Thursday, 30 November, 2023

Cummins named Australia Test captain

Cummins (left) and Smith will spearhead Australia's attempt to retain the Ashes

Nov. 26: Australia have made 28-year-old fast bowler Pat Cummins their Test captain for the Ashes, with former skipper Steve Smith as his deputy.

Tim Paine, 36, stepped down as captain on Friday over a historical investigation into sexually explicit texts to a female colleague.

Smith was sacked as captain in 2018 for his part in illegal ball-tampering.

"I am honoured to accept this role ahead of what will be a massive Ashes summer," said Cummins.

"I hope I can provide the same leadership Tim has given the group in the past few years.

"With Steve and I as captains, a number of very senior players in this squad and some great young talent coming through we are a strong and tightly-knit group."

The Ashes series begins on 8 December.

Cummins is only the second specialist fast bowler to lead Australia in Tests after Ray Lindwall's solitary Test in charge in India in 1956. He is the first bowler of any kind to hold the role since Richie Benaud in 1964.

He admitted there would be added scrutiny about the position after the controversial departures of his two predecessors.

"When it comes to moral character, I am my own harshest judge," he added. "I am not perfect and there will be things that pop up, but as long as I can sleep at night, I am really comfortable with the rest of that."

The promotion of Smith marks a return to a leadership position after being banned from the sport for a year and from any Australia leadership role for two for his part in tampering with the ball during an ill-tempered series against South Africa in 2018.

The incident drew condemnation from around the world with Australia's then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull saying it "shocked and bitterly disappointed" him.

Cricket Australia's ban on Smith holding a leadership position expired in March 2020 and the 32-year-old has captained Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League since being removed from his post.

"I am a more rounded individual [than in 2018] and in turn, that's turned me into a better leader," said Smith. Cummins added on Twitter that he was "very lucky to have my man Steve Smith alongside me as VC".

Cummins is currently the world number one Test bowler in the International Cricket Council rankings.

He has taken 164 wickets in 34 Tests at an average of 21.59, with five five-wicket hauls.

Cummins made his Test debut against South Africa aged 18 in 2011 but had to wait six years for his next appearance because of various injuries, including repeated stress fractures in his back.

He returned against India in March 2017 and has been an impressive and reliable part of Australia's attack since, aside from missing a tour of the United Arab Emirates to face Pakistan in 2018 with a back injury.

He has taken the most wickets in the two most recent Ashes series - 23 in Australia in 2017-18 when the hosts won 4-0 to regain the Ashes and 29 in England in 2019 when his side drew 2-2 to retain the urn.

In each of those series, Cummins was part of an intimidating pace attack, alongside Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood both times and also James Pattinson in 2019.

Pattinson retired from international cricket last month, but both Starc and Hazlewood are in the 2021-22 squad, although they are expected to rotate, with fast bowler Jhye Richardson and seamer Michael Neser also selected.

As captain, Cummins is likely to play all five Tests, over just 42 days.

Cummins was also a key part of the Australia side that won the recent T20 World Cup under limited-overs captain Aaron Finch.