Former skipper Steve Smith returns to the leadership group as vice-captain.
Following a tumultuous few days in the aftermath of Tim Paine’s texting scandal, Cricket Australia (CA) has finally announced Paine’s successor, with Pat Cummins handed the role of the Australian men’s team’s captain for Tests.
Along with Cummins, former Test captain Steve Smith returns to the leadership position as well as he becomes Cummins’ deputy.
The decision to appoint Cummins as Test captain came on the very same day Paine announced that he would be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the game. With The Ashes set to get underway from December 8, the Australian cricket board didn’t have much time to make a decision.
Cummins, who had been the vice-captain for the side since January 2019, was the front-runner for the position. He, though, made it absolutely clear that if he were to take up the position of captain, he would need Smith by his side.
With his appointment as captain, Cummins is set to become the first fast bowler to lead the country since Ray Lindwall, who did so in a one-off Test in 1956, and the first bowler to become a full-time captain since Richie Benaud.
Speaking about his appointment as captain, Cummins said:
“I am honoured to accept this role ahead of what will be a massive Ashes summer; 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. This is an unexpected privilege which I am very grateful for and am very much looking forward to.”
The fast bowler also spoke about having Smith as his deputy, adding:
“I think there’s a couple of more unknowns about having a bowling captain and that’s why from the outset I was absolutely determined if I was captain to have someone like Steve as vice-captain next to me.
“I feel like I’ve got quite a lot of experience to draw on. A lot of the problems or potential issues around being a fast-bowling captain I’m sure we’ll be able to work through.
“Obviously, it’s not our decision who is captain and vice-captain. I made it pretty clear that if I was given the captaincy that this is how I saw the team running and I tried to bring Steve along for that as well. He’s so central to how I see my captaincy style but [also] how I see the team functioning.”
It would be a bittersweet feeling for Cummins, though, who would have hoped of taking over the role in a different way; his appointment comes in the middle of scandal that has rocked Cricket Australia, with many criticising the governing body for failing to act sooner.
Former Test captain Tim Paine resigned last week following the public uncovering of explicit text messages and graphic images that he had sent to a female colleague at Cricket Tasmania in 2017.
Paine stood down from his role last Sunday, and said at the time:
“We thought this incident was behind us and that I could focus entirely on the team, as I have done for the last three or four years. However, I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public.
“On reflection, my actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or the wider community. I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family, and to the other party. I’m sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport. And I believe that it is the right decision for me to stand down as captain, effective immediately. I do not want this to become an unwelcome disruption to the team ahead of what is a huge Ashes series.”
Numerous former CA board members were critical of the current administration for its handling of the incident. Current CA chairman, Richard Freudenstein, even blamed the previous administration, questioning why Paine wasn’t sacked at the time.
Freudenstein said at the time:
“I can’t talk about the 2018 decision, I wasn’t there. But I am saying, based on the facts as they are, today the board of Cricket Australia would not have made that decision. I acknowledge the decision clearly sent the wrong message that this behaviour is acceptable and without serious consequences. The role of Australian cricket captain must be held to the highest standards.
“The captain of the Australian cricket team has to be held to a very high standard, Which is why I think it is absolutely appropriate that Tim has resigned the captaincy, which is in the best interest of Australian cricket. The board of Australian cricket is comfortable with his availability as a player.”
Even though he stepped down from his captaincy role, Cricket Australia, his Australian teammates, and Paine himself were confident about making the 36-year-old available for the upcoming Ashes series. Paine had previously stated that he wanted to end his Test career on the ‘ultimate high’, which would have been defending the Ashes trophy at home.
Paine, soon to be 37, had recently undergone a neck surgery, had been out of touch with the game for a while, and was called up for Tasmania’s one-day game against Western Australia. But on Friday, his manager put out a statement on Twitter informing the world that Paine would be taking a leave from the game to focus on his mental health.
James Henderson, Paine’s manger, posted:
“Confirming that @tdpaine36 is stepping away from cricket for an indefinite mental health break. We are extremely concerned for his and Bonnie’s (Paine’s wife) wellbeing and will be making no further comment at this time.”
Cricket Tasmania also released a statement, which read:
“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.
“Tim’s decision makes him unavailable for selection for today’s Marsh One-Day Cup match against Western Australia. His place in the squad will be taken by Charlie Wakim.
“We respect and understand Tim’s decision to have a break at this time to focus on his and his family’s wellbeing.
“Cricket Tasmania will continue to support Tim and his family both professionally and personally over the summer.”
Cummins, now, becomes the country’s 47th Test captain, and the current world No. 1 Test bowler will have his job made a little bit easier with Smith by his side.
Smith has already led Australia previously in 34 Tests in between 2015 and 2018. Since the ball tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018, Smith hasn’t captained the national team, although he has led his Indian Premier League side, the Rajasthan Royals.
Cummins spoke about how he would rely on Smith’s experience during his tenure as captain, stating:
“There’s going to be times where I’m out in the middle, it’s a hot day, I’m in the middle of a spell and I need to turn to people for advice, for tactics, for experience and that’s the main reason, one of the big reasons why I wanted Steve to be vice-captain.
“How that looks? I think it potentially could look differently to [how] you’ve seen partnerships work in the past. I think that will remain pretty fluid. A 22-degree day might look differently to a 40-degree day. There will be times on the field where I’ll throw to Steve and you’ll see Steve move fielders around, maybe doing bowling changes, taking a bit more of an elevated vice-captaincy role and that’s what I really want.
“That’s what I’ve asked and I’m really glad Steve is happy with that as well. We’ll nut out exactly how that works, but it’s going to be a real collaborative approach. Steve has got such huge strength especially around tactically out on the field.”
For Smith, though, it is not only a chance to redeem himself, but also to help groom the future leader of the Test team.
Speaking about returning to the leadership group, Smith said:
“I am pleased to return to the leadership of the team and look forward to helping and assisting Pat in any way I can.
“Pat and I have played together for a long time, so we know our respective styles well. We are also great friends, as is the whole group. As a team, we want to play good, positive cricket and also really enjoy each other’s company.
“There are exciting times ahead as we focus on The Ashes and beyond.”
With one of cricket’s greatest rivalries set to resume from December 8, all the focus leading up to The Ashes has been for off-field incidents in both camps: first it was the racism row in England, and now the captaincy issue in Australia.
Both sides, though, will be hoping to put aside all the commotion off the pitch and resume normal service once they take the pitch on December 8 in Brisbane.
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