Fast-bowling godfather Lillee sees signs of greatness in Cummins

The country’s greatest fast bowler, Dennis Lillee, has opened up on his role in the revival of Pat Cummins’ Test career and branded ‘s bowling quartet one of the best all-round attacks he had seen.
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Cummins, 24, is looking to crown an eye-catching first summer Test series at home by clinching the Ashes with in the third Test against England, starting at the WACA on Thursday.

Glory in Perth would cap a determined fightback from a succession of stress fractures in his back and other injuries that held him out of Test calculations for more than five years.

Lillee, a godfather to n fast bowlers, has played a part in that comeback, having previously helped Mitchell Johnson rediscover his best with ultimately spectacular results in the previous Ashes series in . As a mentor and coach to Cummins, the legendary figure assisted in re-modelling his bowling action, telling him that he could make up for lost time by going on to headline the n attack for another decade.

“I believe Pat is at the stage of his career where he could bowl on anything and bowl well,” Lillee told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

“The thing that I’ve noticed, and this is the thing with great fast bowlers … batsmen tend to not get onto them. They’ve always got something up their sleeve. They rarely get torn apart and they seem to sort of have this belief and ability to bowl well on any wicket to any batsman in any situation, and he has that.”

Cummins demonstrated he had the brains to match the brawn on even the flattest of tracks in India this year, and his ability to out-think a batsman and heap pressure on the opposition has continued in his first Ashes series.

If he lost any speed in the reshaping of his technique, Cummins has well and truly compensated for it elsewhere.

“That was part of the renovation … that he’d probably go backward in pace to get this slight remodelling,” Lillee said.

“But I said to him that the very, very good fast bowlers always come down in pace at some stage. You’ve got to learn some tricks and learn to be able to bowl a great length at any stage and then you vary it from there.

“Pat had to remodel his action to get it safer, and to do that you often slow down for a while.”

Lillee was first drawn to Cummins by watching his man-of-the-match performance on Test debut as a teenage tearaway against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2011.

Later, when Cummins was on the comeback trail from yet another fitness setback, he was recommended to Lillee by Johnson, who told him: “You’ve just got to see Dennis”.

Cummins took the advice, paid for his own airfare to Perth and accommodation there and flew over to begin an association that continues today.

“From an 18-year-old, when I first saw some highlights of him in South Africa … there are only half a dozen like this in the world who made me go ‘Wow’ when I’ve seen them bowl,” Lillee said.

“I felt quite proud that he asked me to help him, but let me tell you the hard work has been done by him. And much like Mitch Johnson and Brett Lee, the contact is always open and we’ve kept that going.

“When he was probably going through that frustrating period of a few years I said: ‘When you come back in again you’re just going to be a very young man with 10 years left.’ And that’s what he had to have in the back of his mind so he didn’t rush things.”

With Cummins thriving, now have a highly effective bowling unit – also featuring Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon – that is winning rave reviews and matches.

“It’s one of the best all-round attacks I’ve seen for many a day,” Lillee said. “Any of them could lead the attack, any of them could be first change and Nathan Lyon has turned into one of the best off-spinners we’ve seen.

“It’s a pretty potent attack. Any of them can take a bag of wickets. That’s rare.”




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