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September 28, 2011
At 18, Patrick Cummins is physically at least some way from reaching his peak as a fast bowler. It was a point Greg Chappell stressed when Cummins missed the A tour to Zimbabwe with a back strain, an injury that had its roots in Cummins' propensity for extreme pace. However, Chappell had added that, while Cummins was a few years from attaining maturity as a bowler, it did not rule him out for Australia duties. Cummins has now got his chance earlier than most would have anticipated, and will tour South Africa with the national Twenty20 and ODI squads.
When he spoke to ESPNcricinfo four days prior to the Australian squad announcement, Cummins believed his rigorous pre-season training would stand him in good stead for the challenges ahead. His work-out regimen had extensively focused on developing the musculature to sustain his brand of bowling and prevent potential breakdowns in the future.
"In hindsight, there was a silver lining to missing the A tour to Zimbabwe," Cummins, who is in India with the New South Wales squad for the Champions League, said. "It gave me the chance to have a great pre-season where I did a lot of weight training. I spent most of that time working on building my muscles, and I am getting stronger all the time."
The back strain has not affected Cummins' mindset one bit, and he remains focused on generating the sort of pace and bounce that got him 11 wickets in the Big Bash, making him the tournament's top wicket-taker. He has chosen his fast-bowling role models well; he looks up to Stuart Clark as a mentor, and idolises Brett Lee, another famed purveyor of pace from his state.
"In a sense I was lucky that my injury wasn't too serious [like a stress fracture], so it is still about going out there and giving it my all," Cummins said. "I want to bowl as fast as I can. If you try to fiddle around too much with the approach or the pace, you might end up with a completely different action."
The pre-season training seemed to have paid dividends for Cummins when he bustled in for a lively spell in his Champions League debut. New South Wales managed only 135, but Cummins came out and hustled the Cape Cobras openers with real speed and bounce, on a track that was so sluggish that it had relegated Dale Steyn to a spell full of offcutters earlier in the day.
One Cummins bouncer took off from a length, past an in-form Herschelle Gibbs, who weaved away in a hurry, and almost carried over the head of the keeper who had to leap up full length to parry it down. Another short ball harried Gibbs into top-edging a pull that carried into the stands behind fine-leg - hardly standard fare on Chepauk's lifeless strip.
Gibbs was mighty impressed with what he saw of him, but advised Cummins to work on his variety. On South Africa's spicy wickets, he will be a handful even without the variations, especially in spells that last only four overs. Cummins will be itching to make an impression if he gets the chance in the shorter formats but he said "the baggy green is obviously the pinnacle".
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