Posted by: tootingtrumpet | November 23, 2011

Debutants having a ball

Keep your head screwed on Son.

Patrick Cummins’ outrageous performance on debut in an outrageous Test immediately following an outrageous Test in an outrageously short series – yes, enough outrage, I know – set me reflecting on other glorious debuts and what became of the cricketers as fate worked its subtle and often cruel magic.

Back in 1972, I can remember the shock amongst cricket’s cognoscenti at Bob Massie running through England, not once, but twice at Lord’s with 8-84 and then 8-53 in a very shiny red pair of whites that invited comment. The ball swung round corners with Massie getting into England’s heads and that was that. That was almost that for Massie too, as swing, ever a capricious mistress, deserted him and his last Test was just six months later, as Lillee and Thommo and the era of pure pace hoved into view. England were to go over twenty years before another Australian got into their heads in an Ashes debut, and he stayed there for 14 years – if he’s ever really left.

If swing is capricious, wrist spin is, appropriately, more flighty, tremendous fun when everything is going well and more trouble than it’s worth when it’s not. Narendra Hirwani did a Massie in gathering eight wickets in each innings on debut – a teenage debut too Mr Cummins – against a mighty, if impatient, late 80s West Indies line-up. He played 12 Tests in three years, but Anil Kumble kept him out until a brief return in the mid-90s and Hirwani was gone from Test cricket aged just 28.

Did I mention Jason Krejza? Maybe I shouldn’t – the Aussie selectors don’t.

Amongst batsmen, Frank Hayes excited Lancashire fans with an unbeaten century on debut taken off a West Indies bowling unit about to be transformed by Clive Lloyd. Alas, it was not to be and, like Neil Fairbrother a generation later, Hayes was given plenty of chances, but never delivered on his youthful promise. Fortunately, England didn’t have to wait long before another elegant, blond, middle-order bat announced himself with a pull shot to the fence from his first ball in Test cricket – and he hung around to score 8227 more.

In the ongoing nervous breakdown that was England vs Australia in the 90s, four debutants were awarded their caps in one match in 1993 (except they weren’t in those days – they were probably told to sign for them in triplicate, advised of local dry cleaners who could do them a price and told that the caps would be available from 10.00am on Thursday morning in the Committee Room – if you don’t mind the cigar smoke). I recall watching Graham Thorpe go to his century whilst in a pub enjoying a lunchtime pint or half-dozen and thinking “He’s going to be some player.” I don’t recall anything of the three other new men, Martin McCague, Mark Ilott and Mark Lathwell and, sadly, outside a few cricket tragics (you know who you are) and the unfortunate trio’s immediate families, neither does anyone else.

So Mr Cummins, you may be on top of the world right now and rightly so, but a debut to remember does not portend a career to remember, though it might and, in your case, I suspect it will.



  1. True…anyone who can bring back raw pace to international cricket has to be managed very carefully…

  2. I don’t think it’s his head so much as his action that might bring him to ground. Looks a bit awkward to last well.

  3. Read an interesting stat today

    “That was the 26th time a team has chased 300 or more to win a test, Aussies extended their lead in such chases. Australia have achieved it 9 times now the next best is west indies with 5. Although we have also failed to defend 300+ 7 times So of the 26 300+ results we have been involved in 16, doesn’t always go our way but Australian cricket certainly isn’t dull”.

    • I love Aussies’ willingness to risk defeat to force the win – why else play the game?

  4. What ARE 18 year olds like today! Well they could be a different breed. Potential, injury looks to be Cummins’ only worry. But they make them tough and well fed today. A great willing heart. And, as Lolly may be hinting, it was interesting to see that he has rejected or not allowed himself to be boxed in to the perfectly straight run in advocated by coaches terrified by ‘mixed actions’.
    Toots – you mentioned him as being ‘on top of the world’ – strange coincidence: another metaphor:

  5. True re the injuries and his action is a lot like Chris Tremlett’s and he had a lot of injuries when young. CA will have to watch him like a hawk – he is a huge asset and will pull in crowds as well as win matches.

  6. Only Injury can stop Cummins. He is from the right state afterall.

  7. Caution in the wake of such an outrageous debut is prudent and of some reassurance to England Test fans. What I can’t get over is how little senior cricket Cummins has played. No time to accumulate nous, or the 40,000 hours (?) of practice advocated by Tim Gladwell in ‘Outliers’. Being a conventional right-arm quick, bowling outswing, Cummins doesn’t even have the element of mystery that, say, Paul Adams capitalised upon when he broke through. Outrageous may become routine.

    • Outswing at 140kph is mysterious enough!

      Cummins is a throwback to the days when players went from Grade cricket to Test cricket in weeks.

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