Pat Cummins wants to be Australia’s Ashes enforcer, pinpointing Joe Root and Alastair Cook as England’s key wickets. He admitted the hosts will likely resort to bouncers – both verbal and literal – to regain the urn this summer.
Ahead of a summer in which Cummins will finally play a Test on home soil – no less than six years after his storied debut against South Africa in Johannesburg – the 24-year-old is taking inspiration from how Mitchell Johnson intimidated England’s Ashes tourists four years ago, and has reasoned that the adjustment from softer northern hemisphere surfaces will offer a significant advantage for Steven Smith’s Australians.
“We’re lucky there’s a few of us who are all pretty tall and get a bit of bounce with a bit of pace,” Cummins said in Sydney. “I’d love to play that [intimidation] role, hopefully the wickets have a bit of pace and bounce in them, getting the adrenaline up and running in and trying to bowl quick.
“No one really likes it if you’ve got real pace and real accuracy. Especially those kinds of guys, they play on slower wickets where there’s not as much bounce. So over here and in South Africa as well it’s one of our biggest strengths, as batsmen we grow up on these wickets and as bowlers, getting bounce has always been really important. So I think it’s trying to make it as different to their home conditions as possible, bouncy fast wickets and short balls are definitely that.
“Just playing a Test match in Australia will be a pretty weird feeling, I’ve played five now but none at home which is obviously what you grow up watching, so it’ll be great to be part of an Ashes series, it’ll be pretty amazing. I was over there a couple of years ago in England, running drinks, so the prospect of playing in front of a home crowd, I can’t wait.”
The elevated place of Cummins in Australia’s planning for the home summer was underlined by how he was sent home early from the limited-overs tour of India to enjoy several weeks of rest before playing in the Sheffield Shield matches that lead into the first Test at the Gabba in late November. His memories of Johnson include the exhilaration felt by spectators and the hostility faced by the English batsmen, not only from the bowlers, but also the snarling presence of their team-mates in the field. Root and Cook can expect to bear the brunt this time around.
“That series, one of the most exciting in recent times where fast bowling has really excited world cricket, and as a fast bowler I was super pumped to watch Jono [Johnson] and how he kept the whole morale of the side up at home in Australia against the Poms,” Cummins said. “That just shows the importance of having a really quick bowler and hopefully one of us three or four guys can do a similar job.
“I think we all show our aggression differently, you probably tailor it towards which batsman you’re bowling to. That was one of the things along with the 150kph bouncers that really intimidated them, not just bowling. Hopefully that’s not our only tool – I’m not quite quick-witted enough to come up with too many sledges, but hopefully we can show our aggression in other ways.
“Joe Root’s probably their most in-form batsman so I think he’ll be the prize wicket along with Alastair Cook, either of those two will be prime wickets.”
While Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are returning to full fitness after foot and side injuries, Cummins has come through a severely taxing series of overseas assignments with a clean bill of health, even after taking the field as Australia’s sole fast bowler in enervating Chittagong heat against Bangladesh. He has taken plenty of confidence from the experience, after years punctuated by plenty of injuries, rehab sessions and only the occasional sequence of cricket.
“I think more so having the captain and the selectors’ confidence to pick me as the sole fast bowler in a Test match [helped], a year or two ago I thought I was really far away from a Test match, let alone confident in my form and my body to be the only [pace] bowler,” Cummins said. “I feel like I’ve played a lot of cricket on the subcontinent this year, so I’m looking forward to playing some Shield games with the red ball and getting used to these conditions again.
“It has been a little bit weird watching the Test matches throughout the summers, but I’ve probably felt for the last five or six years I haven’t been that close to [playing] a Test match. Watching the one-dayers and the T20 sides I feel like I should be out there, but the Test matches I haven’t really been close to, more watching as a fan. So to go out there and play will be doubly special.”
Like Starc and Hazlewood, Cummins is expecting to play in two of three Shield matches for New South Wales before joining the Ashes squad in Brisbane ahead of the Tests.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo