The story behind Pat Cummins’ finger
While Pat Cummins being one of the best bowlers in the world, is well-known, what some still do not know is that the pacer has an unusually short finger. Despite the deformity, he reached the top echelon of cricket. There is this very famous story about Pat Cummins’ finger and how he lost it, but that came as a blessing as he is able to swing the ball better.
When he was about three years old, Pat Cummins lost part of his middle finger on the right hand – about a centimetre – after it got slammed in a door. It was his sister who slammed the door on his fingers, and in a 2011 interview, the bowler revealed that the incident still brings tears to her eyes.
So how exactly did the incident happen? Cummins was given five lollipops by a family friend to be distributed equally between him and his four siblings on his way home from pre-school. His sister, Laura, was in the washroom when he reached home, but he was too excited about sharing the lollipop with her, which is why he wanted to pass it to her while she was still inside. Baby Cummins opened the washroom door to give the lollipop, and his sister, uncomfortable with the obtrusion, immediately rammed it, unaware that her brother’s fingers would get stuck. The top part of the injured finger was severely damaged and had to be permanently removed surgically.
A blessing behind all the pain?
The middle finger plays a significant role in generating outswing for fast bowlers. How, then, does Cummins do his job so well? Former Australia bowler Brett Lee had once analysed this. Lee, talking about Cummins’ affected finger, had said that a slightly shorter middle finger is an advantage and not a setback, because “The two fingers are the exact same length, which may aid the ball coming out of the fingers with a nice seam position.”
Cummins had himself said that the shorter finger doesn’t affect him much because it is about the same length as the index finger. In an interview with Cricket Monthly, he explained, “I don’t think it affects pace. I’d say it affects seam release, but I don’t really know. For just about every right-hand bowler, the middle finger is the last finger that comes off the ball, whereas, for me, it’s my forefinger that comes off the ball last, which is probably more of a natural inswinger than an outswinger.”
Moreover, Cummins learned bowling with the missing fingertip right from the start, thus becoming habituated.
An 18-year-old Cummins bagged seven wickets in his debut Test match, which was proof that the finger didn’t have any effect on his bowling. However, several injuries in his career have made him sit out more than he would have liked to. The frequent injuries made Cummins pursue a Bachelor of Business degree in marketing while being a centrally contracted cricketer. Studying helped him distract from the injuries that would keep piling up.
Early in his career, Cummins suffered a series of stress fractures, which meant that after his Test debut in 2011, when he became the youngest Australian to make his Test debut in 58 years, and also youngest the Australian bowler to take five wickets in an innings, he had to wait for another six years to play Test cricket again. The gap between Cummins’ first and second Test is 1,946 days.
He eventually rose to become ICC’s top-ranked Test bowler, a position he still holds. Cummins recently was named captain of the Australian Test team and will lead his side in the first Ashes Test.
Pat Cummins’ international career
In only 34 Test matches, the pacer has 164 wickets – this includes 12 four-wicket hauls, 5 five-wicket hauls and a 10-wicket haul. Among a list of his records in Test cricket, the most prominent ones are –
- He is the sixth-youngest player to take a five-wicket haul in an innings. Cummins was 18 years and 193 days old when he achieved the feat. The list is headed by Pakistan’s Nasim-ul-Ghani, who did it at the age of 16 years and 303 days.
- He is the 10th fastest to 150 wickets. Cummins reached the mark in his 31st game. On top of the list is England’s Sydney Barne’s, who did it in 24 games.
Cummins has been impressive in the limited-overs formats too. He has 111 wickets in 69 ODIs at an economy of 5.25 and 42 wickets in 37 T20Is at an economy of 7.01. He also became the Indian Premier League’s most expensive signing in 2020 when Kolkata Knight Riders picked him for Rs 15.5 crores.