Almanac Cricket: Captain Pat’s year of living large



THERE are still about three weeks and another two Test matches for something to go wrong in 2021 for Patrick Cummins, but it would be a brave man to bet on that happening.


Few cricketers have had a busier or more blessed year – ever.


His first day as Australia’s 47th Test captain could scarcely have been more perfect, but he’s been kicking goals – to mix the metaphor – for practically the whole 12 months.


It might have got off on the wrong foot in January when he was part of the team that lost the series against India, beaten by a heavily depleted opposition at fortress Gabba for the first time in 3? Years.


That was followed by a period of tension after it was revealed that some senior players were unhappy with coach Justin Langer’s management style, and while few, if any, names were mentioned, journalists with their ears to the ground arrived at the conclusion that Cummins was one of them.


This was a weighty factor given he was captain of the Test and white-ball teams, and it meant he had to participate in an investigation in which the then chairman of the Cricket Australia board, Earl Eddings, and the Chief Executive, Nick Hockley, quizzed him and white-ball captain Aaron Finch about the allegations of unrest.


Cummins also had a commitment to the Indian Premier League where he was a massive salary of $2.1m to represent the Kolkata Knight Riders, very good work if you can get it. He donated $50,000 of it to a charity dealing with the covid pandemic, adding to his growing profile..


More importantly than any of this, on October 8 he became a father for the first time when his fiancée Becky Boston gave birth to their son Albie.


Four days later he was back at work, on the plane to the Middle East for the T20 World Cup, where he was a key performer as the Australians claimed the trophy for the first time in seven attempts.


For Cummins, all was well in the world – until the Tim Paine drama meant that he was, with little warning, more in the spotlight than ever before as the debate over the captaincy ascension took its place high on the national news agenda.


His eventual appointment, after yet more questions by the CA executives and selectors, meant that regardless of the veracity of the old line about the job being second only to the Prime Ministership, it was certainly true that he was being written and talked about more than anybody in the land other than Scott Morrison, and even that would have been a close-run thing.


One publisher immediately commissioned a book, and within a week he was on the cover of the glossy magazine Good Weekend which comes with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, one of the headlines proclaiming him to be Australian cricket’s next big hope.


The next day he was featuring in the general news pages with the announcement that he had become the first male Test cricketer to be appointed the national ambassador to the United Nations children’s charity UNICEF.


And amid all this he still had to prepare for the first Test, with all the extra duties that captaincy entails.


Typically for possibly the most popular player in Australia, he handled it all with smiling aplomb. What followed was nothing short of a fairy-tale.


His first foray in charge was an unmitigated triumph – a winner before a ball had even been bowled, not that he or anyone else knew that straight away.


Losing the toss was the best thing he could have done, leaving England’s Joe Root to choose to bat first – which Cummins would have done – in what were always going to be conditions helpful to the bowlers, then watch a wicket fall first ball of the series and the other nine follow in rapid succession for just 147.


That he claimed five of those wickets himself just made it the perfect debut.


As one headline said – possibly not for the first or last time: Cometh the hour, Cummins the man.


All the good luck continued to go Australia’s way with England doomed to defeat after only two days play.


As Joe Root well knows, and is now more acutely aware than ever, captaining cricket teams at international level can be very hard work, and usually is.


To Cummins, it must seem like just another couple of days at the office – and very enjoyable ones at that.


At 28, he’s got a lot of living to do yet – but if he doesn’t look back in his dotage at 2021 and say to himself, “that was the best year of my life,” then there must be something pretty special still in store.


You can read more from Ron Reed Here.


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