Pat Cummins isn’t Dennis Lillee’s fast-bowling equal – he’s actually much better
Ian Chappell recently wrote that Pat Cummins reminds him so much of his old team mate Dennis Lillee, in the way that Cummins is determined to get batters out.
There are many great attributes to Chappell as a cricket analyst,, but he couldn’t be more wrong on this one – Cummins is the far superior fast bowler.
Chappell was describing the dismissal of Pakistan’s Babar Azam by Cummins as something similar to how Lillee had ‘willed’ to bowl out Alan Knott at the Oval in 1972. However, Chappell is way off the mark if he thinks that makes Lille as great a bowler as Cummins.
The comparison fails at the first hurdle though, because Knott was a wicketkeeper/batter at number 7, not one of the great batters of his day like Azam is now.
Lillee didn’t enter Test cricket as a teenager like Cummins and then spend five years on the injury list (although he did spend two years out).
While both have similar records in taking roughly five wickets per Test at similar averages, Lillee played in the era of ‘home’ umpires rather than neutral umpires and DRS as has Cummins.
We all know the tales of umpiring in Australia from English players and others (Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan etc.), including photographic evidence showing run outs not given.
Chappell introduced sledging and it wasn’t restricted just to the opposition, Umpires, too, felt his wrath. Chappell’s Australia was a powerful machine and no doubt got the “benefit of the doubt” on many occasions. The ‘nick’ off the pads, the brush of the thigh pad down the leg side, the bouncer off the forearm all given out. One wonders how many such dodgy wickets Lillee bagged.
Cummins is playing in the area of neutral umpires and DRS and multiple cameras. His wickets are genuine, without doubt.
Lillee only took six wickets outside Australia ,England and New Zealand. He got injured in the West Indies in 1972/73 without taking a wicket in the first test and took three wickets in Pakistan and Sri Lanka each in four Tests. Sri Lanka would have been playing one of their first tests. Lillee liked ‘home comfort’ of green bowler friendly pitches and a pint or two in the evening.
You cannot claim greatness unless you have done the hard yards and shown success in all conditions. Here Cummins is way ahead, having been successful in Asian conditions with 31 wickets in 11 Tests against India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. This figure is comparable to the true greatest fast bowler of all time, Malcom Marshall.
By his own account Lillee was a nasty man too. Fiery in temperament who bet against his own team to lose a test, was openly hostile to his captain Kim Hughes and appeared to assault Pakistan’s Javed Miandad, not to mention the aluminium bat throwing incident. What umpire would want to be on the wrong side of such a man? Doubtless there are many more incidents that Chappell is privy to.
Cummins appears to be a model of integrity, clean living and polite, interested in human rights and the environment. Above all, Cummins is also captain of Australia and has moulded a team of what appeared to be ordinary first class players into world beaters.
It was Chappell himself who said that the sign of a good captain is how he manages an ordinary team. Anyone would be a winning captain if they had Ricky Ponting, the Waugh brothers, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
But it’s very different with Mitch Marsh, Travis Head and Alex Carey. Cummins has done exactly that, WINNING the ODI World Cup and World Test championship in the same year, as well as retaining the Ashes away under great pressure from England (well really, Ben Stokes) and keeping his cool with hostile English crowds and press.
It might be sacrilege to say that Cummins is Australia’s greatest ever fast bowler, but it’s necessary and well deserved, even if he stops after the Sydney Test.