In sync with Aussie tradition

Pat Cummins and New South Wales Blues team-mates celebrate the wicket of Mumbai Indians' Kieron Pollard in the Champions league match at the MAC Stadium, Chennai. Cummins is a bundle of potential.-PTI

Arun Venugopal catches up with Mitchell Starc and Patrick Cummins, the up and coming pacemen from Australia.

Mitchell Starc and Patrick Cummins are every bit the wide-eyed youngsters when we show a photograph of them training together that had appeared in The Hindu. “We were actually talking about video games when the picture was clicked,” says the 18-year-old Cummins smiling sheepishly.

Their boyish faces and sprightly demeanour make it a no-brainer to slot them in the ‘regular college kid' category. Only that these ‘kids' send down 140 kmph plus thunderbolts with astonishing consistency and are key members of Australia's next-gen pace attack.

Left-arm speedster Starc, 21, has already played a couple of one-day games for Australia, making an impression with his rhythmic action and steepling bounce.

Cummins, on the other hand, has triggered excitement with his raw pace ever since he made his first class debut earlier this year. He now finds himself in the Australian touring party for the limited-overs fixtures against South Africa this month.

In Chennai. with the New South Wales team. during the recently-concluded Champions League T20, the pace partners were at their chatty best, evidently happy at being given the opportunity to represent Australia while still young. “I think there is a change of guard at the moment with the likes of Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, and Shane Warne moving on in the last few years”, Cummins takes first strike.

“It's a new wave coming in but it's a good sign if we are going to identify (players) this early. I think (in) most teams across the world, players are getting younger. It's similar here in Australia.”

Are younger fast bowlers more susceptible to injuries? “Injuries are part and parcel of fast bowling,” Starc puts things in perspective.

“The calendar is packed with cricket. We just prepare ourselves the best we can.”

Cummins agrees: “It's something you can't really think about too much when you are playing. You have to try and control it (injuries) as much as possible.”

Asked about pitches becoming increasingly batsman-friendly in Australia, Cummins is tongue-in-cheek: “Batsmen are lazy”. Even as both the quicks burst into laughter, Cummins adds that the wickets “were a bit up and down last year”. “I didn't play much last year but watching from the sidelines it looked like quite a few wickets looked flat while there were others which were very green.”

On the topic of Twenty20 cricket, Starc believes the format has helped in developing more variations. “In T20, you bowl more variations than the stock ball. So I guess it's brought another dimension to the longer form of cricket as well.”

The duo, however, admits that speed is a great asset. “Once you have got pace it's easy to build around that. It's important to know what your strengths are as a bowler and keep working on it. Hopefully, the pace will stay with it,” says Cummins.

Starc is pragmatic about the advantages of being a tearaway. “For someone like Patty who has the ability to bowl in the mid-140s, it's a good thing that he keeps that. If you look at guys like Brett Lee, he's still high 140s so it's a good weapon to have. Not many blokes in the world can bowl at such speed.”

As the conversation drifts towards the New South Wales (NSW) side, words such as “comfortable” and “welcoming are liberally used. “There are probably about six or seven young guys in the team. So, it's good fun. The older guys are wonderful as well,” notes Cummins.

Starcs echoes a similar view: “The blokes at NSW and the Australian team are very welcoming. The work ethic of guys like (Simon) Katich and Ricky (Ponting) sets a great standard for the youngsters coming through.”

Also, Starc is pleased to be compared with the other Mitchell — Johnson. “I didn't model myself on him at all but to be compared with someone like him is great. I have spoken to him about game plans and had a chance to tour with him. That was a great opportunity.”

Cummins refuses to be carried away despite the prospect of an international debut looming large. “I just take things as they come, game by game. The goal is to win the series.”

Meanwhile, Stark is keen on cementing his place. “The focus is to cement my place in both sides — NSW and Sidney Sixers. Want to get myself to bowl the best I can.”

“In T20, you bowl more variations than the stock ball. So I guess it’s brought another dimension to the longer form of cricket as well,” says Mitchell Starc.-K. PICHUMANI

The NSW and Sidney Sixers teammates — Starc and Cummins — have grown up idolising a common bunch of Australian greats. “I grew up watching the Aussie team and looked up to McGrath, Gillespie, and Brett Lee. Recently, it's the likes of Johnson,” says Cummins.

For Starc, who started out as a wicket-keeper, Steve Waugh was a huge source of inspiration. “I have always idolised Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist before looking more towards fast bowlers in recent years. I started to admire Mc Grath and Wasim Akram. Zaheer Khan is a great bowler for India, another left-armer who swings the ball really well.”

Playing in India has been a rewarding experience for the tall quick bowlers. Starc is glad to have made his international debut “against the world's best side in the hardest conditions.”

Cummins, though, has soaked in the cultural experience. “It has been good staying in Chennai. I have been out a couple of times. The tuk-tuk rides with Starcy, and Hazlewood were really memorable,” he smiles.