It is the month of May in Sydney. The leaves are starting to fall off the branches, the night temperatures have started to plunge rapidly and the cricket season is done and dusted. Sitting on his lounge at home, Pat Cummins is about to start another rehabilitation program to cure a back injury. Australian cricket's blue-eyed boy has just played nine Test matches in 15 weeks, the fast bowler has sent down 352.5 overs and experienced the most scandalous moment in Australian cricket.
Curing injuries and going through the healing processes are not new to Cummins, but in the past, he has had university studies to distract his frustrations and overcome the mental barriers. However, the 2018 winter is different. He has finished his degree and needs a diversion or a leisure activity in between all his training. Cummins decides to read various books, cooks nearly every night and chooses to train a puppy. As he goes about his business, he can't help think about the summer of cricket that lies on the horizon.
Fast forward seven months and Cummins is standing at the top of his mark about to deliver his first ball of the summer at the picturesque Adelaide Oval. There is a sense of expectation on his broad shoulders, but he is only playing in his 15th Test match. Three balls later he lives up to all the hype as he claims the prized wicket of Virat Kohli. This is destined to be Cummins' summer of fun. All the reading, cooking, socializing and training over the winter are a distant past, it is all about playing a game that he fell in love with since he was four years.
It has truly been a memorable three months for Cummins at a personal level. The team might have fallen prey to a formidable India team, but Cummins has taken his game to a new level. Last week, Cummins was rewarded for his sterling performances by being nominated the vice-captain. It is a great honor for a man that has donned the baggy green only 19 times. Leadership roles for fast bowlers in Australian cricket have rarely gone hand in hand, but Cummins is a different breed, both on and off the field.
In the five Tests, this season Cummins has taken 24 wickets at 18.79, including two five-wicket hauls. A few days ago against Sri Lanka, he became the first Australia bowler to claim ten wickets in a match on home soil since 2008. Australia's skipper Tim Paine stated after his heroics at the Gabba that he felt that it is the best that Cummins had bowled.
"If Pat Cummins bowls against anyone the way he bowled this game, he would take wickets. He gave them nothing until the end when he got tired. It looked like the ball was coming out of his hand a little better than it was in the India series when at times his seam was not perfect. I thought in this Test, there were times when it was perfect."
The injury-ridden career is finally started to blossom for Cummins. He has moved past the dark days and become the most imperative cricketer in the country. But the ride has not always been straight forward.
Two seasons ago, frustrated by injuries the 25-year-old flew to Perth to seek advice on his bowling action from legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee — who Cummins said had the biggest influence in remodeling his action.
The first step was to change his run-up. Cummins runs in a lot straighter these days and no longer do his legs swing across his body in a final couple of strides. The second major change was to ensure his bowling arm stayed close to his head and didn't stretch a long way behind his neck. This technical change allowed Cummins' shoulders and hips to be aligned at the point of delivery, eliminating the stress on his back. Add to that, he was no longer falling away at the point of release allowing him to keep his wrist firmly behind the ball to bowl the outswinger.
It took Cummins a while to embed the changes into his action, but the newly adopted alteration has fine-tuned his bowling, converting him into a world beater that he beckoned to be ever since he intimidated kids with his pace at a U12's carnival in Sydney's Western Suburbs.
Off the field, Cummins is a polite and articulate young man. On the field, he is an imposing figure that plays cricket with a smile and is often delegated to bowl during the toughest phases of the game. But Cummins never complains, his body language is always positive and he always finds a way to keep himself into the game. It reflects in a brilliant run-out of Chesteswar Pujara at the fag end of a hot summer day in Adelaide or a gallant half-century with the bat at the MCG. While he waits for his turn to bat, he predominately spends his time doing crosswords or reading a book. Seldom is just relaxed, the mind is constantly ticking or challenged in form or another.
His physical stature, his looks, his hairstyle, and beaming smile have even earned him the nickname the James Bond of cricket. Like the fictional character, Cummins finds a way to overcome the hurdles and accomplishes the mission.
The Australian international summer of cricket might be drawing to a close, but Cummins knows he has a long winter ahead of him. First, there is the World Cup and then the Ashes. The rest of the activities can wait, for now, it is simply cricket that is at the forefront of his mind. Seven years since his debut, Australia has finally realized why Cummins has always been earmarked the blue-eyed boy of cricket.