Cummins to ‘keep leaning on’ Paine as he begins Test captaincy stint

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Warm up or go for the toss? “Maybe I’ll just get here a bit earlier,” says the premier quick

Less than three weeks ago, Pat Cummins being the Test captain of Australia was still a concept for the future. But on Wednesday morning – weather permitting – he will walk to the middle of the Gabba alongside Joe Root to mark the start of the Ashes.
After Cummins was unveiled in a virtual press conference alongside new vice-captain Steven Smith while still in quarantine, the last week has been a succession of new responsibilities for the quick, who put the blazer on for the first time at the series launch on Sunday.

“It’s all starting to feel a bit real,” Cummins said. “Think it will really hit home tomorrow when we walk out do the toss and friends and family are watching on TV. It’s been a really great lead-in. I know it’s been a lot of publicity and noise, but inside the camp we’ve been really relaxed and excited.”

He will have to concern himself with plenty of things that he hasn’t had to in the past and he is no longer just Cummins the bowler. So match-day morning will be a little different.

“Think the main one is warming up bowling, we are normally marking the run-ups and start bowling about half an hour before [the start of the game], which is when the toss is,” he said. “So don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow, maybe I’ll just get here a bit earlier.”

He has been in touch with former captain Tim Paine in recent days, and was likely to give him another call on Tuesday for any last-minute bits of advice.

“It’s been good to chat, still wish he was here and part of it all, but he needs to be home,” Cummins said. “He’s going all right, will probably… keep leaning on him for different ideas. He’s got great experience, [he is] a great guy and [I will] keep learning off him.”

Cummins is still coming to terms with the names he joins as Test captain. He picked out Steve Waugh’s input on the 2019 Ashes tour and how Michael Clarke, his captain on debut in Johannesburg in 2011, made him feel “ten feet tall”.

“It’s almost crazy being the 47th men’s Test captain, the linage (lineage) of Painey, Smithy, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve Waugh – they are legends of the game that I grew up watching,” he said. “It probably hasn’t hit me yet.”

With his only professional captaincy experience being four one-day games for New South Wales last season, Cummins will have to continue learning on the job, though the natural rhythm of Test cricket may help him to settle in well. He has, however, had some specific conversations with Nathan Lyon.

“Mainly around fields,” Cummins said. “I haven’t thought too much about spin-bowling fields in the past, so we’ve had a couple of really good chats. He’s played 100 Tests, so he knows far more about spin bowling than I do. I’ll be there to help him. I’ll have a few different ideas I’ll throw his way at times but he’s a seasoned pro, so makes my job pretty easy.”

On a broader view of the team, he pinpointed a more ruthless streak from the batters after they did not pass 400 last season against India. Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner will shoulder a lot of the expectations, with Marcus Harris and Travis Head working to re-establish themselves in the side, and debutant Alex Carey slotting in at No. 7.

“If you look back to the 2017-18 Ashes, our batters were incredibly ruthless… incredibly relentless with the bat, so that’s something we’ve spoken about,” Cummins said. “At times, we’ve just let the other team into the game, so that’s a big focus of the batting group this summer.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo


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