Selectors pull selection shock ahead of third Test
CRICKET: The most anticipated sequel in Australian Test history has finally arrived.
An incredible 1946 days after Pat Cummins shocked the world in his one and only Test match, the fast bowler is back to spearhead Australia again in a Bollywood blockbuster of series-defining proportions.
Australia cannot possibly secure the Border Gavaskar trophy in the third Test starting in Ranchi on Thursday without the influence of a devastating strike weapon, and with No.1 man Mitchell Starc on a plane home, Cummins arrives in a time of need holding the key to the history-defying mission in India.
"You always have to have someone who is a spearhead quick and that's always been the Australian approach," vice-captain David Warner said.
"We know he's go that firepower."
For five and a half years Cummins' man-of-the-match seven-wicket haul on debut in South Africa as a fresh-faced teenager has lingered as the biggest tease in Australian sport.
The freakish talent, earmarked for greatness right from the very moment he engineered that famous win in Johannesburg, had no idea that a heel injury he picked up in that match was to prompt a seemingly never-ending cycle of crushing injury setbacks.
"I pulled up a little bit sore after the game the other day but it's nothing too dramatic and it's not going to leave me out," Cummins said at the time.
No one could have believed a supposedly minor injury could escalate into an agonising saga that began so long ago Warner was yet to even play a single Test, let alone the likes of Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
There was a false start on the 2015 Ashes series when Cummins looked set to play the fifth Test at The Oval only for veteran Peter Siddle to get the nod.
Even on Thursday in Ranchi, the Australian hierarchy will be holding their breath, desperately hoping they haven't rushed the 23-year-old back too soon with only one Sheffield Shield game - albeit a storming return for NSW last week - under his belt in six seasons.
Starc showed in Pune and Bangalore that bone-rattling pace can spark mass collapses in the Indian batting order, and Virat Kohli's men are about to find out the hard way that the years have done nothing to slow down the 150km/h boy wonder, Pat Cummins.
"We know he brings the pace and the consistency," Warner said.
"Congratulations to Pat. It's been a long time and he's been working his backside off to get his body right for one.
"I'm really excited for him."
Cummins has arrived in Ranchi with new all-rounder Marcus Stoinis. They will link with the rest of their teammates when they arrive from Bangalore today.
Jackson Bird is also in the squad but it's almost certain Cummins will get the nod provided he gets through Australia's main sessions without complications.