Australia in India 2017 March 14, 2017

Cummins declares readiness for second debut


Pat Cummins hits his delivery stride on his return to the Sheffield Shield after nearly six years © Getty Images

Pat Cummins has declared his readiness to be unleashed for what he feels will be a second beginning to his Test career, should he play for Australia in the pivotal third Border-Gavaskar bout in Ranchi, more than five years after his memorable debut against South Africa in Johannesburg.

Though Cummins had been quietly placed on standby for the India tour in January, getting a visa to travel to the subcontinent among other things, a second Test appearance was the furthest thing from his mind when he was claiming eight wickets for New South Wales last week - in his first Sheffield Shield appearance since March 2011. He had expected to be playing for NSW in Western Australia, as they sought the victory they require to make the Shield final. Instead, Cummins is highly likely to be sharing the new ball with Josh Hazlewood in Ranchi, after the national selectors gambled on his pace and penetration ahead of other candidates with far more cricket behind them.

"I knew I was on standby for the tour a couple of months ago but really I thought the bowlers weren't going to bowl too many overs so hoped they weren't going to be injured or anything like that," Cummins said in Ranchi. "So yeah, I hadn't really thought about coming over at all.

"I think for a couple of months, I knew I was going to be [in with] a chance; I had to sort out visas and everything like that a couple of months ago. So, I think it was always kind of part of a plan, along with playing a couple of Shield games. But I think over here they're not great, bowler-friendly wickets for quicks, which actually means I won't bowl too many overs. So from that point of view it was always going to be a plan that was pretty comfortable along with playing some Shield games.

"In some ways it does [feel like a second debut]. To be honest, it's not very fresh. It feels like so much has happened in those five or six years. But I think since that day this is easily the most prepared I have been for a Test match in terms of body, form and the length that I have been playing the last few months. So, in some ways it feels like my first game. But being part of the Aussie squad with ODIs and T20s, it is a pretty familiar surrounding."

Cricket Australia's management of Cummins has been extremely conservative over the past few years, designed to get his body to a point of maturity without any further instances of the foot and back injuries that humbugged him in the years after the aforementioned Test at the Wanderers, where he was Man of the Match in a rousing Australian victory.

'In some ways, it feels like a second debut' © AFP

As recently as NSW's Shield fixture in Wollongong, Cummins was fit and free to play but not risked in order to give him as many training sessions as possible to steadily build up his workload and avoid the "spikes" that CA's sports science division judge the greatest risk factors for injuries to fast bowlers.

The NSW bowling coach Geoff Lawson has questioned the wisdom of taking Cummins to India for matches where he will by definition have to push himself, but Cummins reasoned there would be little difference between a Shield match in Perth and a Test in India. "I was probably going to play the last game for NSW and hopefully the final which would have entailed a lot of overs," Cummins said.

"It's no different, being over here or playing the Shield game. Having the last six months I've had, I am really comfortable. I felt like I tried to bowl with a bit more rhythm in the Shield game [against South Australia] than potentially what I have done in an ODI or something, where I run in and try to bowl as fast as I can every ball. So, I felt like I could bowl six or seven overs in a spell pretty easily and the pace felt like it was coming out pretty good."

Even so, Cummins admitted his eyes had always been on vying for a berth in Australia's Ashes XI at home next summer, rather than playing a role in the bid to wrest the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from India away.

"I'd set myself little steps of getting back into the one-day side, and from that hopefully getting back into the Test side," he said. "But I didn't think it was going to happen this quickly. I'd always had an eye on the Ashes next year, just thinking that I had to play three or four Shield games to put my hand up for selection. It has certainly come a lot quicker, but I always thought I'd get back here."

As he made abundantly clear at the Wanderers, Cummins is an intelligent cricketer, and he is well aware of the history that may yet be made in Ranchi. Victory in the third Test, in the most difficult conditions imaginable against the world's No.1 Test side, would be the sort of achievement to set up a young Australian team for years of sustained success under the captaincy of Steven Smith.

"Being at home for the first two Tests, I really appreciated how much passion is in this tour and how much Test cricket means. A big Indian tour like this can really identify a team and Steve Smith's captaincy," he said. "I've just been pumped watching it at home and to be over and potentially being part of the series is really cool.

"India is a tour that really brings the team and the squad together, it doesn't feel like a tour where there are one or two stand-outs. Everyone in the eleven needs to contribute. Winning over here is just one of those things that can bring a team together. And bring them together for the next 10 years or so."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • john on March 15, 2017, 16:36 GMT

    @CRICFAN21909279:"Both Ganguly and Harabajan are absolutely rubbish predictors"Ganguly based his predictions on what happened in India against Australia in 2013. Therefore what were trying to predict was based on the past of four years ago and given Australia genuinely struggled against a weak Sri Lanka team only last July and August to a 3-0 series defeat they were expecting the same, but given the second test and the fact that the Australian batsmen generally and historically have struggled against spin bowling it is fare to assume Australia will struggle consistently Steve O'Keefe had one exceptional test match in his career and will never be able to perform to that level against Indian batsmen bought up on spin bowling as the batsmen will and have made the adjustments especially Lokesh Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara whom were most responsible for the win in Bengaluru and the series being 1-1 now we will see how Australia do from now on in this series. I have a feeling India will win.

  • jmdown1138911 on March 15, 2017, 10:57 GMT

    @Woody3: Pitches in April or early May, especially those north of Watford, will understandably be wet sponges. It's those that are prepared excessively damp 'to order' for Tests after that really earn that label.

  •   Paul Robson on March 15, 2017, 9:23 GMT

    "I hope he doesn't waste the efforts of his home board by playing the IPL"

    Might actually be a better option for Cummins (and Pattinson). The young left arm quick who has played a few games for England, Tymal Mills, isn't able to play a longer form of the game without risking serious injury (he has a congenital back problem) , so he concentrates on the short burst stuff.

  •   Paul Robson on March 15, 2017, 9:19 GMT

    @OPTO_PUS the difference between Cummins and the Indian bowlers is the fitness thing. This bloke was having his workload managed carefully a few weeks ago, he's played one Shield game.

    It might work, but it's a horrible risk. He's being put in as one of a four man bowling attack, plus maybe Stoinis, Maxwell or Agar. If the pitch is like the English ones, where the scores were much higher than the first two tests, managing his load is going to be much harder.

    If he breaks down then Australia are down to three and a half bowlers. I can't see them picking Agar at six or moving Wade to six as it makes the tail horribly long. Khawaja might work on a pitch where 200 is a good score but not where 400 is an ordinary score. Stoinis (best pick IMO) and Maxwell remind me of the cricketers England picked post Botham who could neither bat nor bowl well enough.

  • Ronald on March 15, 2017, 5:52 GMT

    Bird should play ahead of Cummins. He was selected in the original squad & the selectors should show some faith in him. Cummins is under prepared for this test. One Shield game in six years is not good enough, especially with the injury record Cummins has.

  • cornel0115175 on March 15, 2017, 5:50 GMT

    The best team selection is to bring in Marcus Stoinis and Sir Pat Cummins for Mitchell Passenger and Mitchell Starc

  • Jon on March 15, 2017, 4:39 GMT

    BALLSNEARZIP - Wet sponge wicket where? When? All international wickets are dry at the start and under any rain they are quickly covered. Sometimes more grass is left on which looks green and promotes more movement/pace. But to call them a wet sponge is pure fantasy. If you played on a wet sponge in England it was low standard cricket.

  • john on March 15, 2017, 4:35 GMT

    @KANGROOS.PROTEAS.MONKEYS.LIONS:"I really doubt if Cummins will be any different then Bhuvi/Shami for India who always find way back into the team and and then soon limp out. Indian batsmen cherish wider deliveries and Cummins generally bowls wider and after the new ball is gone, he will be easier to handle." Australia are selecting on a like for like basis with M. Starc out due to injury, cough, cough (he couldn't buy a wicket if his life depended on it in India). I was saying Starc was struggling to take wickets and is being replaced with another Australian in Pat Cummings who's played one test and will be proven to be completely ineffective in Asian conditions on slow turning pitches, where the seam and pace bowlers job is to restrict the run rate and make the ball old for the spinners, given Nathan Lyon has for most of his career been completely ineffective in Asia it will be interesting to see if he is selected in the next test given he is also injured. SOK the one hit wonder.

  • Sriram on March 15, 2017, 4:35 GMT

    @CHEESEVANTONDER Good point made. As an Indian supporter I have been very upset as well with the kind of pitches being produced. Take for example the wickets of O'Keefe and Smith. Both were playing the right line, but the ball didnt just get up. Surprised to see this kind of wickets where even the bounce is not even. I am not sure if it is because of too many brains put into pitch prep. But for sure the curators dont know how to control a pitch - whatever name you give to the pitch (sporting wicket, tricky wicket and the like)

  • Alex on March 15, 2017, 3:44 GMT

    Will cummins get injured in first day? that is the question in my mind now.

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