The Investec Ashes 2013 July 4, 2013

Pattinson wants Ashes vengeance

It's been five years but James Pattinson finds it hard to forget the treatment meted out to his brother in the aftermath of one of the more bizarre selections of recent times

James Pattinson needs no extra incentive to strive to win an Ashes series for Australia. But he has one anyway: when the fatigue builds in, and the scoreboard takes on a daunting look, he will vow to avenge the treatment of his brother in one of the great England selectorial botches of all time.

It was not just that England's selection of Darren Pattinson for the Headingley Test against South Africa in 2008 was bizarre, it was the reaction that followed that made it one of the more unsavoury affairs of recent English vintage.

England's captain, Michael Vaughan, was privately resentful that an Australian with a dual passport, and an Australian, more to the point, who he had seen only bowl a couple of balls, a former roof tiler who had not made his first-class debut until he was 26, was thrust upon him on the back of 29 wickets at 20 runs apiece for Nottinghamshire. He wanted Steve Harmison and suggested in his autobiography that he accepted Pattinson only because he assumed he would not play.

As South Africa made 522, and an outcry followed in the media, there was no doubt who was cast in the role of scapegoat. Pattinson was used then abused. His return of 2 for 95 bore comparison with the rest but he would have been better sticking to his original intention and taking the kids to Alton Towers. His England Test career, a career of convenience on all sides, disappeared in a trice.

James is now in England with Australia, 40 wickets in ten Tests to his name, at an imposing average of 23, his pedigree beyond debate, his selection for the first Investec Test at Trent Bridge assured. His career has seen irresistible bursts of brilliance mixed with frustrating absences because of injury. But as England prepare to face him for the first time, they will be wary of his natural talent: his vigorous run, heaps of aggression, and ability to bowl outswing around 145kph.

While he plays his cricket aggressively, he is engaging off the field, a world away from the programmed responses so common among the current crop of international cricketers. He relates the family story with refreshing honesty. It is a story that the Pattinson family has never quite laid to rest. This is the series where they yearn to put their grievances to rights.

"Darren didn't know about his selection until eight o'clock the night before," James said. "He drove to Leeds, didn't meet anyone until breakfast, and the next thing you know, he was in. I dreamt of playing for Australia at a young age but I don't think he dreamt of playing for England at a young age. It was different.

"Darren was thrown in at the deep end and was getting all the media thrown at him, saying it was a disgrace. It wasn't his fault he was picked. He was there, he was performing, he was an in-form cricketer at the time and he had an English passport, which always helps."

"It wasn't Darren's fault that he played and was made the scapegoat. It would have been a different story if England had won, of course"

Back home in Dandenong, a suburb southeast of Melbourne en route to the Dandenong Ranges, the Pattinson family seethed. They were proud of their English background: James' mum, Sue, was from Wombwell in Yorkshire, Dickie Bird country ("I think he's the only umpire she knows," laughed James), his dad, John, hailed from Grimsby, the Lincolnshire fishing port, where famously the Sri Lankans once got food poisoning munching fish and chips.

During that week, the Pattinson pride took a battering. "It was quite a big thing, not only for him but for me, and I know it shook dad up a bit," James said. "My dad is quite a hard-nosed type of bloke. He read something from Graham Gooch and felt like ringing him up and giving him his two bob's worth. I owe a lot of credit to my dad for the way we've been brought up. He's an aggressive type of bloke and I've got a lot of that attitude as well."

Gooch, now England's batting coach, described the older Pattinson's selection as "one of the most left-field decisions I've ever seen", and declared "the international game is in danger of being devalued if we have any more selections like this". He went on: "Pattinson's father says he's a proud Aussie, and his brother plays for their Under-19 side. Can you switch from being a proud Aussie to a passionate Englishman overnight?"

"At that stage Dad still supported English cricket a lot," James said. "He's always been that hard-nosed guy that stuck by where he's come from. After that he didn't like the way that Darren was treated over here. It wasn't Darren's fault that he played and was made the scapegoat. It would have been a different story if England had won, of course. Ever since then he has always supported me playing for Australia.

"Growing up I always had a soft spot for England in soccer. But definitely they're my No. 1 enemy now. I think it's all about picking your times and there's no better time than an Ashes series to show that aggression. In the good teams, ten years ago, they backed themselves and played naturally. The true Australian way comes out. At 23, it's a good age to take on the world."

In the sort of entanglement that gives the Ashes series a special piquancy, England even made a token attempt to entice James into shifting allegiance. It was driven ahead by David Saker, England's Australian bowling coach and James' first coach at Victoria.

"I have got a dual passport, too," James said. "When David Saker moved over to be the coach over here I hadn't played for Australia. I was picked in two T20s to play just after the Ashes but I was 12th man in both of them.

"I was in the dressing room at the MCG when I got a call from Sakes. I don't know if he was being serious. It was 'Come over and play, Darren's playing over here for Nottinghamshire.' I just thought he was mucking around so I laughed it off.

"It was quite funny. I have a good relationship with Sakes. He was my first bowling coach when he was at Victoria. He has the same mentality that Darren Lehmann brings to us as well. He is a great man with great knowledge. They teach you how to play cricket as well; they make you learn the game."

Darren Pattinson never had that luxury. His emergence came late. "He always had that ability, but never really went forward at a young age," James said. "That's one thing he taught me: that when you get your chances, to make the most of it - that's one thing he probably regretted a little bit."

Darren is now training greyhounds and has started his own kennels a 45-minute drive out of Melbourne. "It's always been a passion of his," James said. "He has gone from roof tiling to playing for England to now training greyhounds."

There is no doubt, though, who in the Pattinson family now yearns to prove himself top dog.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prashant on July 7, 2013, 16:12 GMT

    I am all for the Aussies battering the English this time around. But all this talk of vengeance is actually very silly. I like the way James bowls and shows his aggression on the field, but I feel he needs to mature. Just let the ball do the talking mate.

  • Earl on July 6, 2013, 16:56 GMT

    I would advise him to watch Curtly Ambrose bowling to Dean Jones after Jones upset him.This kid could cause England all kinds of trouble.Keep off the leg stump unless it is at their ribs and not too much width.Can't wait to watch it.The toss will be important.England only bowl well in good bowling conditions.Australia will destroy them if they get good bowling conditions.

  • Bob on July 6, 2013, 10:43 GMT

    Wibblewibble - Believe it or not, mate, but I know they won't all play in the one side. The point I was making is that they have depth in the squad (and there are going to be 10 tests in the two series). We can make whatever predictions we want (as in who will or won't average 50). Both the composition of the respective attacks and their effectiveness will largely depend upon bowling conditions. If conditions suit seam bowlers, the Aussie attack will be effective. You may recall that there were thoughts from a lot of Brits that England would outgun SA. They didn't. Don't be shocked if the Aussie seamers do the odd demolition job and as a pack outperform England.

  • Sudhakar on July 6, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    James Pattinson is a great find for Australia, and one of the best talents in world cricket. I would love to see him talk less, and mellow down on the bodily aggression that he exhibits.

  • Dummy4 on July 6, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    I like James Pattinson and his bowling.I've not known him to really speak out against anything before this.If it's his incentive to do is..He'll do better to back up is words & get wickets! I all this..I don't see him really going after any English batsman from current series whom he's up against..just English media & selection policies!! So I don't see this as him mouthing off against someone!

  • Aditya on July 6, 2013, 6:04 GMT

    I hope all this pre-series talk leads to a great series. Hope it doesn't turn out to be a damp squib. Would like to see some great fast bowling.

  • Mick on July 6, 2013, 3:30 GMT

    Oh what a surprise, the usual press conference police wag their fingers, exclaiming that 'Talk is cheap'... As they talk talk talk... Sweet, scrumptious, delicious irony!!!

  • salim on July 5, 2013, 23:25 GMT

    maybe a personal thing . it is for him to do his talking on the field with the ball not in the media

  • j on July 5, 2013, 20:53 GMT

    Does Pattison 'want vengeance' for the last Ashes, or the one before? Seeing that England beat Australia just for fun these days, in test matches and odi's, Pattison is going to be up to his ears in scary vengeance come the next Ashes down under, that's after Australia lose this Ashes of course.

  • Harmon on July 5, 2013, 18:51 GMT

    Australia do have some bowling talent which at its best can match England bowlers if they are less than their best. That is a lot of If but it does happen in Cricket (or in any sport). Just a few days back, SL, of all teams managed to beat India in an ODI after eons and it was a day where SL were at their best while India were keen to show how to negatively perform. Both Starc & Pattinson have the ability of picking wickets and exploiting conditions. The bigger IF is about their fitness. They managed to last for 4 tests in India and that bodes well. I don't know if Tremlett is in the Ashes team and if he isn't then English attack is mainly Anderson & Swann. Bresnan is more or less spent and Broad is not exactly in peak form. At his best Broad is pretty sharp and sometimes matches Anderson but will Broad manage it this time?

    Aus's main problem is their batting. Talent is there but Eng have it too + their men are in great form.