Patrick Cummins is the relevant substitute for Mitchell Starc.
Sure, the appropriate indicators tell a different story. He has the durability of a cruddy pair of boots. His figures over the past six years are virtually non-existent.
For those other guys knocking the door down, his inclusion symbolises the fact that the door doesn’t exist, and knocking into the void makes no sound.
But, in these times, he is the right choice.
Nostalgia is a booming commodity and he is 2011 eternalised.
1/38 came when the sky was a rich azure blue and the moonlight was so bright that no one needed torches.
My door was unlocked, and visitors stopped by to watch as he took 6/79 the innings after. The only true crime people knew then was having too much fun!
I remember stepping outside for a moment while he ripped through that strong South African XI. I could smell tangerine, orange zest and a hint of vanilla essence. I waved at potential friends, whose metabolism ran wild with optimism and diet pills.
He was the face of it all. A vigorous fresh-faced tear away who contorted his wily limbs and finger-tipped the clouds with his dynamic leap. 145 kilometres with the ball on a string. The gleaming teeth and flowing black hair, a transmittable enthusiasm and an impertinent ruthlessness.
And then too much of himself tore away. His body creaked and withered. He became the looming ghost of the Australian cricket team. The guy who threatened to threaten. The ever-familiar ‘and we still have x waiting in the wings.’
If success is measured by the amount of people you employ, Patrick Cummins was immortalised in his absence. Briefly, he changed the way we monitored cricketers. He was a recruitment strategy for sports scientists and convalescent specialists. A prime example of administrative mismanagement. The justification for a questionable rotation policy.
Meanwhile, a blue sky became grey. The moonlight dulled and disappeared. Strangers stole my pencils and we substituted sadness for refined sugar. The buzz was gone, so we shifted our gaze to the safe trio of predictability, reliability and resiliency. To sturdy bodies, aged minds and hitting a spot 10,000 times at 130 km an hour.
The dummy run was John Hastings, but Jackson Bird was the spearhead of the tried-and-tested movement. Of hitting the top of off-stump so often that the novelty wears off, and the batsman is lulled to sleep.
And we missed the buzz. Jackson Bird became a tool that accumulates dust in the garage – always there and always handy, but it doesn’t glimmer so it doesn’t see daylight. 140+ was back in fashion. Sheer pace and pinpoint accuracy. Patrick Cummins was – as of this week – back in vogue.
He is the physical embodiment of yesteryear. The easy solution. A reminder of a happier time when any dream was attainable with a bit of luck, a dash of capital and a go-getting attitude.
And – quite obviously – all of this is a nice story, but none of it is true. Plenty of selections counter this narrative. Also, Starc is a strike bowler, so he should probably be replaced with one-of-his-kind. Patrick Cummins is the raw and probably not match-fit version of that.
But, I think there’s a few points in this tangent that remain relevant.
We prize potential over its manifestation.
The unproven is always sexier than the proven.
A speck of something is more desirable than substantial evidence of a little bit more.
And my heart goes out to both Patrick Cummins and Jackson Bird, robbed by injury and an absurd selection panel.