Pat once shared captaincy concern, but on verge of top job after CA interview

Pat Cummins and Steve Smith were reportedly interviewed by the Cricket Australia panel charged with finding a replacement for Tim Paine on Wednesday.

It’s thought that Cummins’ rise to the top job in Australian cricket will be sealed by the end of the week, with the Daily Telegraph reporting the pair were looked at as the ideal leadership team and “may have been the only candidates interviewed by the specially convened panel.”

The panel consists of electors George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide, board members Mel Jones and Richard Freudenstein and chief executive Nick Hockley. Coach Justin Langer is not involved in the decision.

Pat Cummins of Australia runs in to bowl during day four of the First Test match in the series between Australia and New Zealand at Optus Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

(Photo by Paul Kane – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Fellow players have come to Cummins’ support, and Damien Fleming, in his column for The Roar, said the fast bowler had the temperament of Mark Taylor, a successful and well regarded leader.

Cummins has been in a leadership role for some time, and presumably has warmed to the task after appearing hesitant at first.

Two years ago, ahead of the World Cup in England, the founding contributor of AthletesVoice – The Roar’s sister publication – wrote about the strains he would face as captain.

“This time I’m going to England as a leader, with more going on, especially off the field,” he wrote.

“Previously I just worried about the cricket side of things and my game. Now, being vice-captain and one of the more senior guys, as opposed to the young, wide-eyed 18-year-old, there’s a little bit more expectation.

“I’ve enjoyed the vice-captaincy. You try and help out the captain and the coach and just concentrate on your core skills. I’m happy in that role. As a captain, I think I’ve got so much to learn and plenty to get better at. I feel like there are other guys who are already doing a great job.

“I don’t really hold any great ambitions to be captain. In the future, if it came up potentially, but at the moment I don’t think I’d make a very good captain. I’m always cooked bowling and I can’t concentrate on too much else at that time.

“I think it comes down to personalities and how you can manage it. I think for me, trying to score runs, bat number eight and then try to bowl a lot, there’s a lot of days in Test cricket when I’m exhausted.

“You walk off the field and get your head around batting. I’m sure there are other bowlers who can manage the load a little bit better than I do.

“But there are a lot of 40-degree days out there when I’ve bowled 20 overs and I’m trying to hide down at fine leg and get a drink.”

None of this is to suggest that Cummins still feels the same as he did then about the added demands, or that his writing at the time was anything other than respectful support for his then captains.

How he handles the workload issues will be intriguing, along with his fielding strategy and how he handles his attack, which, at least, is well established.

While Cummins seems a lock for captaincy, the number five position for the first Test is less certain with Usman Khawaja and Travis Head vying for the role.

Facing off against Head in Queensland’s Sheffield Shield encounter with South Australia at Karen Rolton Oval on Wednesday, the 34-year-old Khawaja was cheaply dismissed.

Despite being in sparkling form of late, the Bulls captain was caught behind for 4 by Alex Carey after a lack of footwork led to him inside-edging a drive off Daniel Worrall.

With the Bulls all out for 299 late on Wednesday afternoon, opposing skipper Head – who took two wickets with his off-spin – will soon get the chance to push his Ashes case.

Incumbent Test number three Marnus Labuschagne spent valuable time in the middle as he compiled a team-high 110 from 223 balls before being bowled by Head.

As classy as he is, a Labuschagne century seemed at long odds on Tuesday when a damp spot on the pitch had the ball leaping from a good length.

Labuschagne was struck on the gloves numerous times, and was lucky not to be caught on one occasion, before play was halted by the umpires, who had conferred with the captains about the potentially dangerous wicket.

The decision to suspend play came under some scrutiny with former South Australian quick Chadd Sayers tweeting: “So when bowlers think it’s too flat, they just walk off?”

But some remedial work got rid of the demons in the surface and helped Labuschagne power on to his 20th first-class ton.

Queensland opener Bryce Street, who was unbeaten on 45 overnight, was eventually removed for 87 – caught by Carey off Liam Scott (3/16).

The compact Street, 23, was last week named in the Australia A squad to face the England Lions in a tour match from December 9.

Elsewhere, West Australian quick Jhye Richardson continues to give Australian selectors something to ponder.

After being named in the Ashes squad, Richardson snared 4/53 in the first innings of a Shield clash with Tasmania and, at the time of writing, had picked up three wickets in the second.

Richardson and co are attempting to thwart Tasmania’s run-chase. The Tigers were 5/264 chasing 315 at the time of publication.

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