Earlier this year the fast bowler had been planning for the Ashes but lockdown and injuries changed it all
“The amount of work I have to put into my body to get ready to bowl at 100% for 40 overs is a lot of hard work and it started to wear thin a little bit,” he said. “I’d had a really clear plan to get as fit as I possibly could and do a lot of things to give the Ashes a crack and wasn’t able to that.
“I didn’t really want to go into something as big as that with doubts, so made the decision and in a little way it’s a relief because I’ve only ever known trying to play cricket for Australia since I was 20. There were times when I was getting pretty emotional with how sore I was but since I’ve backed it off my body is feeling pretty good. I will relax be a bit, not bust myself to play cricket.”
While Pattinson said he did not rush into the retirement call and had been considering it for “some time” an indication of how things changed over a few months was evident when he said he had been part of discussions with the Australia set-up about how the fast bowlers could be managed through the Ashes. His fellow fast bowlers were certainly hoping to have him around.
“I’m pretty close with Pat Cummins, probably one of my closest mates in the team, and I rang him before I did it and he said ‘is there any way I can convince you to stay?’,” Pattinson said. “I said, ‘to be honest I’ve made the decision and I’m relieved’, then he was just supportive of it and everyone else was as well. It’s nice people want you around, but it’s a decision I made with my family. It’s nice to feel like you’ll be missed.”
Pattinson finishes with 21 Tests to his name. He would dearly have liked to have had more, but leaves the top level content with his performances.
“You can say I should probably have played more Tests but I’m thankful to just have the opportunity to represent my country and I’d like to think every time I went out that I gave everything,” he said. “I’ve broken my back about seven times to try and play for Australia so that’s the toll it takes and there comes a point where you try and push and you can’t push anymore. I probably wouldn’t change a thing, it’s been an amazing journey and now I can move on to the next stage and enjoy that as well.”
While he has few regrets, Pattinson conceded the amount of Test bowling he did as a youngster – making his debut after nine first-class matches – probably compounded his injuries and he believes lessons have been learnt particularly with how Cummins has been handled. He twice bowled more than 50 overs in a match during his career and both came in Tests – against South Africa at Brisbane in 2012 and England at Trent Bridge in 2013 – subsequently breaking down shortly. In 2017 he underwent major back surgery and was able to return for the 2019 Ashes.
“I was put in the position where I was probably a little ahead of my body, being thrown into the Test arena and doing well. Went from not playing to being the lead bowler in four or five Tests. That was the hardest thing, obviously my body wasn’t ready that. It has probably contributed to my back being the way it is.”
Cummins made his Test debut at the age of 18 a couple of weeks before Pattinson but did not play the format again for six years. “They’ve changed the way they manage players a bit now,” Pattinson said. “The way they’ve handled Pat Cummins is probably the blueprint for how you handle your bowlers. What they did for him is fantastic.”
If Pattinson’s body can withstand the workloads in domestic cricket at the lesser intensity than the international game, he won’t be short of playing opportunities. He returns to the field on Friday against New South Wales and then hopes to play a full BBL season for Melbourne Renegades. He will then join Nottinghamshire as an overseas player – although he has a British passport – before returning to Australia for the 2022-23 season.
There is, however, one thing he is adamant won’t be happening. “I won’t be playing for England, that’s for sure.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo