Pat Cummins has been one of the best performers for Australia in a frustrating series for Australia……
At 18, Pat Cummins was Australia’s youngest Test cricketer in 2011. He burst into the international scene with a hunger to do well and raw pace, due to which he would go on to pick up the player of the match award in his debut Test against South Africa. His 7 wickets in the match were perhaps signs of things to come for Australia, but alas, a stress fracture in his back limited his Test appearances, but he kept knocking on the selectors’ doors with spirited performances in the limited-overs and also the Sheffield Shield and is today perhaps one of the best names in the team sheet, in all three formats. His performances in the ongoing series against India too have been nothing short of inspiring. Not only does he do the job with the ball, but he also comes in at No. 8 and occupies the crease for a long time to frustrate the bowlers. He may not score many runs, but unlike his counterparts in the Indian team, he does not throw his wicket away.
He already managed 14 scalps in the series. and was perhaps the better of the three seamers. He has bowled economically throughout the series and has created a lot of pressure on the batsmen. His spell, especially against Virat Kohli at Perth, was worth a watch. Kohli, arguably the best batsmen today, was often troubled at Perth with Cummins’ immaculate lines and lengths. Cummins has an economy rate of under 2 against Kohli and has dismissed him four times already. Nobody has a better strike-rate or average against Kohli than Cummins. He kept testing Kohli’s patience and in the end, it finally paid off. While the other two fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood have failed to trouble the likes of Kohli, it has been Cummins and Nathan Lyon who have been the more consistent ones against some quality batting.
The situation of the Melbourne Cricket ground (MCG) Test was a tad different. Australia had already conceded a huge first innings lead after they were bowled out for just 151. With 292 runs behind, Australia need something special to even draw this game. Considering that there are high chances of rain over the next two days, India’s logic behind not enforcing the follow-on is still not clear. However, with backs against the wall, Australia needed a resounding response. Cummins led from the front this time. He set up the batsmen beautifully and in a matter of 6 to 7 overs, had Indian tottering. The plan was simple – bowl at middle and leg and ask the batsmen to flick it off their pads. The field was placed in such a manner that wherever the batsmen hit the ball, they would find the fielder. Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane fell prey to such tactics, while Hanuma Vihari was caught at gully. He continued to stifle the Indian batsman at every opportunity and could continue to wreak havoc when the Test continues on Day Four.
Credit also has to be given to Australian captain Tim Paine, who set the field beautifully and luckily for him, his fast bowler delivered. As captain, it always gives you satisfaction when your strategy pays off. It certainly will not happen every day, but on the days they do happen, it gives you a sense of satisfaction. Thanks to Cummins’ spell in the second innings at MCG, Australia have gained some respectability in the match and have a chance of taking the series to the final Test at SCG with the series still level, but it will not be an easy task. At MCG, India managed just 106 for 8, with Cummins picking up 6 of them.
After the draw at SCG, the series ended in India’s favour, but there is no denying that Cummins’ performance in the series will give Australia a huge boost going forward. They will now realise that they necessarily need not depend only on Hazlewood and Starc to do the damage. The pressure can be taken off them by Cummins, which he successfully did in 2018. With Sri Lanka visiting Australian shores next, it will be a good opportunity for them to take the positives from the India series and apply it against Sri Lanka. After playing the No. 1 team in the world, they will now know where their shortcomings lie exactly and look at the series as an opportunity to work on it.
Cummins career has been plagued with back injuries. Hence, one would imagine that his pace might have dropped. Luckily for him and Australia, his pace has not dropped and still bowls at 145 KPH on a regular basis. Cummins (44) is well ahead of fellow pacers Mitchell Starc (31) and Josh Hazlewood (26) when it comes to the leading wicket-takers for Australia in 2018. He has indeed turned himself into the go-to guy that his captain can turn to in times of crisis. While the other two quicks, especially Starc have come under criticism for their ordinary displays, Cummins has been a reliable player on whom the team can depend on.
Cummins fell behind Nathan Lyon in terms of wickets taken last year, but one cannot deny the impact he has had on this Australian team.
He has vastly improved from last year. In 2017, Cummins picked up 29 wickets at 29.79, which included a strike-rate of 61.1. However, this year, he has improved both his average and strike-rate considerably and has bagged 15 wickets more, which is a testimony to the fact that he is constantly looking to improve his game. Amidst all the controversies surrounding Australian cricket, Cummins has certainly had his breakthrough year in 2018, which is indeed a huge positive.