Cummins named Australia Test captain as Ashes beckon

By: AFP      Published: 09:25 AM, 26 Nov, 2021
Cummins named Australia Test captain as Ashes beckon
File photo of Pat Cummins

Australia named paceman Pat Cummins as their Test cricket captain and Steve Smith as vice-captain Friday after a sexting scandal led Tim Paine to resign last week, just ahead of the Ashes.

"Pat is an outstanding player and leader -- he has earned enormous respect from his teammates and from all corners of the game for his attitude and achievements, both on and off the field," Cricket Australia chief Nick Hockley said in a statement.

Cummins becomes the 47th captain of the Australian men's Test team while Smith returns to a key leadership role, having been forced to stand down as skipper for his part in the "Sandpaper-gate" ball-tampering scandal of 2018.

"I am honoured to accept this role ahead of what will be a massive Ashes summer," Cummins, 28, said in the CA statement, with the first Test against old rivals England starting on December 8.

"I hope I can provide the same leadership Tim (Paine) 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."

Earlier Friday, Cricket Tasmania said that Paine would leave all forms of the game for the "foreseeable future".

The Tasmanian wicketkeeper quit as Test captain a week ago over the public revelation of an exchange of allegedly sexually graphic text messages with a female colleague in 2017.

'Excellent cricketing brain'

Pat Cummins is widely regarded as an all-round nice guy with an excellent cricketing brain, doggedly overcoming early career injuries to reach the pinnacle of the game.

A decade after making his international debut, he is not only the world's premier bowler but Australia's 47th Test skipper, elevated to one of the nation's highest-profile roles after Tim Paine quit over a sexting scandal.

"He's got the utmost respect from teammates, and everyone in world cricket. He's earned that from the way he has conducted himself," said Test legend Shane Warne of the Sydney-born 28-year-old.

Earmarked as a potential star from a young age, Cummins burst on the scene aged 18, taking seven wickets to set up a two-wicket win and earn man-of-the match in a Test against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2011. 

He also made waves for New South Wales and in the Twenty20 Big Bash League, but then came the injuries that prevented him from playing another Test for six long years.

A series of stress fractures in his lower back derailed his career and plagued him with doubts.

"I just remember being ultra-frustrated," Cummins said last year. "Everyone wanted to talk about my debut but I wanted to prove myself again and again, and show that it wasn't just a once-off.

"I felt like the only thing holding me back really was my body, and there was no real end in sight. It was a tough few years."

He emerged from those dark times -- and the pain and rehab that went with it -- a stronger person and cricketer and his persistence saw him selected again for Australia's tour of India in 2017. 

With his body toughened up, he came through that sub-continental test unscathed and quickly became a mainstay in all three formats alongside fellow quicks Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc -- not only a consistent and reliable paceman but a devastating one.

- Cleanskin -

His 34 Tests have yielded 164 wickets at 21.59, to go with 111 ODI scalps and 42 in T20s.

"Pat is extremely intelligent, an outstanding player and has an excellent cricket brain, so is ideal for the role," former Australia captain Greg Chappell said in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald last week.

"Crowds love him and see him for what he is -– a cleanskin, who always bowls his heart out for Australia and a resilient chap who has overcome injury challenges with sheer perseverance, dedication and dint of character."

Cummins was elevated to vice-skipper in 2019 but has little captaincy experience himself.

Captains traditionally field close to the wicket to control proceedings and as Australia's first fast bowler in the modern era to wear the armband, he will be forced to lean heavily on experienced teammates.

Michael Clarke, another former captain, told reporters he would need all hands on deck to support him as Australia face old-enemy England over five Tests, starting in Brisbane on December 8.

"I think (Steve) Smithy, Davey Warner, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, these guys all have a leadership role to play. Patty is going to need all of them," he said. 

"That's why I feel like the time would be right for Pat Cummins because he has these senior players around him and I think that would be significant for Patty with his workloads and certainly (getting his head around) what it takes to captain Australia."

Paine leaves cricket for 'foreseeable future'

Australia's Tim Paine will quit all forms of cricket for the "foreseeable future", Cricket Tasmania said Friday, after a sexting scandal led him to resign as Test captain.

His decision put an abrupt end to debate in Australia over whether he should take part in the Ashes, with the first Test against England opening in Brisbane on December 8.

"Following discussions over the last 24 hours, Tim Paine has advised Cricket Tasmania that he will be taking a leave of absence from all forms of cricket for the foreseeable future," it said in a statement.

The Tasmanian keeper quit as Test captain a week ago over the public revelation of an exchange of allegedly sexually graphic text messages with a female colleague in 2017.

But while stepping down as skipper, Paine said at the time he wanted to remain a "committed member" of the Australian Test side and was looking forward to the Ashes tour.

And there had been a groundswell of support to keep him in the team for the opening clash in Brisbane.

Australia's opener Marcus Harris said only on Wednesday that Paine had the full support of the Australian team and deserved to keep his place for the first Test.

A five-person panel will decide on the new Test captain, with Pat Cummins and Steve Smith seen as the frontrunners.

The panel reportedly will not include coach Justin Langer, who has been told to focus on preparing the team.

Instead, the job will fall to selectors George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide, Cricket Australia board member Mel Jones, chief executive Nick Hockley and chairman Richard Freudenstein.

Paine took over as captain in March 2018 in the wake of the "Sandpaper-gate" scandal that rocked Australian cricket.

Then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner were forced to step down for their roles in trying to alter the condition of the ball during a Cape Town Test against South Africa.