Vodafone Men's Ashes
'One last crack': Pattinson's make-or-break Ashes
A frustrating season behind him, Australia's firebrand quick is taking an all-or-nothing approach to England this summer
Martin Smith & Louis Cameron
15 September 2021, 05:46 PM AEST
Beaten down by bio-secure hubs and a near two-year absence from the Test arena, James Pattinson admits the forthcoming Ashes could make or break his international future.
Nearly five months in bubbles last summer during which his only playing time came in the Indian Premier League and a tour game against India was difficult to take for a fast bowler whose 21-Test career has already been severely curtailed by injury.
Having stormed back to full fitness for the Ashes in England more than two years ago, the Victorian has played just four of Australia’s next 14 Test matches, missing only two through injury, and he’s remained sidelined as proposed tours of Bangladesh and South Africa were cancelled in the past year.
It has prompted the 31-year-old to take an all-or-nothing approach to England this summer.
"This year, if I'm being honest, it's probably one of my last cracks at it," he told cricket.com.au. "I'm going to try and play in the Ashes and see how I go.
"The hardest part as you get older is that you want to try and enjoy your cricket as well. You put all your attention into playing cricket for Australia and at some stage, that finishes.
"This year is a big one for me, if I can crack in and try and get an opportunity at Test level. Then if not, then I probably wouldn't mind just looking to try and enjoy my cricket somewhere towards the back-end of my career.
"I'm going into it pretty relaxed and trying to say, 'You're having one last crack at trying to play Test cricket and get a good run at it'.
"I'd just like to play consistent cricket, wherever that might be."
Asked if he might call time on his international career if the coming months do not pan out the way he hopes, Pattinson said: "I'll cross that bridge when it comes to it.
"There's only so much you can take when you're on the cusp. And before you know it, you're 34 or 35 and you've missed a lot of cricket and you've missed opportunities elsewhere."
Where exactly 'elsewhere' might be is unclear, although Pattinson holds a British passport and has excelled in county cricket in the past, while he also had a strong maiden IPL campaign with champions Mumbai Indians last year.
Away from cricket, the Victorian has a young family and is doing a building apprenticeship, which has given him an early taste of life after cricket.
The pandemic has cruelly coincided with the most injury-free period of his career, which was effectively saved by radical spinal surgery in 2017.
He is still yet to play more than four consecutive Tests and has featured in a little more than 20 per cent of Australia's matches since earning his Baggy Green a decade ago despite an enviable record with the ball; 81 wickets at 26.33.
A frustrating stint on the fringe of the Test side last summer came to an dramatic end when, on approved leave from the team bubble, he went to take a photo of his freshly-clipped backyard lawn but stood on a loosened stormwater drain and fractured two of his ribs, ruling him out of the remainder of the series.
"I'd put all the stripes in there and got it looking like the MCG - I was pretty proud of it," he said. "It wasn't ideal going back into the (Australian) camp trying to explain that one."
He was back playing within weeks but by then, India had left these shores with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in hand after a tired Australian attack failed to bowl the depleted visitors out in the final two Tests of the series.
Pattinson is yet to play in a home Ashes Test or in a winning Ashes series, though he did play a successful part in Australia retaining the urn on British soil for the first time in 20 years during the most recent campaign in 2019.
A key part of the visitors' success two years ago was their willingness to make tough calls on their star fast bowlers (Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were omitted for the series opener in favour of Pattinson and Peter Siddle) and rotate them over the course of the five Tests.
It is a strategy the Aussies did away last summer – Starc, Hazlewood and Pat Cummins played all four Tests against India – but one Pattinson envisages being revived against England this season.
"I think we probably saw last year (against India), the bowlers got a bit tired towards the back end of the series," said Pattinson, whose absence from the T20 World Cup squad (unlike Hazlewood, Starc and Cummins) will see him get an extended red-ball lead-in to the Ashes.
"So I think they'll manage it really well and I think they've probably learned a bit from last year as well.
“It's about being honest with your body and how wrecked you are, that's the big thing. Talking with the fitness staff about if you're going in at 70 per cent when there could be another bowler who's fresh and ready at 100 per cent, what's the best for the team there?
"We saw in the Ashes where it worked really well with getting fresh bowlers in and I think England have been doing it for years as well.
"Hopefully we can all get a crack and work together as a team and at the end of the summer, you want to be lifting up that Ashes trophy and celebrating as a team."
Vodafone Men's Ashes v England
First Test: December 8-12, The Gabba
Second Test: December 16-20, Adelaide Oval
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Perth Stadium