Pat Cummins: The coming of age from injury to illustriousness

Varun Vasudevan

A fiery Cummins during his spell against South Africa at the Bullring in 2018

It was a fine evening at the Gabba as a nervous English side hoped to make amends to the woeful Ashes tour of 2013. James Vince and Mark Stoneman were on top of the Aussies who kept firing on all cylinders. However, Pat Cummins found his second wind to shift the game’s momentum in favour of his side with a spell that set up Australia’s dominance in the matches to come.

The lanky New South Wales speedster went past Stoneman’s defence and followed it up with ‘the spell’ of that summer by setting up England’s skipper Joe Root. Cummins swung the ball away from Root for a couple of overs and drew him across, only to unleash a nipping in-swinger that caught Root plumb in front.

It was a scalp that Cummins proudly acknowledged as his dream-wicket. Waqar Younis once said, “Fast bowling is about imposing yourself on the batsman” and Cummins thrives on doing the same by often targeting his opponent’s best batsman.

He picked up Root four times during the 2017 Ashes and set himself to become the leading wicket-taker that summer. Further, Cummins bested another gun batsman in the form of Virat Kohli — a player he dismissed four times in five Tests.

The Australian has the ability to swing the ball both ways at high speeds and can follow it up with a nasty short-pitch delivery that follows the batsman’s helmet. Ask Karunaratne and Vihari, and they will tell you how it feels. The only skill that Cummins hasn’t mastered yet is how the reverse the cherry.

However, it hasn’t been a smooth journey for Cummins, after his sensational debut as an 18-year-old against South Africa at the Bullring in Johannesburg. He picked up seven wickets in the match, including a six for 79 to help Australia level the series. Sadly, that was his solitary Test for the baggy green outfit as countless injuries followed and ruled him out of Test cricket and first-class cricket for the next six years. 

Cummins sets up Root as Australia appeal for an LBW during The Gabba Test in 2017

In 2017, Cummins made an impressive return to Sheffield Shield cricket for New South Wales and made a strong statement in his solitary game that led him to make a strong comeback in the third Test during Australia’s tour of India in 2017. The young speedster troubled Indian batsmen with his extreme pace and bounce in both the Tests, thereby proving the selectors, fans and critics that Australia still has a gun bowler who is capable of winning Tests single-handedly.

Apart from his improved bowling technique and physical fitness, he has convinced various pundits over his batting exploits. From his resilient partnership with Steve Smith in the 2017 Gabba Test to his gritty 63 against India in the MCG Test, he has staked claim to become an all-rounder for years to come.

A new lease of life in 2018 has seen him grab 44 wickets in eight Tests with a strike rate of 42. This included his iconic spell of 6 for 27 against India at the Boxing Day Test in MCG. Following the aftermath of the infamous sandpaper-gate during the third Test at Newlands in 2018, Cummins managed to come out on top with a career-best 9-wicket haul in the final Test against the Proteas in Johannesburg — the same venue that witnessed his spectacular debut eight years ago.

The 25-year-old has begun 2019 on a high by becoming the first Australian since Glenn McGrath to take the ‘Numero Uno’ spot in the latest ICC Test bowler rankings and looks hungry for more. Cummins will have to play a significant role if Australia is to defend their World Cup in England this summer. However, his form and fitness will be far more important to the Aussies during their extended English summer when they take on the English for the Ashes, a trophy that the Aussies won at the back of Cummins’ sensational performance during the Australian summer of 2017.