Cummins tasked with healing Australia after time of Paine
Fast bowler Pat Cummins was confirmed as Australia’s 47th Test captain on Friday, tasked with galvanising the team at short order before the Ashes amid the fall-out from Tim Paine’s resignation and decision to take a break from cricket. Cummins will be supported by new vice-captain Steve Smith.
As former skipper Paine›s vice-captain, Cummins was considered a shoo-in to replace the wicketkeeper, who on Friday stepped away from all cricket to take a ‘mental health break’ after damaging revelations of a ‹sexting› scandal. However, the appointment is still remarkable given that Australia has almost always favoured batsmen as captains.
Cummins becomes only the second fast bowler to captain the side after Ray Lindwall, who led for one Test against India in the mid-1950s.
«There›s a couple of more unknowns about having a bowling captain and that›s why I think from the outset I was absolutely determined if I was captain to have someone like Steve as vice-captain next to me,» Cummins told reporters from the team›s Gold Coast base.
Popular, telegenic and amiable in public, Cummins becomes captain a decade after his sensational Test debut as an 18-year-old, when he took a seven-wicket match haul at the Wanderers to help beat South Africa. He had to wait nearly six years for his next Test due to injuries but now tops the world›s Test bowling rankings.
The appointment of Cummins was hailed by former players and pundits, but Smith›s promotion, coming three years after ‹Sandpaper-gate›, did not sit well with some. Former spinner Shane Warne was completely opposed to Smith›s promotion, saying it would invite ridicule.
«We need to go into the Ashes now with a clean slate, not open up old wounds,» Warne wrote in a column for News Corp.
One of the duo›s first tasks will be to help selectors pick a wicketkeeper before the Ashes opener in Brisbane on 8 Dec. The uncapped duo of Alex Carey and Josh Inglis, along with Matthew Wade, have been touted as potential replacements for Paine.
While taking the captaincy quicker than planned, Cummins has served something of an apprenticeship as New South Wales skipper in the domestic one-day competition.