Pattinson gambles on bowling action
James Pattinson reverted to some elements of his former bowling action, and immediately found the rhythm he was looking, earning him a return of 5 for 27 in the second innings in Hobart
Through all the months and years of work on James Pattinson's bowling action, the prevention of injury was tantamount in everyone's thinking. But in the middle of his first Test match appearance for nearly two years, Pattinson reached an epiphany of sorts - if he wasn't taking wickets, he would find himself dropped no matter how fit he was. So it was that Pattinson that did some mid-match tinkering against the West Indies in Hobart, and duly found the rhythm that had been frequently missing at times over the preceding year. A rediscovered outswinger enabled Pattinson to claim his first wicket of the match, and a series of fast deliveries that stood up the seam which led to a return of 5 for 27 and a feeling of relief akin to the completion of a Test debut.
At the same time, Pattinson acknowledged that by reverting to elements of his former bowling action - namely an arm path closer to his body that allows him to get his wrist position right - he was taking a risk of re-injuring his back, which still carries traces of the stress fractures that had stalled his career. He is hopeful that at a more mature age of 25 and 93kg, as opposed to the 86kg he once weighed in at, his body will be able to cope with the load.
"I just ran in and wanted to bowl fast like I did when I first came on the scene," Pattinson said. "I looked at a bit of vision the night before and I wasn't releasing the ball in the right position, where I wanted to. So I did a little bit of work on it in the morning just to get my wrist behind the ball a bit more and get that seam good for out swing.
"It was frustrating because I had changed my action and I didn't feel completely comfortable with it and I think in the second innings here I just went 'stuff it really, I'm just going to go out and try and bowl like I used to bowl' and just run in and bowl fast.
"And I thought if I bowl like I did in the first innings I probably won't be getting too many more games, so you better change something. So it's been a frustrating six months or so but it's good to get a bag of wickets now. Every time I ran in to bowl I was just hoping and waiting for that bag of wickets and that confidence that I've been lacking over the last couple of years.
"I've sort of gone back a bit now. It's hard because when you run in and bowl you don't want to be thinking about your action. I've made the change to try and stop injuries but hopefully now that I'm back in the team and I'm a bit older, hopefully my body will hold up and I can go back a little bit to where I was when I first started playing because that's when I think I'm bowling my best."
Craig McDermott, the assistant coach, has worked closely with Pattinson for more than five years. Upon hearing of his pupil's distress at how he bowled in the first innings, his advice was for Pattinson to simply run in and bowl fast, without thinking of the minutiae. A similar conversation with the captain Steven Smith also provided reassurance about the path Pattinson took.
"I was speaking to Craig McDermott after the first day about where I was releasing the ball from and my action, and I said 'I haven't really been feeling that comfortable with it over the last six months'. And he said just run in and don't worry about it and I did that. I'm a bit older now and hopefully my body will be right and I'm sort of somewhere in between.
"I was really struggling to get it through to the keeper, and bowl that good channel and get that good outswing with my wrist behind the ball. That was the trouble. It felt like I was trying extremely hard to do that, whereas the second innings when I came out I was running straight lines and had my wrist behind the ball it felt pretty easy.
"It's all got to do with my arm path, it's not much but it's just little things that I can see on video and pick up and try and change along the way."
Injuries are something that have to become a commonplace part of the life of most pace bowlers. Technical changes designed to prevent them will never be 100% successful, as Pattinson knew from suffering a hamstring strain earlier this summer as a result of his new method. Therefore he has decided simply to go for it - whatever will be, will be.
"At the end it's a game so the big thing for me is having fun when I'm out there playing and that's what I did in the second innings," he said. "Coming back from a long spell out I felt like I was debuting again in the first innings, so there was a bit of nerves around but they soon settled.
"I'm just looking forward to the next Test. It's great to see Josh Hazlewood bowling so well again, he's a great guy to have in the team and Sidds is doing his job and keeps it tight for all the bowlers. It's really good to be back and a bit of relief to get some wickets and get some pressure off my back."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig