ball and didn't vary it enough, which takes his effectiveness away. In saying that, he's still got enough wheels, he's young, he's strong and he hits the deck quite hard. But this is not Australia, where you can actually bang it in. It's not actually going to get through. You have got to keep being clever and trying to be better than the batter, rather than trying to bang it in ball after ball."

Cummins is not bothering about variations just yet. He is not too concerned about over-reaching and breaking down either, but is prepared to do the hard yards off the field. "I want to bowl as fast as I can, and leave the strength training for the gym," he said ahead of the game. "I have had a very good pre-season where I did a lot of weight training and am getting stronger. If you try to fiddle around too much with the pace, you might end up with a completely different action."

Cummins' biggest lesson came earlier in the day, when his batting mates were meandering aimlessly through the latter stages of the innings. The Cobras had sussed out the pitch after conceding New South Wales a quick start, and their seamers chose to take the pace off completely in the end overs. That included a two-over spell that featured nine slower balls, from the best fast bowler currently in the game, Dale Steyn. It is too early to predict whether Cummins might get there one day, but he stands a chance only if he can make variety the spice of his life.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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