Pat Cummins is set to be handed the reins of New South Wales’ one-day team as he seeks the experience he needs to decide if he can become Australia’s Test captain.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Cricket NSW directors discussed finding leadership opportunities for the star Aussie quick at a recent board meeting and have advanced plans to have him lead the Blues in the domestic one-day cup beginning later this month.
Despite being Australia’s vice-captain at Test level and seen by many as the likely successor to Tim Paine, the 27-year-old has rarely called the toss.
But because NSW Sheffield Shield skipper Peter Nevill, 35, is no certainty to be in the Blues’ one-day side, an opportunity has opened for Cummins to lead.
The world’s number one Test bowler will be available for a handful of games before heading to India to prepare for the April start of the IPL season.
Cummins told ESPNcricinfo he was curious to find out if he could do the job.
“At the moment I haven’t got too much experience at all, just a couple of warm-up games in England and other than that it’s under-16s cricket when I last captained. So for sure it’s something that’s going to be more on the radar,” Cummins said.
“Even to increase my experience as vice-captain if I ever need to step in or help out Painey or Finchy, I think it is something I’d like to have a crack at to find out either way, whether I enjoy it, whether I’m no good at it or whether I find it manageable.”
Australia hasn’t had a bowler as captain since Richie Benaud and the risk of burdening the best wicket taker in the team is real.
Cummins acknowledged he does relax mentally to a degree when he’s not bowling and losing that respite in the field could either be a “small step or a big step”.
“That would be the big one, at times, just the nature of not having to totally switch on, you take the opportunity to switch off,” Cummins said. “That’d probably be the biggest change, but whether that’s a deal-breaker or not, I’d have to try it first.
“Naturally you try to stay pretty involved in a game, so always thinking about the game in the background. Just taking that extra step to be a decision-maker, it might be a small step or a big step, but keen to give it a crack and see how it goes.
“Just because someone is captain doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to lean on other resources, and something about my teams, whether it’s NSW or the Aussie team, there are lots of experienced guys there who’ve played a lot of cricket. Of course you’ve got specialised coaches in the sheds who you spend a lot of time with, so you’re certainly not out there by yourself, like all leaders you’ve got to delegate at certain times, give certain people certain roles. I’m sure you could find a way if you have to.”
Recent Test skipper Michael Clarke has been one of Cummins’ biggest advocates for succeeding Paine, despite opposition from the likes of Mark Taylor, who prefers a batsman as skipper.
“Wasim Akram and Imran Khan did OK,” Clarke told Wide World of Sports.
“(Cummins) would make a really good tactician as a captain. I didn’t captain too much before I captained Australia; I think the under-19s was the last time I had captained before I was given the opportunity to captain Australia.”
Geoff Lawson, who was NSW’s last bowler captain, has also endorsed Cummins.
“I’ve had a fair bit to do with Pat in his early days,” Lawson told the Young Witness. “He’s an intelligent guy, he’s got a business degree during his injuries, he’s had the discipline to study and use his brain not his body. He’s the vice-captain, if they make you the vice-captain surely that means if the captain is unavailable he’s the new captain. I’m not sure why they’d bring someone else in.”