Tactically Cummins has not been stretched by England too much but he has clearly created a welcoming environment given that all new players have contributed straight away, from Scott Boland’s 14 wickets at 8.64 to Khawaja’s twin hundreds. Jhye Richardson took a five-fer in his only Test.
Cummins has not only won the Ashes handsomely in his first series but Australia seem to be building a squad of players to take to England in 2023, where he will bid to become the first captain to win the Ashes overseas since 2001.
“We retained the Ashes in 2019 but I left there feeling we had unfinished business. It is a huge series for this group to work towards. Winning overseas is massive. Our next tour is to Pakistan and the best teams win there. That is the next challenge for us.
“There is always a lot to play for in Test cricket. We play a maximum of 10 games a year and each game is a huge event, every series is big. We love it.
“For just about every cricketer growing up in Australia, it is their preferred format. Test cricket means something in Australia. It is where history is made. Ashes series 12 months out you bump into people in the street and they are already saying they can’t wait for the Ashes. It brings everyone together and gives us the chance to stamp our own legacy on the game.”
‘I’ve always thought bowlers can be captains’
England have not been captained by a fast bowler since Bob Willis. Jason Holder and Courtney Walsh led West Indies, Kapil Dev India and both Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis followed Imran Khan to the captaincy of Pakistan in the 1990s, but they are a very rare breed.
Knowing when to bowl himself or come off has not been a problem for Cummins in his three matches so far – he missed Adelaide due to being a Covid close contact – and it has been smooth in the field. His one big mistake was that declaration in Sydney – although he insists giving himself more runs to play with enabled him to attack with impunity on that final day – but it has been generally a very successful start, with far fewer tactical mis-steps than England.
“It has been smooth sailing so far but I know it is not going to be like that forever,” he says. “When the team goes well you really relish it, especially seeing a lot of the other players grow. Cam Green has grown, Trav Head, even Mitchell Starc, a seasoned pro like him. I just love being at the top of his mark talking it through and seeing him in action. I’ve really enjoyed it so far.
“I’ve always thought bowlers can be captains. I’m not sure if it is the start of a trend but why not? My experience of being a bowler is really valuable when I’m in the field talking to other bowlers, trying to make bowling changes and setting fields. I feel like I can draw on my own experiences a lot. There is no reason why there can’t be more bowling captains going forward.
“As a captain your main skill, either batting or bowling, has to be in order first. Captaincy is second to that. If I feel I am overthinking captaincy in the middle of my bowling that is when I will look for help elsewhere because I really want to protect that space.
“Maybe during our batting innings, I have the chance to unwind in the dressing room and switch off but the bowling gives me a lot to think about, so that takes my mind off captaincy a bit anyway.”
Until the No 11 walks in, that is.