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Pat Cummins' advice to Kamlesh Nagarkoti: 'Stay patient and believe you can play till 36 or 37'

The Indian quick hasn't played top-flight cricket since 2018 because of injuries

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah

There are four parallels that can be drawn between Pat Cummins and Kamlesh Nagarkoti.
The first one is that they achieved fame as teenagers, the Australian as an 18-year-old Test debutant in 2011 and the Indian as an 18-year old at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup. The second one is that both are right-arm fast bowlers. Thirdly, they are part of the Kolkata Knight Riders, and finally both have had to deal with injuries after breakthrough outings.
After suffering a stress fracture to the back, Cummins had to wait for nearly six years before he would play Test cricket again for Australia while Nagarkoti hasn't played top-flight cricket at all since February 2018, having suffered ankle and back injuries. When Nagarkoti was undergoing rehabilitation in Bengaluru's National Cricket Academy, Rahul Dravid, who had coached him in the Under-19 World Cup, would often cite the example of Cummins - currently the world's No. 1 Test bowler - to motivate him. Now that both men are sharing the same dressing room at Knight Riders, Cummins has some advice for Nagarkoti, who prepares to feature in his first IPL, having been sidelined since he was bought before the 2018 season.
"The big one that all the coaches and ex-players would advise you is a simple thing - you need to be patient," Cummins told, when asked what advice he would like to give Nagarkoti. "It is really an easy thing to say and think of but an 18-year-old missing games is actually a very hard thing to live with.
"You just need to have the trust that you might miss a season or two at the start of your career but you might end up playing till the age of 36 or 37, as opposed to 31 or 32. Everything that you do during this time, sets up the foundation block for a long and healthy career. Even when I was not playing, I used to hang out with my team-mates. 90% of the time I love cricket is because I can hang out with my mates."
For a kid growing up near the Blue Mountains and getting his New South Wales debut at 17, the initial stages of Cummins' career had seemed rosy. He said "everything happened so quickly" at first, progressing from giving his school exams to playing first-class cricket a couple of weeks later. But the injury, too, came out of the blue, and it left him spending valuable summer days on the sidelines, while his friends and team-mates played cricket.
"It was certainly a few tough years," Cummins recalled. "Since I was six years old, summers for me would mean cricket. I will spend weekends and every day after school playing cricket. And then suddenly, I was a professional cricketer but I wasn't playing any cricket during summer. It was all weird.
"There were these great games at SCG I would feel like playing but I was injured. It was so close but because I was injured, I couldn't even go and play backyard cricket. In terms of the schedule, just at the start of the Aussie summer, I would get injured and by the end of the summer, I would just be starting to get right. That's how I would go and play overseas and again at the start of next summer I would get injured.
"So, it was tough because I felt I was wasting so many years. But yeah, I again got back to my 100%. So, it was not like I felt I would never be able to bowl at the top level again. It was more of frustration for all the cricket that I was missing out on."
IPL 2020 will be Cummins' second stint with the Knight Riders; he had been part of the set-up between 2014 and 2015 as well. He played only seven games across those two seasons, but would have a greater role to play this season as the most expensive overseas player in IPL history. He was sold for 15.5 crore (then approx. USD 2.1 million) in December 2019; Ben Stokes was the highest-paid overseas player before Cummins, having been picked up by Rising Pune Supergiant for INR 14.5 crore.
Cummins is excited about bowling in different phases in T20 cricket. "The thing I love about T20 cricket is it's ultra-attacking, or at the death, it's ultra-defensive," he said. "There is no middle ground. So, in T20 cricket, if you are an all-out bowler, you get to bowl any time of the match. That's why I love the format."

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo