Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Australia's forgotten man calmly launches bid for a recall
Kurtis Patterson has taken on the lessons from a chaotic and frustrating 2019-20 summer to set his sights on a big finish to the domestic season and a second chance at Test level
14 February 2021, 07:10 PM AEST
As Australia face the prospect of a long winter without Test cricket and with their middle order in a state of uncertainty ahead of their Ashes defence next summer, a man with a Test batting average of 144 is preparing to make his latest push for a recall.
A little more than two years ago, Kurtis Patterson was the new batting sensation of Australian cricket after he scored his maiden Test ton, against Sri Lanka in Canberra, in just his second match at the highest level.
Squeezed out of the following Test campaign when a drop in form at a pivotal time coincided with the return of Australia's Cape Town trio, Patterson has since played just 12 matches out of a possible 51 at domestic level for NSW and the Perth Scorchers, missing games either due to injury or simply not being picked.
Patterson is not alone in falling out of favour since that Canberra Test at the end of the 2018-19 season; all of Australia's frontline batters in that game – Patterson, Marcus Harris, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head – have all been dropped at least once in an eventful two years since.
But having watched the likes of Matthew Wade, Will Pucovski and Cameron Green go past him in the selection pecking order through prolific run-scoring feats at domestic level, Patterson knows the journey back to the Test side could be just as swift as his drop out of it.
"I have certainly fallen out of the frame and some other guys have done very well and earned the right to play for Australia," he tells cricket.com.au ahead of the resumption of the men's domestic season on Monday.
"But at the same time, you're always only two or three good hundreds away from being back in the frame.
"I genuinely believe that I'm a better player than I was two years ago.
"I enjoy having the time in pre-season to add some strings to the bow and keep improving as a player. That's one thing I do, and I feel like I come back every September a better player than I was in April.
"I feel like I'm more mature and I know my game even more than I did (two years ago). It's just about scoring runs, getting back in the frame and hopefully the other stuff will take care of itself."
Patterson's fall out of the Test set-up for the 2019 Ashes was compounded by a quad injury at the start of the following season, a further setback to his plans of winning an instant recall for the home summer.
In his desperation to thrust his name forward again, he pushed himself to get onto the park and pushed too hard, blowing up during his first Shield game of the season and sidelining himself for three months at the height of the summer.
"Those first few Shield games of the year, there's always that bit of added excitement in the media and around the playing group as well because the carrot of playing for Australia is there for a lot of players," he says.
"I probably bought into that excitement a little bit too much and rushed back when the reality was, I wasn't even close to being fit enough to get through the game.
"I've learnt to look after my body a bit better and not train as hard and intensely as I was doing. Being able to manage it more, putting rest days in and doing things outside of the game on those rest days just to have that separation (is important).
"I've been guilty of it a lot; when it's non-stop cricket ... if you're not playing, you're training and if you're not training, you're thinking about the game in different respects, especially went things aren't going so well and you're not scoring runs, things can build up on you."
It took the upheaval of a global pandemic – he and partner Jocelyn were forced to postpone their wedding while her employment at Qantas was also thrown into doubt – to help put his woes on the field into sharp perspective.
They've since rescheduled their wedding for this May, although her American family and friends won't be able to attend, and he's been able to stay fit for the entire season so far, albeit another unproductive one from a run-scoring perspective.
So even though he was unable to pass fifty in six innings to start the Shield season and sat on the sidelines for all but one game of Perth's Big Bash campaign, he's been able to eye off the resumption of state cricket this week with a sense of calm that was missing during the chaos of last summer.
"I'm a lot better at handling (not playing) now than I was last year," he says.
"As I'm getting older and other things are happening in life … you get that perspective that comes with experience and comes with going through your career.
"Jocelyn has been fantastic … she's got her own career, she's doing her own thing so we've always got plenty of other things to talk about, rather than just cricket. It's always nice to have that separation of work and home.
"(During the Big Bash) I always had in the back of my head that there was going to be plenty of cricket at the back end of the season for NSW.
"If you can string together a couple of back-to-back hundreds and big match-winning hundreds, you're right back in the frame (for Test selection). That's been shown in the past two or three years.
"There's obviously that to play for and at the same time, there's the opportunity with a really strong NSW side to try and keep the Shield and win a one-day tournament.
"They're the two nice carrots looking forward."