When Pat Cummins made his mesmerising Test debut against South Africa at the Wanderers in 2011, it heralded the arrival of a blistering new pace prospect on the international scene.
At just 18, he was all arms and legs and as raw as one of Tony Abbott’s onions. But with figures of 1-38 and 6-79, it looked as if the new Dale Steyn had just made one hell of an entrance.
Nobody would have guessed, least of all Cummins, that six years later he would still be waiting to play a Test match on home soil.
Next Thursday, barring another unforseen injury disaster for the likeable New South Welshman, he will get off the mark against England at the Gabba.
It’s been an arduous wait for Cummins, who has spent the week training in Brisbane alongside Test comrades Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. And while he never felt as if the game had conspired against him for good, he admits the clock had ticked along in slow motion as he watched friends and teammates further their careers.
“It certainly felt a long way away, for a while. I just can’t wait to get there. As a kid growing up, you watch a lot of Test cricket on TV. To be in that position where I might play in one, yeah, I’m pumped,” Cummins said.
“I was pretty young when I first started playing. It all happened really quickly and didn’t give me a chance to stand back and realise what I was actually doing. Having those five or six years, watching a lot of teammates go through and play some Test matches, I think it will mean a bit more when I go out there.”
Cummins, who has battled stress fractures in his back, wasn’t the first young fast bowler to be struck down with injury, and won’t be the last.
Now he feels both physically and mentally ready to take on England over a gruelling five-Test campaign.
“I probably wasn’t the first person to go through it. I felt like each summer I came back I was bowling relatively well. It was probably more frustrating that a career I really wanted to have, [that] I felt like I wasn’t too far away from, was probably on hold.
“I feel like I’m in a really different position to what I was the last few years. I’d play a couple of games and I got sore or didn’t really feel quite up to first-class cricket. Whereas here it feels like I play a game and all I have to think about is the next game coming up.
“I know Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee were similar. They missed a lot of cricket early in their careers. It probably gave me a little bit of confidence and a little bit of patience. Now I’m at the stage where I don’t have to worry about it. My body hasn’t been in the position where I can play all the time, where at the moment I feel like I am now.”
Cummins, 24, returned to the Test side in March. Those who have followed his career have long hoped to see him steam in at the Gabba, where fast bowlers can prosper should they find the balance between aggression and the right length.
It’s a venue that remains largely a mystery to Cummins, at least with a red ball. He remains wary of over-egging the aggression, despite being more than willing to be the aggressor for the n attack.
“We saw what Mitchell Johnson did last time in the Ashes over here. I would love to be that bowler, along with Starcy, who can run in and bowl in short spells flat out as fast as they can. That’s a role I would like to play,” Cummins said.
“I actually haven’t played too much at the Gabba. I’ve played a bit of white-ball cricket up there. It seems to be a really good wicket. If you bat well and get yourself in, they can find it pretty flat. Us quick, tall bowlers have had success over the years. Hopefully it’s bouncy and quick and helps us out.”
Now he’s in the box seat for an Ashes debut, Cummins won’t be content with a handful of Tests.
The man who battled to get on the park for years now wants to be an iron man across the five-Test series.
“I’ve never done it before. I’ve only ever played back-to back Tests. I feel like I’m in the best position I can be. But we’ll have to wait and see, there’s no guarantees. It’s a five-Test summer so hopefully we will all be available for all five.”