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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We have to talk about Pat Cummins


With legs and heart pumping, arms moving at the speed of knots; a firebrand fast bowler bowls a super suburn Onyx missile to send the stumps of the batsman cartwheeling. The next man about to take guard, shudders with fear by imagining a fast bowler steaming in like the bullet train CRH380A and smashing his head with a 90mph thunderbolt.

Why am I talking so much about what seems like a crazy machine; hell bent on making the batsman shudder with fear? Am I going to write a 200 page essay on fast bowling? Hmm, no, I am thinking about the young brave fast bowler from Down Under, Pat Cummins. The man, who is trying his best to carry the torch of fast bowling.

Our man, Pat Cummins isn't your archetypical fast bowler, as he doesn't have a run-up starting from the boundary line like one Rawalpindi Express. Unlike many great WI fast bowlers of the past, he doesn't seem to have a wild stare which in turn, can even make an army general frightened to death. He doesn't belong to the mob of Australian fast bowlers who snarled, growled, hissed, sledged the batsmen all the time.  He is more of a smiling assassin. 

Smiling assassin?? Yes, for a fast bowler it is a bit weird, but no one can question his attitude. The way he took up the mantle of being the strike bowler in his first test itself against the Rainbow Nation says it all. Just at the age of 18, he was bowling at 90mph, was getting it to cut, swing and seam and bowled some fine bouncers too. What more, he got the wicket of a batsman with concentration prowess of a buddhist monk called Amla.

Alas! the wonder boy Cummins; seems to spend more time at a surgeon's table than at the bowling crease. If it was a foot injury that ruled him out of an entire home season last year then, a stress fracture on his back is haunting him this season. When bowlers at the age of 19 are heading to the knackers yard, it is certainly a cause for concern.

So, is Cummins too fragile? Was it a mistake to make him play test cricket at the age of just 18? What about the Australian board? Have they mismanaged him? Will Cummins have a successful career as a professional cricketer? I'm no Nostradamus to publish cricketing prophecies, but just thought of looking at the reasons behind Cummins suffering so many injuries and can he make a successful comeback.

Did CA make a mistake by introducing Cummins to test cricket at the age of 18?

I have always believed that if a cricketer is good enough to play test cricket, it shouldn't matter whether he is 18 or 28. The board and the captain though, have to manage the young bowler's workload. In a fc game in 2010/11, Cummins bowled 40 odd overs and that is ridiculous. Well, they stretched every sinew in his body and made him bowl thousands of overs in that match. As he is just 19, Cummins should be used as a strike bowler bowling in short bursts.

Why Cummins shouldn't have played the Champions League.

I don't know how bowling just one over, or two over spells will help a fast bowler to develop his game. Instead of playing in the CL, Cummins should have been given a bit of rest. Slowly but steadily, the board could have played him in the odd fc game. It is all about gradually increasing the workload on young fast bowlers.

As one Waqar Younis said; bowling and running were key aspects of his training. Brett Lee was another of those sprinting freaks. Younis also made an interesting point that being in the gym is all about looking good.

Cummins and his bowling action.

I have already seen that Cooley and co. are thinking of changing Cummins's bowling action. I can only say that for the love of God, do not let Cooley and his ilk anywhere near the lad. Everytime, Cooley and company have looked to overhaul a bowler's action, we have seen that bowler losing the plot. It has definitely ended Plunkett's career and it seems like Mitch is following in his footsteps. Who knows, if given a chance, Plunkett may take a knobkeirre and hammer those biomechanists for changing his action. Thankfully, Anderson has made a succesful comeback, but everyone won't have the guts and gumption that JA showed when he was down and out. 

To be frank, Anderson himself is a very good example for Cummins to follow.

After JA suffered a back injury thanks to the remodeled action in '06, he went back to his original action. Yes, he has made a few tweaks to it, but these days, he bowls with an action; that is based on his original action. With time, by bowling more overs, he got stronger, developed a repeatable action, got his late swing back and even now bowls a yard quicker when needed.

When you think of Cummins, on occasions, his action looks similar to Harmison and that isn't good news. He can perhaps straighten his run-up. It has to be said though, as a bowler bowls more overs, he himself will understand what works for him and what doesn't.

Let me clarify that I'm not an expert and I don't want to pick up an argument with those biomechanists, but changing a bowler's natural action looks all wrong. Once a bowler gets used to a particular action, it must be hard for him to adjust to the remodeled one. If not anything else, just read what the great Younis had to tell about it on cricinfo. 

Cummins's future?

As a cricket fan, I can only hope that when Cummins comes back from injury, they look at gradually increasing the workload on the young quickie. Let him play a few fc games, before he plays test cricket again.

One-day cricket and t/20s? Well, I just hope that he doesn't play too many of them. Do CA want Cummins to be injury prone all the time? Are they trying to convert a genuine quick bowler into one of those defensive bowlers bowling restrictive lengths? 

Just look at Steyn, as he too made his test debut at a young age. The key aspect to look at is; even after playing eight years of international cricket, Steyn has played just 80 odd one-day games. Ah, that is what is called good management of fast bowlers. Of course, please don't change Cummins's action and in an attempt to prolong his career, don't ask him to cut down on pace.

For a cricket team, a fast bowler is like a sparkplug, who excites the fielders to do something special, as he makes things happen. For a cricket aficionado like me, there isn't anything better than a raw riotous fast bowler giving a batsman a taste of the perfume ball. We all can only hope that injuries won't end Cummins's career, as cricket needs him and needs him very badly.