Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Pattinson 'something to behold' as he eyes Ashes return
Following a frustrating Test summer during which career-best form was consigned to the nets, the Victorian is once again casting his gaze ahead for his next Test opportunity
4 March 2021, 12:31 PM AEST
The last time James Pattinson was wearing whites at the MCG, the firebrand paceman declared he was a year away from recapturing his best bowling form.
It shaped as an ominous warning given he had just taken six wickets in Australia's 2019 Boxing Day Test win over New Zealand, including skipper Kane Williamson in both innings.
Some 15 months on, it is cold comfort that Victoria coach Chris Rogers attests that Pattinson is now bowling better than ever, given he was confined to the nets for this summer's first two Tests against India before a fluke injury ruled him out of contention for the last two games.
"You're sitting in a hub and you're 12th or 13th man for the Australian – which is fantastic – but … you're missing out on playing cricket," Pattinson told cricket.com.au.
"You're bowling in the nets and at times it can be frustrating as a 30-year-old when you've done a lot of that already.
"This year was a bit of a challenge for everyone and threw up something that no one was ever expecting to happen."
Leading a young Victorian bowling attack in their bid to claim a fifth Marsh Sheffield Shield title in seven seasons, away from the tight restrictions of the Test bubble, has given Pattinson fresh purpose for the back end of the cricket season.
But with the tour to South Africa cancelled and no Test cricket on the horizon until next summer, the right-armer once again has an eye on the future.
All but conceding that his hopes of a T20 World Cup berth have been curtailed by his decision to skip the Indian Premier League and instead spend time with his young family, Pattinson says a return to the Baggy Green for next summer's Ashes is now his major long-term goal.
"With my back injury I probably thought now would be the time. In terms of my body it probably feels the best that it has and in terms of my back – it's come really good," said Pattinson, who underwent radical career-saving spinal surgery in 2017.
"There's plenty of time, I'm only 30 now.
"There's obviously the Ashes next year, which is probably the next challenge.
"I'd love to play all formats but I haven't played too much T20 cricket … I probably won't play enough cricket to be looked at for that (World Cup).
"There will be blokes playing in the IPL and (T20s) around the world, whereas I'll be focusing more on preseason and putting all my eggs in trying to get ready for the Ashes next year."
Pattinson admits it will be "pretty weird" to take on his long-time mentor Peter Siddle when he returns from injury for Tasmania to face his former side for the first time in their Marsh Sheffield Shield clash at the MCG from Friday.
He reckons it will be the first time he has ever played against Siddle at any level given they had, until the older fast bowler left to take up a two-year deal with the Tigers last winter, been teammates at not only national and state level but also at their Premier club side, Dandenong.
Absent from the pre-Big Bash portion of the Shield as he played in the Mumbai Indian's IPL-winning side, Pattinson has returned to take eight wickets at 19.25 in two games against NSW.
Rogers admits he would have "bit your hand off" if he had been offered a win and a draw from Victoria's two games away to the star-studded Blues, with the Vics now sitting fourth and fewer than six points behind reigning Shield champions NSW (in second) with a game in hand.
The former Test batter, who praised the performances of youngsters Mitch Perry and Jake Fraser-McGurk in their successful trip to Sydney, identified Pattinson as a larger-than-life figure in the Victorian side.
Vic quick James Pattinson targets the leg stump and didn't he enjoy it! #SheffieldShield pic.twitter.com/GTzEgb2Dop— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) February 26, 2021
"When he brings all his positive energy, it's just something to behold and he just lifts everyone around him," Rogers told cricket.com.au of his star quick.
"I can look back at the last Shield match when he actually told (Blues batter) Kurtis Patterson that he was going to bowl him around his legs. And he did, and then ran to fine leg in celebration – you could just see the amount of enjoyment all the other players got from it.
"Even when we won the first Shield game, how he commanded the room in the change rooms after – when he's like that, he's first picked.
"As for the Australian set up, I think it's time. He's probably the best he's ever going to be and what he brings to the group as well is amazing."