Indian paceman Zaheer Khan has found an unlikely ally in his war of words with Australian wicket-keeper Brad Haddin – the young and increasingly arrogant fast bowler, James Pattinson.
Haddin drew attention when he came out swinging blindly, in true style, at a press conference last week, hailing the Indian team as “fragile” and claiming they “break quicker than any team in the world”. Khan later responded by advising Haddin to focus on his cricket – both batting and wicket-keeping – rather than talking; a remark later described by several pundits as “salient”.
But Australian pace bowling tyro James Pattinson, from whom Haddin dropped what appeared to be a simple catch in the Sydney Test, has backed the loquacious Indian speedster’s comments and encouraged the Australian custodian to “get back to basics”, and “worry about his own game”. This support for India from within the Australian camp has helped restore relations between the two teams and provided a frank insight into the relationship between bowlers and wicket-keepers.
“Zaheer knows what it’s like to be a fast bowler, toiling away for your captain and your country, only to have a wicket-keeper or slips fielder put down a catch that my grandmother would have taken,” Pattinson told The Public Apology after several victory beers following the Third Test, in which he played no part.
“There is nothing more frustrating. I understand that not every player can be as gifted as me – and obviously Brad falls into that category – but at the same time he really needs to improve so that he can support the better players in the team, and start doing his job. I would be happier to read articles about him working hard on his catching, rather than sledging opposition players. Leave that to people like me who can back it up.”
Unperturbed by the embarrassed Cricket Australia officials rushing to gag him, Pattinson continued to speak frankly and without prompting about his rapid rise, at a specially convened press conference that he himself had organised. Tellingly, the 21-year-old moved to reassure his fans that his early success would not lead to complacency.
“I am confident, but not yet arrogant. I say not yet arrogant, because, for a player with my level of natural talent, coupled with the early success I have enjoyed, it is inevitable that over time my ego will grow to astronomical proportions. How long will it take? I can’t be sure. But one thing is for sure, James Pattinson is a superstar in the making, if not one already.”
Pattinson also shed some light on how he felt about the inevitable pressure of expectation that would come with his early success.
“I know people are comparing me to a young Glenn McGrath, but I feel embarrassed to be compared to such a great of the game,” he explained. “As we all know, I bowl much faster than he did, and swing it more. I can also bat better. So yeah, I just find those comparisons a little embarrassing.”
As the press conference drew to a close, Pattinson raised both arms over his head and, in an usual display of self-congratulation, appeared to high-five himself. He then strutted down from the podium, pausing only to snatch a screaming baby from its mother’s arms and sign his name on its forehead with a permanent marker that he produced deftly from his pocket.
And with that benevolent act completed, he was gone as quickly as Brad Haddin’s test career would be – were Tim Payne currently fit.
By Hugh Holden