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Five things in Pat Cummins’ in-tray as Australia captain

by Seb Evans 2 minute read

After Pat Cummins was announced as the 47th Australian men’s Test captain today, we take a look at five things he’ll need to deal with to lay the foundations for a successful tenure as skipper.

Win the Ashes

This is a must. Australia have lost only one Ashes series at home since 1988, and that defeat came against Andrew Strauss’ all-conquering 2010/11 team. Joe Root’s England side is far weaker than Strauss’ was then, and Cummins’ bowling attack is arguably the best in the world right now.

With Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith both averaging above 60 batting at three and four, and the immensely experienced David Warner opening, pressure will be on Cummins to retain the urn in front of a home. The unwanted distraction of Tim Paine’s resignation is something he will have to overcome quickly; Australia are strong favourites and their supporters expect them to win.

Get the balance right between bowling and captaincy

Cummins is only the second fast bowler to captain the Australian men’s Test team after Ray Lindwall in 1956, and he will have to get the balance between captaincy and bowling just right. Seam-bowling captains are somewhat of a rarity in Test cricket, although there have been some big names who have managed to balance both roles.

The best example of this is Imran Khan, who took 187 wickets at an average of 20 in 48 Tests as Pakistan captain. More recently, Jason Holder had a successful stint captaining the West Indies, taking 100 wickets in 37 Tests as skipper. The success of Khan and Holder as captains show it’s very possible for fast bowlers to maintain their individual skills while also focussing on the team, and that is something Cummins will have to learn quickly if he is to succeed in the role.

Prove that he’s in charge

Cummins’ insistence on having Steve Smith as his vice-captain has raised some questions as to who will actually be in charge on the field. Cummins has said that his captaincy style will be ‘collaborative’ with Smith, who he has described as the ‘elevated vice-captain’. He’s also revealed that he was determined to have the former skipper as his deputy due to the unknowns of having a bowling captain. Cummins’ open admittance that Smith will sometimes be in control of field-placings raises questions about who really is in control of the team. That is a pre-conception that the New South Wales quick will have to quash quickly if he is to have a successful tenure.

Not exit in disgrace

Normally a pre-requisite for the leader of any sports team, it is now absolutely paramount for Australian cricket that Cummins avoids the type of scandal that saw the end of Steve Smith and Tim Paine’s reins as captain. In this respect, the photogenic, amiable Cummins seems like the ideal man for the job. However, Cummins’ choice of the previously disgraced Smith as his vice-captain has drawn a level of criticism, including from Shane Warne, and questions still remain regarding Cummins’ own involvement in the Newlands ball-tampering debacle.

Maintain his own levels with the ball

The number one Test bowler in the world according to the ICC Rankings, Cummins has had an incredible first 34 matches in Test cricket. In his short career so far he has taken 164 wickets at an average of 21.59, with five five-wicket hauls to boot. Whether he can maintain such an extremely high level while also fulfilling the captain’s duties will ultimately play a key role in determining how successful he is as a skipper. Cummins’ choice of the experienced Smith as his deputy was undoubtedly aimed at allowing himself space to focus on his own bowling skills when needed.

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