Cummins, Smith interviewed for Test leadership roles

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Cummins, Smith interviewed for Test leadership roles

By Daniel Brettig

Pat Cummins and Steve Smith are a step closer to being unveiled as the new captain and vice-captain of the Australian men’s Test team after they were interviewed by a specially formed Cricket Australia committee.

The interviews, via video link, brought Cricket Australia a step closer to unveiling the fast bowling spearhead Cummins as Australia’s 47th Test captain. As significantly, the governing body is poised to return Smith to a leadership position for the first time since the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.

Leadership candidates: Pat Cummins and Steve Smith.

Leadership candidates: Pat Cummins and Steve Smith.Credit:Getty Images

While Cummins has been widely viewed as the standout candidate for some months, the process was expedited by the dramatic resignation of Tim Paine from the captaincy, when his exchange of an explicit image and text messages with a former Cricket Tasmania staffer was revealed last Friday.

Cummins and Smith appeared by video link from their quarantine quarters on the Gold Coast before a committee comprising the selectors George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide, the chief executive Nick Hockley, the chair Richard Freudenstein and fellow board director Mel Jones.

The national men’s team coach Justin Langer, though part of the selection panel that made the initial recommendation of Cummins and Smith to the joint committee, was not part of the interviews.

The conclusions of the committee are to be passed on to the full Cricket Australia board for the traditional debate among directors prior to an announcement, which may now be made before the end of the week.

Having been part of Australia’s victorious Twenty20 World Cup campaign in the UAE, Cummins and Smith are at a training camp on the Gold Coast ahead of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, which starts on December 8 at the Gabba.

Cummins and Smith have been widely seen as a standout leadership duo, given that as a former captain himself, Smith will be capable of stepping in whenever Cummins is forced to rest because of the rigours and injury risks of fast bowling.

They are longtime teammates for both New South Wales and Australia, with Cummins having served as a player under Smith’s leadership of the Test team in 12 Test matches leading up to the Newlands scandal that resulted in the older man being suspended from the game for a year and stripped of the captaincy.

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Smith has worked assiduously at restoring his reputation and broadening his mindset in the wake of the scandal, whether through charity work or taking up hobbies such as music. Nevertheless, the emergence of Cummins as a strong leader both on and off the field has been a feature of the past 18 months.

Marcus Harris, the Test match opener, said that while there were undoubtedly some fast bowlers who would struggle with the additional responsibilities of leadership – termed by Chris Tremain as “like spinning plates” – he felt that Cummins had the maturity and intelligence to manage the task.

“Patty obviously captained New South Wales in one-day games last year and went really well,” Harris said. “So I’m not sure that’s going to be an issue for him. I think going forward and in the future I can see guys being able to do it as bowlers. Patty obviously plays all formats, plays a lot of cricket, very smart bloke, and there’s a lot of senior guys still on the team so if people need to help him and stuff there’ll be people there to do that, but I can definitely see bowlers do it in the future.

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“I haven’t played under too many bowlers that are captains to be honest, but probably Scott Boland in a practice game for Victoria, and that’s about it. There’s definitely some bowlers that couldn’t do it. But in the same breath there’s some batters that couldn’t do it either. Patty’s always got great leadership qualities. He’s the vice captain at the moment. So he leads from the front. And he’s a very respected figure.”

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