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Why Pat is so good!

Updated on: 06 January,2024 05:55 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ian Chappell |

I liken skipper-pacer Cummins to the great Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee in both inspirational qualities and heart size. Lillee wanted to get batsmen out and have their number

Why Pat is so good!

Australia’s Pat Cummins celebrates the wicket of Imam-ul-Haq during Day Four of the second Test against Pakistan in Melbourne last week

Ian ChappellAs Australian captain Pat Cummins cleverly dissected the Pakistan batting line-up to bring his team a tough victory in the second Test, I thought, “What does it take to amass Test victims—lots of them?” I liken Cummins to the great former Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee in both inspirational qualities and heart size. Lillee wanted to get batsmen out, to have their number. Lillee says,“Fast bowling is a mental job as well as a physical one.”


Mental side of things


At the top of his mark, Lillee envisioned the ball flying through to ‘keeper Rod Marsh taking the delivery at head height standing back. That’s what Lillee means when he talks about the mental side of fast bowling. The spectacular delivery that Cummins produced to bowl Pakistan’s Babar Azam—dismissing the opposition’s best batsman once again—reminded me of Lillee’s greatness.


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Australia’s Dennis Lillee during the Leeds Test against England on July 19, 1981. Pics/Getty Images
Australia’s Dennis Lillee during the Leeds Test against England on July 19, 1981. Pics/Getty Images

At the Oval in 1972, a firmly entrenched England wicketkeeper Alan Knott was displaying exceptional grit and determination. When England’s ninth second innings wicket fell for 356 we gathered to congratulate bowler Ashley Mallett. Lillee was having none of it and bellowed, “We can’t let these bastards score any more runs.” At that stage, England led by 241. Lillee then bowled the obstinate Knott for a well compiled 63, leaving Australia to chase 242 for a famous victory.

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That Knott dismissal

Lillee didn’t bowl Knott with pure pace—the delivery was nowhere near his fastest. Nor did Lillee beat the bat with movement—the pitch by then was devoid of any green tinge. Lillee bowled Knott with sheer will power—he wanted the batsman out.

Like Lillee, Cummins wanted Babar out. It’s terrific to bowl a top-class batsman but you also have to rely on the fielders taking catches. A good slip fielder’s job is to catch the standard ones and occasionally add a blinder to his resume. An excellent slip fielder should pouch around 90 per cent of the catches that come his way.

Pakistan were never noted for their slip catching. I recall saying on commentary, “Inzamam-ul-Haq isn’t at first slip because he’s their best catcher.” That same expression applies to current Pakistan first-slip fielder Abdullah Shafique who has grassed eminently catchable chances in both Tests.

Then there is slip placement. If you are fortunate to have an excellent ‘keeper like Marsh who had the widest range—both left and right—of any gloveman I saw standing back, then the slips can cover a lot of territory. That isn’t the case in Australia with Pakistan or many other international teams.

At one point in their career the excellent Pakistan pace duo Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis had claimed 60 per cent of their Test and ODI wickets bowled or lbw. That’s an outrageously high figure and suggests the two fast bowlers knew not to trust their own fielders.

With the great improvement in modern bats it’s not so much how you bowl—Test bowlers are skilful—but how you perform when a good batsman is attacking. That’s when the best bowlers come to the fore. It’s also when you need every bit of the mental fortitude that Lillee speaks about and Cummins exudes.

Occasionally I hear, “Adhere to the process and don’t worry too much about the actual consequences.” Well, in Pakistan’s case they beat the edge of the bat regularly at the MCG but also seemingly with resignation. And catches kept going down—chances that should’ve been taken and could’ve been crucial to the end result because Pakistan had Australia four down and were back in contention.

Lillee’s iron will

Wickets are important—just ask Cummins. One of Lillee’s great traits was that a batsman had to overcome his enormous skill first, which was no easy feat. However, if he achieved that difficult task he still had to outlast his iron will which took a monumental effort.

On those hot, demanding days give me a Lillee or a Cummins style character who cares only about not giving in and of taking wickets rather than how the process feels. That’s why great fast bowlers like Lillee and Cummins are a captain’s dream and a batsman’s nightmare.

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