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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
July 4, 2013
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.
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