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What makes Pat Cummins special?

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Pat Cummins ended 2019 as the world's highest Test wicket-taker with quite a big bridge between him and the next best. His 59 scalps were 16 wickets higher than Stuart Broad's 43, the next best in the list. That he has created opportunities to take so many wickets in a bowling attack that has extremely good bowlers shows his value in the Australian outfit in the red-ball cricket.

Cummins' teammates were equally brilliant in the year - Mitchell Starc with 42 wickets, Nathan Lyon with 41 wickets and Josh Hazlewood with 33 wickets all came in the top 10 Test bowlers for 2019. That Cummins still managed to edge ahead is testimony to his skills as a fast bowler in the longest format of the game.

Cummins' career is a resurrected one. He stormed into the scene in 2011, taking a six-fer in his debut Test against the best Test side in the world at the time, South Africa, in the most intimidating away ground in the world, Johannesburg.

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It took him six years to play Test cricket again as constant injuries meant he could never return to international cricket. When he did, it was least expected that Cummins would go on to succeed across conditions and incredibly consistently. His home and away record are almost exact in terms of average and his record across nations is simply brilliant.

Career Summary        
Host country Overs Wkts Avg Econ SR
in Australia 576.1 71 21.78 2.68 48.6
in Bangladesh 63 6 29 2.76 63
in England 211 29 19.62 2.69 43.6
in India 77 8 30.25 3.14 57.7
in South Africa 199.4 29 20.31 2.94 41.3
           
Host country Overs Wkts Avg Econ SR
Home 576.1 71 21.78 2.68 48.6
Away 550.4 72 21.86 2.85 45.8

"For me I'm always working on things, whether it's trying to get my seam a bit better or try to swing the ball a bit more, try to maintain pace, all those things. It's a constant battle of staying on top of plenty of things. But I've had a pretty good run lately so I can't see it getting too much better than what the last year's been, but hopefully, I can maintain that level," Cummins said last year in a chat with ESPNCricinfo. 

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The catch here is that Cummins isn't a regular Test seamer. The top of off concept doesn't quite suit him. He bangs the deck, thrives on pace, bounce and subtle seam movement. As such, the lbws and bowleds that generally define a bowler is minimal for Cummins. 

Of his 143 Test scalps, just seven are LBW and just 20 are bowled. A stunning 81.1% of dismissals are caught, a sign that Cummins' modus operandi as a pacer is quite different from regular pacers, yet brutally effective. And this the ability of intimidating batsmen with little talk and more action puts him on the path to greatness.

Year Overs Wkts Avg Econ SR
2011 44 7 16.71 2.65 37.7
2017 295.4 29 29.79 2.92 61.1
2018 314.1 44 19.97 2.79 42.8
2019 440 59 20.13 2.7 44.7
2020 33 4 18.25 2.21 49.5

Since his debut, he has gone at an average greater than 21 just once. In three of the five years he has played international cricket, Cummins averages less than 20 with the ball. Barring an aberration in 2017, the year he returned to Test cricket after a six-year break, Cummins' bowling has been breathtaking. 

That he thrives in a rather unique template across conditions in the same format and yet succeeds shows why he is invaluable in Test cricket and well on his path to finish as one of the game's greatest.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / William West

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