Patience the key for comeback kid

As he closes in on an ODI return, Pat Cummins reveals the advice given by Dennis Lillee

On the field he’s used to rushing batsmen with his extreme pace, but off the field returning Australia quick Pat Cummins says patience has been the key to his successful comeback from injury.

Cummins suffered a back injury nearly 15 months ago representing Australia in 50-over cricket in England and has spent that time on the sidelines slowly rebuilding his body, tinkering with his action and working with pace legend Dennis Lillee.

“I’ve chatted to him (Lillee) a couple of times (about) a couple of small changes I made before I started playing (again),” Cummins said in Sydney today.

“I think they (the changes) feel great but it’s probably even more important now that I really keep checking on them, keep looking at them, it’s always fine tuning to try and make it pretty sustainable and he’s someone I’ll keep talking to.”

Lillee knows a thing or two about recovering from severe back problems.

In 1973 he spent six weeks with a plaster cast around his entire torso as he battled back stress fractures that would keep him out of Test cricket for almost two years.

Back on his feet for the 1974-75 season, Lillee ripped England apart both home and away, taking 46 wickets in his next 10 Tests and would go on to become the game’s highest Test wicket-taker.

Cummins made a successful comeback to elite cricket this summer, starring for NSW in their Matador BBQs One-Day Cup title defence with a tournament high 15 wickets from six matches.

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The right-arm quick has since played two Futures League matches for NSW where he bowled 21 overs against Tasmania and 18 overs against ACT with the red ball.

Cummins insists he was “really comfortable with the process” of his return this time around after a spate of injuries that have limited him to just one Test and 18 ODIs since bursting onto the international scene in 2011.

“I feel like I’ve bowled heaps of overs lately,” Cummins said.

“I guess the month between Matador and these ODIs has given me a chance to play a couple of Futures League games where I’ve bowled (21) overs in a game.

“I’ve played a few Grade games this year so it’s been a way to come back and try and find that balance between playing quite a bit of cricket but also bowling a fair bit in the nets and in games so I feel like this time there has been a really good balance. 

“And I think Dennis is certainly on the same page.

“He was pretty keen for me to take that little bit of extra time and get more overs into me.

“But at the same time he went through all these issues as well and he realises that the main thing is listening to your body when you’re coming back from an injury and not to overdo it and try and peak at the right times.

“I feel like I’ve got that balance pretty well so far.”

Cummins claims career-best

And Cummins says he hasn’t lost any of the pace that made him one of the game’s fastest bowlers.

“I feel like I’ve been bowling pretty quickly the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“I feel like I’ve started to try and learn a couple of gears so I’m not going flat out all the time and obviously accuracy and swing and movement is so important, which can sometimes come at the cost of trying to bowl faster.

“So for me it’s always going to be about trying to find that balance but I feel like I haven’t lost any pace at all.”

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Meg Lanning Steve Smith