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The long haul: charting the Patrick Cummins flight path

Roar Guru
6th February, 2011
12
2359 Reads

Patrick CumminsFast bowlers face extinction in the face of cricket’s Global Physical Crisis (GPC). Bowling at speeds in excess of 145kph is not for the faint-hearted.

A run-up of thirty meters and then a leap and final hurling of body and soul. In that split second these supersonics have gone from being a sprinter to a gymnast and then a discus thrower. It is significant that I mention discus as opposed to javelin.

Increasingly players like Starc, Hazlewood, Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Siddle have pushed their bodies to breaking point.

When pitches are as flat as yesterday’s lemonade, speed is the factor that makes a difference. It also helps if you have a sense of direction.

What are the coaches doing? In their obsession with wrist and reverse they are neglecting the conditioning and maintenance required to keep the pacemen on the park. As Dennis Lillee remarked it may be a simple matter of running on the beach that is the answer.

It is the same story in India and England. Ishant Sharma was heralded as India’s next wunderkind as a nineteen year old. He was approaching speeds of 145kph and seaming it both ways. In the mad scramble for the dollar administrators and captains worked him like a bonded labourer.

He was spelled and is now making a hesitant comeback. Brett Lee was also whipped and driven on the endless circus of meaningless ODI’s. Simon Jones and Darren Gough had their careers circumscribed in a similar manner.

It is more than thirty years since we thrilled to Lillee’s mesmeric gold chain glinting in the sun. His trademark forefinger flick of sweat directed disdainfully at the mighty Viv.

The barbarism of Thommo making batsmen quiver like jelly. Holding’s kiss of death and the malevolence of a Robert’s bouncer.

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Speed thrills and these men are a distant memory. Dale Steyn to Dravid and Tendulkar, recently in Durban and Jo’burg showed us what we have been missing.

It is not surprising that bowlers like Nannes, Tait and Lee have forsaken the longer forms. It is perfectly understandable that they have chosen to play for the big money in the shorter forms in the twilight of their bowling life.

How then do we keep this exclusive breed playing at optimum levels? This is especially pertinent in the case of Patrick Cummins. At seventeen he is the most exciting prospect to have emerged since Craig McDermott almost twenty years ago.

Brian Taber, a NSW selector, has reservations about Cummins going to the Academy in Brisbane. And he is right.
John Benaud, in charge of Cummins at Penrith, recently labeled current Australian cricketers as “molly-coddled”. He believes Cummins is ready to play Shield now and will rise to the challenge.

The men with glasses, whitecoats and clipboards could cruel Cummins before he has found his real wings. He is young and still growing. He needs to be monitored by the people who know him best.

These people would know they have a winner on their hands. They would know the areas of core strengthening that need to be worked on. They would know they must keep the action as natural as it is now.

Patrick Cummins should be groomed to be ready in 2013 when Australia next visits England. Even then, he should only go for the experience. He should play the rest of this season in Shield bowling to the best batsmen in the land. He has been an integral part of NSW’s run to the finals of the Big Bash and should enjoy the riches that will come his way.

But if he wants to be remembered as a great then he has a lot of work to do. He must be mentored to look ten years into the future. He must temper with patience the natural inclination of youth to want everything instantly.

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Australia is a big country and we must resist men with small vision. In this compromised world we have seen the Tiger driven to extinction. We have seen our tennis courts subsumed by developers. Sardines in tins will always remain thus.

I would like to see Patrick Cummins and Mitchell Starc play their first test at the ‘Gabba in 2014 when England visit next. Three years may seem a long time now and there will be people pushing for these two to play Tests immediately.

Administrators need look no further than Dale Steyn. He is at 27, at the peak of his powers. It has not been an instant meeting with fame and fortune. He has been harnessed and nurtured. He also had the foresight to recognize Twenty20 for the hit and giggle that it is.

He is not the highest paid in the IPL as he has indicated he will only play part of the season. He knows his destiny is to be the greatest fast bowler to come out of South Africa and he is determined to fulfill that.

Steyn made his debut in 2004 and it was 2006 before he got his first five wicket haul. It was 2007 before he got 10 wickets in a match. He then repeated this in the next match.

It was in December 2008 at the MCG against Australia that he got his next 10 wicket haul. A further 2 years and he struck again at Nagpur against India.

He has proved himself in all conditions and against all opponents. With 238 wickets at an average of 23 and a strike rate under 40 he can claim to be the most penetrative bowler in the history of the game.

Patrick Cummins, are you ready for the sacrifice? Can you see your destiny and are you ready to confront it? Australian hearts will certainly wish you well and Godspeed on your journey.

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