Why Pat Cummins is not your typical Aussie skipper | Cricket - Hindustan Times

Why Pat Cummins is not your typical Aussie skipper

ByVivek Krishnan
Nov 18, 2023 03:41 PM IST

Australian skipper Pat Cummins has presented a face of quiet resistance and guided them through some tense wins

Through years of observing Australian cricket – the gold standard in the 1990s and 2000s – we’ve been informed that the captain of the Australian men’s cricket team must be a figure of authority. He needs to be feisty, in your face and exude a win-at-all-costs mentality, to the point of being obnoxious if needed. He needs to be tactically astute like Mark Taylor, sledge like Allan Border, believe in mental disintegration like Steve Waugh, and be a serial winner like Ricky Ponting.

Australian captain Pat Cummins. (AFP)
Australian captain Pat Cummins. (AFP)

Where does Pat Cummins figure in all of this? For starters, he’s not a distinguished top-order batter, which was supposed to be an essential trait for an Australian captain until his ascendancy. Unlike the Test captaincy, the leadership of the one-day team has come primarily because of a lack of other alternatives – he had led in a grand total of four ODIs before this World Cup. He is not as fiery and hot-blooded as most of his predecessors, preferring to go through entire press conferences offering banal responses rather than riling the opposition to gain a bit of mental edge.

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Sample this from Ponting on Jacques Kallis on the eve of the 2007 World Cup semi-final. “If we can get Kallis in there early, I don’t think they can get off to the same sort of start. He is a very good player and has a great overall record, but against us it’s not so great. I feel we have also had the better of him in Tests. If we get our plans right to him, we can restrict him,” he had said.

You can be certain that Cummins will never say that about any of his opponents. But behind that genial smile and a calm exterior is a man replete with grit and obduracy in his own way. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have spoken up for his teammates when they were getting ridiculed for their role in Justin Langer, a popular member of that great team in the 2000s, not continuing as head coach after February 2022. Not for a moment did the avalanche of criticism from the who’s who of Australian cricket deter Cummins from standing his ground and believing that the team needed new direction. And when he finally broke his silence with a written statement, he did so without being disrespectful to either Langer or any of the former players.

And through several important junctures for Australia this year alone, Cummins has presented a face of quiet resistance and guided them through some tense wins. In the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston in June, it was Cummins who stayed unbeaten on 44 to steer Australia from 227/8 to a target of 281. At the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai a couple of weeks ago, Glenn Maxwell was clobbering sixes on one leg alright, but Cummins stayed unmoved – unbeaten on 12 off 68 balls – to ensure that the team’s talismanic big-hitter didn’t run out of partners. In the semi-final at Eden Gardens on Thursday, Cummins was again there at the end, unbeaten on 14 in a low-scoring thriller as Australia proceeded to their eighth World Cup final.

If Cummins has a box to tick though, it’s perhaps as a one-day bowler. His Test record – 239 wickets in 55 matches at a strike rate of 47.6 -- is up there with the greats of the game, but what we haven’t had yet is a defining performance in white-ball cricket. Even in this World Cup, he has taken 13 wickets in 10 matches at an economy of 6.05, not quite producing a spectacular performance that, say, Ponting did in 2003 or Waugh in 1999.

“As captain, it would be an absolute privilege to lift the trophy with these great bunch of blokes. So yeah, it’d be awesome,” Cummins said on Saturday when asked about the prospect of joining some illustrious former Australian captains who have won the World Cup.

Un-Australian he may be in some respects, but it would be quintessential Australian for him to deliver that blowout performance in the final on Sunday.

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