INJURED young gun Pat Cummins has all but pulled the pin on playing for Australia this summer, but has earmarked a possible return for next month's tour of the Caribbean.
The 18-year-old paceman is planning to resume bowling in the next fortnight, but it will be another three or four weeks before he reaches top speed.
That means he will be at long odds to don the green and gold towards the end of the tri-series against India and Sri Lanka, but he is in the frame for the first ODI of the West Indies tour on March 16.
Cummins, however, will be limited in match practice. He is unlikely to be available for the final match of NSW's limited-overs campaign nor will he have the conditioning required to last four days of a Sheffield Shield game.
Cummins said he was aiming to make a comeback to competitive cricket in a first-grade game for Penrith this month, or early next month, but will otherwise largely rely on net form to convince national selectors of his fitness for one-day cricket in the Caribbean.
The selectors, however, will be wary of rushing the prized youngster back and risking another injury, especially after Australia's pace attack destroyed India's star-studded batting line-up.
''The main thing everyone has said is don't rush and try and race back for something, and then end up doing it again and you're out for another three months,'' Cummins said. ''It's a bit out of everyone's hands … Just playing it by ear and, when it's ready, it's ready. I'd love to be on that West Indies tour.''
Cricket Australia's medical staff thought in December that Cummins could resume bowling in mid-January, but his recovery has been unpredictable.
There has, however, been positive news for Cummins in the past fortnight. He has been able to jog in 50-metre intervals and complete zigzag runs without any ill effects for the first time since breaking down on Test debut in South Africa in November.
''It's short distance but it's not sprinting - start off as a slow jog building up to a brisk jog,'' Cummins said. ''I've done about four or five runs now and it's pulled up brilliantly the next day. It's pain-free every run, and the next day it's not swollen, so it's good signs.''
The next phase of Cummins's recovery will see him bowling without a ball, which is designed to help his foot adjust to the bowling action, then ''hopefully get the ball in the hand in the next two weeks or so''.
''[It] probably takes another three or four weeks to build up to game practice,'' Cummins said. ''After that four weeks, hopefully 10 overs should be right for one-day cricket. I think the Tests are about another month after that.''