When Ben Cutting was named 12th man for the first Test against New Zealand in the summer of 2011, the Queensland fast bowler thought he had finally bashed down the door.
At that stage, Cutting was arguably the form fast bowler in the country, shredding Sheffield Shield line-ups and a strong bet to earn a baggy green on his home deck at the Gabba.
It wasn’t to be. Selectors elected to give the nod to Mitchell Starc, the left-armer who has blossomed to become a key member of Australia’s musical chairs fast-bowling platoon across multiple forms of the game.
Cutting was left to return to the Shield competition, but even that went sour. He suffered a side strain in his next first-class game, ensuring he missed the bulk of the season, before a back issue sent him home early from the Australia A tour of England in July.
It has taken more than a year for Cutting, the 25-year-old from Brisbane with a fearsome bouncer and a tonker’s lust for runs down the order, to return to the national selection frame.
He’s cracked it again after being named in the one-day squad to play Sri Lanka, with the first match in Melbourne on Friday. Given his best form has been in four-day and T20 cricket, it’s a curious path back to say the least, but Cutting is taking whatever chances he can get.
“Just walking out on the Gabba now, it seems like a long time ago, that first Test here when I was 12th man. I’ve had a long road of injuries and what-not since then so it’s nice to be recognised,” Cutting said.
“A lot of my success for Queensland has come in Shield cricket, with the odd decent performance in one-day cricket here and there. I certainly didn’t think my first opportunity to play for Australia would be in the one-day format.”
Cutting’s best work has come in other forms but there’s a great deal to like about the package he brings to the 50-over game. He doesn’t bring a bag of tricks with the ball but has genuine pace, old-fashioned aggression and one of the best short balls in the business.
To add to that, he’s got a terrific eye with the bat, scoring 348 runs in five Shield matches and contributing handily with the willow for the Brisbane Heat when given the chance from number seven.
Cutting scored a Shield century before Christmas and has managed to improve his batting with the radical technique of completely neglecting it at training.
“I’ve been doing bugger all work on my batting to be honest. I didn’t do a hell of a lot during the off season and I certainly haven’t been doing too much during the summer. I’m not a big one for having a hit in the nets at training, or bowling machines and things like that,” Cutting said.
“I had a think over the summer about my batting and how I was getting out, what I needed to change. I wanted to nail that all-rounder spot for the Bulls. A lot of it was mental, with false shots. I had the basics there but it was all in the mind. That’s one thing I’ve changed anyway.”
As Australian cricket bosses try to reduce the workload on their fast bowlers, Cutting is a throwback to an era when the more bowlers bowled, the better they played. He’s been pounding the nets ‘just in case’ of a Test opening but now gets his chance in the 50-over format.
“I’ve been bowling a hell of a lot in the nets to keep my workload up, just in case there’s an opportunity in a Test match here and there. I think that’s paid off in the T20s. The more I bowl, the better I bowl. I’m just trying to keep that going,” Cutting said.
One of Cutting’s best quirks is his knack of imagining a thumping techno song in his head as he runs in to bowl. It has helped cure his no-ball yips and he’s hoping to debut a new tune or two in the ODIs.
“I’ll have to do some downloading to see what I can come up with.”
Cutting has taken 22 wicket at 18.8 in Shield cricket this season. He has five wickets in four Ryobi Cup games at 48 and six BBL wickets at 26, with best figures of 1-12.