“Going unnoticed for long periods but without lacking the yearning to successfully overcome the odds to make a mark in the chosen field”.
Young ‘star’ among the big stars
Entering an illustrious team that has in its mix an array of superstars, it is often difficult to mark out your own individual identity. You will either be termed an exciting prospect that will closely aide the superstars in the unit or your performances will be appreciated; only to be forgotten once the series or the match is done and dusted with.
Welcome to the world of Pat Cummins, the youngest bowler in the menacing Australian pace attack, who has quietly gone on his way in the Ashes, picking up 19 wickets sans much attention. With Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc emerging as the grander names ahead of the series, it was but a no-brainer that the young 24-year old would find it difficult to emerge from the shadows of his esteemed teammates.
However, to expect a different reaction would have been a far-fetched reality. His debut at 18 against South Africa that ended with a 6-fer, fast-tracked him towards the pedestal of future champions for the nation but a streak of injuries halted it even quicker. For the next five years, he staged three comebacks but each ended with a similar result- an antagonizing damage to his body that pushed him away to the surgery rooms and rehabilitation gyms. Yet, what stood out even in the matters of despair was his enigmatic persona- one that saw the cricketer wear his graduation robes with pride as he stood fighting for yet another entry into the national side.
Only nine months since his return, the youngster has stood out as the bowler to watch out for by critics and experts alike. He has bowled more than 1000 deliveries in the ongoing Ashes without any niggles troubling him and his haul of nineteen wickets have come equipped with a street-smartness maturity that is rare to find in most bowlers.
His ability to pick up the most crucial wickets in important scenarios has reminded one and all of the astute leader that he can turn out to be. In Brisbane, he picked up a dangerous Mark Stoneman and followed it up with the wickets of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. In Adelaide, Cummins bagged Root once again and once he sent a ripper through David Malan’s stumps, it was made aware that England’s run chase had been derailed even before it had garnered steam.
Starc’s inability to conjure up the oomph factor in the series and Hazlewood’s ineffectiveness in Melbourne without having the company of Starc shifted all the focus towards Cummins, who had been bouncing out the rival tail-enders with a barrage of bouncers. In the first innings in Sydney, he scalped up Stoneman by perfectly executing a series of full-length deliveries that pushed the England opener back to his crease. The wicket-taking delivery was a shorter length ball; wide off the crease generated enough movement and bounce that forced the left-hander to edge it back to the keeper.
James Vince’s wicket can be attributed to the fault committed by the batsman- going after a short delivery that pitched outside off with no footwork, but it was bowled at almost 145kmph; a pace that hurries up the opponents, leading to a downslide in their capabilities.
The one to Moeen Ali, a perfect short ball around the gloves, and the wicket of well-set Tom Curran, gave hints of Cummins’ patience and persistence in his line and accurate lengths. While the one to Ali was directed towards the throat, the one to Curran hovered uncomfortably around the batsman’s chest- which meant that neither player had any chance at pulling away from the discomfort that they had found themselves in.
For a player who hardly went about playing a year of Test cricket continuously to managing his run-up with a firmer grip on his hip rotation that eradicates the strain exerted on the lower back, Cummins’ journey to the Ashes has been as similar as the player himself – going unnoticed for long periods but without lacking the yearning to successfully overcome the odds to make a mark in the chosen field.