Australian cricket phenomenon, Pat Cummins, has once again made history. Not satisfied with just claiming the World Test Championship mace and retaining the Ashes urn in England, Cummins has now added the prestigious ICC World Cup trophy to his collection. Leading Australia to victory against India, Cummins proved his worth as a captain and silenced the roaring crowd of 132,000 in Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium.
As an Indian cricket fan, I was terribly disheartened today after the loss because Cummins turned out to be a man of his word.
In a pre-match conference yesterday, he had said this:
While Travis Head stole the spotlight as the man of the match with an outstanding outfield catch and an authoritative century under pressure while chasing, to me, it was Cummins who truly stole the show. By dismissing the formidable Virat Kohli, Cummins brought the entire country to a halt.
Head’s exceptional catch to remove the dangerous opener Rohit Sharma may have slowed India’s fierce start, but as long as Kohli was on the crease, a formidable target remained possible. With his textbook strokes and impeccable technique, Kohli showcased the timeless class of cricket.
However, Cummins took it upon himself to end the party. As a bowling captain, it’s a delicate balance to decide when to step in and take action.
Cummins demonstrated his cricketing finesse by delivering a deadly combination of pace and elevation that left Kohli struggling to keep up. The resulting chop onto the stumps stunned the crowd and shifted the entire momentum of the game. The way he marshaled his fielders today and the strategic bowling changes he made in a near perfect and flawless manner, it was only a matter of time before Australia bundled India our for less than a par score.
Since assuming the captaincy, Cummins has seen remarkable success, with only eight losses (five Tests and three one-day internationals) out of 36 matches. While he may not possess the tactical genius of past captains such as Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting, the tactician in him is no muck and his leadership qualities are undeniable.
At the start of the match today, Cummins set social media and internet forums ablaze after he won the coin toss and elected to bowl. His decision to bowl first raised eyebrows and sparked debate even among the best judges of the game. However, as the match unfolded, it became clear that he had accurately assessed the conditions. Former captain Mark Taylor acknowledged Cummins’ astute decision, stating that he had made the right call.
His stellar performance throughout the World Cup has silenced critics, including former captain Ricky Ponting, who has been known to question Cummins’ tactics in the past. Ponting now recognizes Cummins’ growth as a captain and leader, acknowledging his remarkable achievements.
Perhaps what sets Cummins apart is his refreshing self-assurance. Unaffected by public opinion or criticism, Cummins embraces his role with a light-hearted spirit. In fact, his close friends jokingly refer to him as “Captain Planet” — for his climate change activism.
Pat Cummins, found himself thrust into the role of being the Australian captain unexpectedly following Tim Paine’s sudden resignation due to a sexting scandal. Just days later, he was faced with the pressure of leading his team in the intense Ashes Test. Many had debated whether a fast bowler like Cummins should take on the captaincy, with even respected figures like Allan Border expressing doubts. As Cummins reflected on his performance during the lunch break, he couldn’t help but wonder if those doubters were right.
“I hate this,” he thought to himself. “I think I’ve made a mistake.”
Cummins remembers that his first spell on the field was terrible, his mind consumed with field placements and other responsibilities. However, with each subsequent spell, he regained his confidence. He said that this experience gave him a deeper understanding of why people questioned his ability to be captain.
Those two hours were the last time Pat Cummins doubted himself. He went on to take five wickets in the first innings and two more in the second, leading Australia to victory and retaining the Ashes. Since then, he has successfully captained his team in various series, both at home and away.
However, Cummins hasn’t had an easy journey. He has faced intense scrutiny for his thoughts on climate change, for standing up against racism, and so on.
Critics have gone as far as calling him a “climate catastrophist clown” with “far-left views,” and others have labeled him “Captain Woke” without offering any substantial arguments. The absurdity reached its peak during a rain-affected Sydney Test when he was criticized for leaving a fellow player (Usman Khawaja) stranded on 195 runs.
But Cummins takes it all in stride. Laughing off labels like “Captain Planet” and “woke,” he recognizes their insignificance. He doesn’t understand why standing up for important causes, like Black Lives Matter or caring for the environment, can create such divisiveness. For him, it’s about making small changes in his own life to contribute to a better future.
In the midst of all these controversies, Cummins reflects on how other players have avoided certain sponsors or made personal choices (like Zampa by being vegan or Khawaja by not drinking alcohol), without facing the same level of scrutiny. He believes that his passion and rational approach to addressing climate change should not be a cause for criticism.
Cummins has denied allegations that he pressured Cricket Australia to end a sponsorship deal with a carbon-footprint intensive company, Alinta. Despite clear denials from Cummins and Cricket Australia, some continue to criticize him. This comes as no surprise, as any discussion about climate change tends to evoke strong reactions and becomes difficult to control. Cummins has issued two denials that he pressured Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley into abandoning a sponsorship deal with energy company Alinta because of its carbon footprint. So did CA.
An Alinta spokesperson had also issues an official statement:
“The end of our sponsorship was finalised and announced months before the recent reports. They had no bearing on our decision.”
There is a sense that Cricket Australia and its CEO, Nick Hockley, did not adequately support Cummins during the Alinta scandal. However, Cummins has chosen not to dwell on it or spend his life correcting misunderstandings. He knows who he is and remains confident in his beliefs.
Despite the challenges and criticism, Cummins remains committed to making a positive impact on and off the field. If the Australian team’s performance is anything to go by since he took over the captaincy, he sure is sticking to his commitment.
The debate surrounding “player activism” and “player power” has been ongoing for quite some time. Athletes have always held opinions on important issues and have even influenced coaching decisions over the years. However, where should we draw the line?
According to Cummins, players should have a voice and play an active role in the sports they participate in. It’s not as simple as black and white, though, as these topics are complex and multifaceted.
And what about Langer? The angry little ant Langer? Did player power ultimately lead to his downfall, as some have suggested?
Langer disputes this claim, stating that his departure was a high-performance decision made by the CEO, not influenced by the players. He emphasizes that the team is constantly reviewed and his decisions are driven by what he believes is best for the team and Australian cricket.
Amazon Prime’s “The Test” offers an intriguing look at the inner workings of the Australian team, including the tumultuous departures of Paine and Langer within a short span of four months. The documentary leaves viewers with the impression that the team is content and that Cummins has seamlessly taken on the role of captain.
Throughout history, Australian Test captains have left their mark on their teams, with Steve Waugh being a prominent example.
Cummins said he sought Waugh’s advice on captaincy during the 2019 Ashes series.
“He said to get out of the way and let the bowlers shine,” Cummins recalls.
“I asked when to make big fielding changes and he said the bowlers know what fields they want most of the time. If you don’t give it to them, they get angry anyway. I’m just trying to keep things simple. Over the last 12 months, I’ve stripped away some of the things that have been done in the past, just for the sake of being done. Extra meetings, extra training sessions …”
With his exceptional skills, leadership qualities, and unwavering confidence, Cummins has solidified his place among cricket’s greats.
Cummins’ most admirable trait may be that he’s comfortable in his own skin. While some others in his position may either covet public approval or become outright hostile about any criticism leveled against them, Cummins just doesn’t care and laughs it off.
By leading Australia to become both World Test Champions and World ODI Champions in the same year, Cummins could not have found a more appropriate nickname and he should now proudly wear his Captain Planet label on his sleeve.