James Pattinson has vowed he won’t tone down his aggression upon his return to the Test team, despite his recent suspension for a on-field slur.
Pattinson was banned from the summer Test opener against Pakistan after a Sheffield Shield match sledge last month, but returns to try and put the heat on New Zealand in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
The 29-year-old returns to his home ground for the first time since 2015 and for his 20th Test.
“I think I’ll just play cricket the way I know how to,” Pattinson said.
“I suppose if that’s pushing the line, it’s pushing the line.
“When you go through setbacks like that and get suspended you have to think about that a little bit more.
“But I think I get the best out of my cricket when I’m getting out there and going 100 per cent.
I’m not going to hold back. Obviously there’s a line and sometimes you cross it. If you look back on it, you learn from those mistakes and you try to address them.’’
The right-armer only returned to Sheffield Shield cricket for Victoria last November after a 15-month battle with stress fractures in his back.
He forced his way into the Ashes squad for his first Test in three years, and took five wickets at 33.40.
However, he then faced a tough battle to get into the Test side for the home summer, with Mitchell Starc in form.
The suspension was another hurdle, and Pattinson conceded there have been times when he thought his Test career might have been over.
Josh Hazlewood’s hamstring injury has opened the door.
“I’ve been hungry my whole career and it’s no different now,” Pattinson said.
“Even with a lot of setbacks, the hunger’s always been there.
“It’s always special on Boxing Day and being a Victorian makes it even more special.”
The Trans-Tasman Trophy has so far shaped as a battle of the quicks and teammate David Warner backed Pattinson to bring the firepower required to continue Australia’s pace assault alongside Starc and Pat Cummins.
“He is a fierce competitor,” Warner said.
“He’s got a lot of up and go about him. That’s what we love. He’s been like that since day one, even when he made his debut.
“I know he does (bring the fear factor) to us in the nets.
“He’s well spoken high of, especially the guys who have played against him in county cricket. He puts the ball in the right areas and on the right length.”
New Zealand has gone for a change by bringing in all-rounder Tom Blundell to replace Jeet Raval despite him having no first-class experience as an opener.
Blundell has only played two Test matches – both in 2017 – but made an unbeaten 107 on debut when batting at No.8 against the West Indies.
Black Caps’ Tom Latham said he was confident the 29-year-old could deliver after an unbeaten half-century in a practice match against a Victorian XI on Sunday.
“Tom’s a quality player. He’s only played a couple of Tests but he’s got a lot of first-class experience behind him and he played beautifully yesterday, so hopefully that will give him some confidence,” Latham said.
Blundell normally keeps wicket. But with BJ Watling in the team, he will play purely as a batsman.
The two Toms have followed similar pathways.
Latham has been a wicketkeeper at provincial level and in limited-overs internationals, while establishing himself as an accomplished Test opener over the past four years.
Even though Blundell has not opened in 55 first-class games, Latham believed his new partner had the temperament and technique to perform there.
“I think from a ‘keeping point of view, he usually bats in the middle order and he probably faces the new ball at some point as well. But it’s obviously going to be at the start of the innings,” Latham said.
“So he’s a guy we’ve had in our squad for a long time, the last couple of years, and he’s a quality player.”
Latham backed his fellow batsmen to find form in Melbourne and said New Zealand would relish fast bowler Trent Boult’s presence in the spearhead’s return from a side strain.
“It’s great to have the quality of Trent come back into the side,” he said.
“I think we’re lucky – we’ve got a decent amount of bowling stocks at the moment and the guys that can come and replace him are good.
“But to have a world-class bowler come back into our team, it’s obviously great for the side and hopefully we’ll see Trent back at his best as usual.”