Cummins For Captain
Updated: May 17
Since the T20 World Cup ended, the cricketing world has been in a bit of a weird place.
The latest in a series of strange incidents within the game was the news that Tim Paine would be stepping down as the Australian captaincy with immediate effect after historic texts between Paine and a colleague in Tasmania were leaked.
Many of the Australian team have since come out in support of Paine who was initially exonerated by Cricket Australia and was fully investigated at the time.
Unfortunately, in light of these texts becoming public and no doubt because of Paine’s position as the man charged with changing public perception of Australian cricket in the aftermath of the ball-tampering saga - the Aussie captain has stood down. He has also since decided to take a mental health break from the game no doubt in part to the intense media security he has received since the news broke.
It always seems a blow when a player is ruled out for something that happened off the field particularly just before an Ashes series. It feels a shame that this information was probably released at an opportune moment with intent to cause harm to Paine’s career.
The reaction from the Australian camp proves that the captain must be a popular figure as many slammed his treatment in statements and on social media.
Despite this, as with anything in sport, one downfall always provides another opportunity.
Pat Cummins has been named as Australia’s forty-seventh captain ahead of this Australian summer and an Ashes series.
The pick of a frightening Australian pace attack, Cummins has more than deserved his chance at the top job.
Despite this, it is highly unusual for a bowler to be named as the captain of any international side, let alone Australia. For the last full-time bowling Test captain you probably need to look back to leg-spinner Richie Benaud in the 1950s and 60s - and even then he was an all rounder.
Ricky Ponting recently made the slightly tongue-in-cheek remark that if Glenn McGrath had ever been Australia captain he would have bowled forty-five overs in a row. Whilst Ponting was exaggerating, the point still remains that, rightly or wrongly, bowlers are often seen as incapable of being captains.
The stereotype of bowlers is that they would, theoretically, bring too much emotion into the stoic profession of captaincy.
There is a strong argument to suggest that this is the case - the emotion from the physical toil of bowling and the thick skin of being tonked around grounds on off days is not the ideal breeding ground for sensible and sound minds.
A batsman only has to focus on his own performance when performing his job - when he or she is out, their game is over. When a bowler bowls a bad ball they have to brush themselves down and bowl again and again often against the will of their own body - Cummins' fitness will be vital to his longevity in the role. Most of the vital captaincy decisions are also made whilst on the field too; a bowler has their own personal game to consider between being shifted out to the farthest corner of the boundary (away from the action) to field. It is a job made for a batsman.
Recent examples of bowling captains in Tests are few and far between but ones that stick out include Shaun Pollock for South Africa, Wasim and Waqar for Pakistan, Jason Holder for the West Indies and Daniel Vettori for New Zealand. You could even throw in the ill-fated brief spell of Freddie Flintoff for England in there too. None of them are/will be remembered for their captaincy exploits.
One great name who was lauded for his captaincy pedigree was Shane Warne and it has been said before that he was the greatest captain Australia never had. Of course, with Warne there were always off-field issues that made it difficult to give him the top job - but his record for Hampshire in County Cricket was superb.
Bowlers aside, Australia have backed themselves into a corner slightly in the hunt for their next captain.
With obvious choices Smith and Warner still tainted by the ball tampering scandal - neither are being considered for the top job - senior players are limited. The rest of the Australian set up is either inexperienced or unsecure in their place in the side.
They’re not the only side though - England, for example, also look shaky for leadership beyond Joe Root.
So despite the contentious issue of allowing a bowler to captain - Cummins is the obvious choice. For a bowler he is calm and collected for the most part, his farming background also, for some inexplicable reason, gives him an air of control. Being able to control farmyard animals is surely a transferable skill...
Australia have also backed him up with the more experienced hand of former captain Steve Smith as his vice. This seems to be a shrewd move by Cricket Australia to gently allow Smith to have some level of authority again and to help guide their inexperienced captain into the cauldron that is an Ashes series.
Beyond Cummins’ opportunity, Paine’s absence also gives opportunity to a new wicket-keeper to enter the fray.
Matt Wade will no doubt be the continuity option, given that he has Test experience but his frequent bouncers may tempt the Aussies to look beyond the Tasmanian towards fresher faces like Alex Carey or Josh Inglis.
It is an exciting development for Australian cricket particularly towards an Ashes series that they are heavy favourites to win although no doubt though the whole event is also massively distracting on the eve of a vital series against England.