Why injury-hit Cummins never stopped believing
FOR six years, Pat Cummins looked like he would never fulfil his cricketing destiny.
One crushing injury blow after the next made the prospect of the fast-bowling prodigy playing a Test match on home soil almost impossible to imagine.
When the landmark moment finally arrived at the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba last summer, up in the stands Cummins' mother, Maria, was overcome with emotion - not from what she could see with her own eyes.
Rather, it was from what the stranger sitting next to her could not.
As she watched her son charge into bowl for his country for the first time, she listened in on the action being described in vivid detail by a blind man beside her who was commentating the action to himself.
For most, Cummins' extraordinary comeback from chronic injury setbacks would be theatre enough in his debut match.
But for his mother, listening to this visually impaired man trying to imagine, through sounds from the field, her son running at full stretch into bowl - a scene she had seen replayed over and over in her own backyard as young Pat developed his talent, the moment overcame her.
"He has been going for years and just listens to the sound of cricket," Pat Cummins says.
"He visualises through what he hears and he was explaining my bowling action to mum and dad.
"He said, 'Cummins, he's a strong build, he runs in hard and bowls fast. I like his action.'
"It was just a totally different outlook on people and how much cricket means to them and how someone could find a passion in cricket even if they can't see.
"I think it made mum pretty emotional."
It took the sandpaper furore to open the eyes of an Australian cricket team trapped in its own bubble and understand the true worth of this game to the nation. But Cummins, 25, is a rare breed of sporting star who has kept his sense of perspective.
He might have been the highest-paid university student in Australia, but completing a Bachelor of Business and Marketing during his years of injury hell set him on the path to being a well-rounded cricketer.
It's no surprise Cricket Australia have featured Cummins as a chief character in their marketing and advertising since Sandpapergate.
Even with his grounding, Cummins admits his endless run of injuries after his stunning Test debut as a teenager in South Africa in 2011 was mentally challenging.
But he never stopped believing he was good enough for Test level and believes he's better for the experiences he's been forced to overcome.
"Possibly by accident … it gave me a closer interaction to what the real world is," Cummins said.
"Injuries definitely gave me that balance between playing in front of 100,000 people, but then also going in and studying and having your head in the textbook like a lot of other people my age.
"Mum and dad were great making sure I kept doing study … and Cricket Australia really instilled a confidence in me that the future is going to be okay so be really patient with cricket and try and make myself as well-rounded as possible in the meantime."
Cummins was part of Australia's World Cup winning squad back in 2015, but was dropped for the quarter-final and watched from the sidelines when the trophy was ultimately lifted at the MCG.
Looking back Cummins has no regrets and doesn't feel as though he let a golden opportunity slip. But he will launch into the one-day series against South Africa determined to set himself up to spearhead Australia's defence at next year's World Cup in the UK.
"I feel like a lot different and better bowler now especially in one-day cricket," says Cummins.
"It felt like it took me a while to find the tempo of one-day cricket. It's not the all-out attack of T20 and it's not the slow burn of Test cricket."
If Cummins has learnt anything from his rollercoaster ride in Test cricket, it's to not take anything for granted.
Every injury setback has left a scar and Cummins wants to make his personal pain count for something.
"The one thing I couldn't control was my body. In some ways, it was even harder to take that. When I was injured, I was basically waiting to get older.
"Each time I came back, it was harder to cope because I'd had longer away and it just pushed back to the second start to my career (in India 2017).
"The last year or two, when I haven't had to think about my body as much, has been liberating."
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