If Pat Cummins is unveiled as Australia’s 47th male Test captain, the first of many hurdles was cleared when the Cricket NSW board fast-tracked his on-the-job training by installing him as the state’s one-day skipper in February.
The captaincy race was not considered a foregone conclusion on Thursday night with former captain Steve Smith still in the hunt to reclaim his old job.
An announcement could come as early as Friday, and though Cummins has been the favourite there are some warm to the redemptive story of Smith, who was forced out after the sandpaper affair.
The Cricket Australia board met on Thursday night to make a final call on the man to succeed Tim Paine as Australia’s men’s Test captain, a day after a specially convened panel interviewed leadership duo Cummins and Smith for the top job.
Pat Cummins is the hot favourite to succeed Tim Paine as Test captain.Credit:AP
Typically, it is considered a formality for the board to ratify the captain put forward by selectors, with the notable exception of Shane Warne in 1999, though in light of recent events it may hold deeper discussions before signing off on the recommendation of the five-person committee of selectors George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide, chief executive Nick Hockley, chairman Richard Freudenstein and director Mel Jones.
Sources have indicated there was apprehension from Cummins at taking the role after the fallout of the Paine saga and the high moral standards now being asked of the Test captain, though that had eased by the time he was interviewed.
By virtue of being the youngest player in many of the underage teams he played, Cummins was not given the leadership opportunities afforded to many of his peers, but his performances both as the national vice-captain and a shorter stint as the Blues’ leader have him primed for the main role.
Sensing a gap in Australia’s captaincy succession planning, the NSW board intervened in high performance to appoint Cummins as the Blues’ one-day captain for a series of games earlier this year.
With a star-studded team at his disposal, Cummins led the Blues into the final, stepping aside for the decider to honour his commitments in the Indian Premier League.
CNSW’s move was designed to give Cummins invaluable experience at leading a senior side to give him the best chance to take over from Paine, whose missteps at the time had yet to come back to haunt him and Australian cricket.
It also served the purpose of convincing a then reticent Cummins that he could cut it as a captain and that the office was a suitable career progression for him, despite Australia’s historical reservations with fast-bowling Test captains.
CNSW’s decision to step in is at odds with the direction taken by many of their state rivals, whose reluctance to make calls for the good of the national team for fear of disrupting their own program has been a bugbear for many in CA’s high-performance set-up.
For instance, former selection chair Trevor Hohns said in 2019 he would like to see Alex Carey given more leadership opportunities with South Australia, captained by Travis Head, so he could contend after Paine.
It is unclear what ground was broached when Cummins was quizzed on Wednesday by the panel but if actions are deemed stronger than words they could consider his hand in reviving Australia’s Twenty20 World Cup campaign in the Middle East.
At a meeting called after Australia’s hammering by England, Cummins implored his teammates to play with more intent and aggression, having earlier walked the walk during the team’s timid batting display by crunching his first two balls for six.
Spinner Nathan Lyon supported the nomination of Cummins and Smith as the team’s on-field leaders.
“I think it would have a really positive effect, if you look at the guys who are going to be captain and vice-captain and whichever way that goes I think the both of them are extremely well respected within Australian cricket and world cricket as well,” Lyon said.
“I think it’s going to be a real benefit that if you got a bowler’s mindset, also a batter’s mindset. Rather than having two batters’ mindsets, you’ve actually got both mindsets that can come together and really come up with some really good guidance.
“I’m really excited by the fact that we’re potentially going to have a bowler as a captain but in saying that we also got the best one of the best batters and one of the best players to play the game in Smith there as well.
“I think cricket Australia is going to be in some good hands.”
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