Men's Ashes 2021-22
Cummins confirmed as Test captain, Smith his deputy
Pat Cummins becomes the first fast bowler to captain Australia's men's Test team full-time as Steve Smith makes a formal return to the team's leadership as vice-captain
26 November 2021, 01:10 PM AEST
Pat Cummins has been confirmed as Australia's 47th Test captain, with Steve Smith his deputy, as Australia's men's Test team breaks new ground ahead of the Ashes.
After an interview process with a five-person selection pane and ratification from the full board of Cricket Australia, Cummins today becomes the first fast bowler to be a full-time skipper of the Australian men's Test team, and the first bowler of any kind to captain the team since Richie Benaud.
His appointment comes after Tim Paine sensationally resigned from the post last week following revelations of a sexting incident from 2017, leaving Australia without a captain less than three weeks out from the first Vodafone Ashes Test against England.
Cummins, the world's No.1 ranked Test bowler, said it was an "unexpected" honour, arriving a week after Paine's resignation, with the Tasmanian stepping back from the game for a mental health break today.
"I am honoured to accept this role ahead of what will be a massive Ashes summer," Cummins said in a statement.
"I hope I can provide the same leadership Tim (Paine) has given the group in the past few years.
"With Steve and I as captains, a number of very senior players in this squad and some great young talent coming through we are a strong and tightly knit group.
"This is an unexpected privilege which I am very grateful for and am very much looking forward to."
Selectors George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide, along with CA Board member and former Australia international Mel Jones, interim chair Richard Freudenstein and CEO Nick Hockley put forward Cummins as the captain after a rigorous assessment of candidates.
That came after the three-person National Selection Panel of Bailey, Dodemaide and men's head coach Justin Langer, put forward Cummins and Smith as captaincy candidates for the five-member panel to consider.
The endorsement of Smith as vice-captain marks a significant step for the former all-format national skipper who spent two years banned from holding any leadership role in Australian cricket following the Cape Town ball-tampering saga in 2018.
His deputy at the time, David Warner, was handed a lifetime leadership ban from the scandal.
Smith has since captained in the Indian Premier League (and had been in line to captain the Welsh Fire in England's Hundred competition) while his CA-sanctioned leadership ban expired in March last year.
The importance of the Test vice-captaincy is heightened given Australia are entering new territory by having a pace bowler as their skipper.
While Cummins has played in all but two of Australia's 35 Tests since ending a five-year injury absence in 2017, there is inherent risk in the move considering the physical toll on fast bowlers.
Making it through the entire Ashes campaign marks his first challenge as captain, with five Tests against England scheduled in a little more than six weeks.
"I am pleased to return to the leadership of the team and look forward to helping and assisting Pat in any way I can," Smith said in a statement.
"Pat and I have played together for a long time, so we know our respective styles well.
"We are also great friends, as is the whole group. As a team, we want to play good, positive cricket and also really enjoy each other's company.
"There are exciting times ahead as we focus on the Ashes and beyond."
Cummins' appointment to the Test captaincy, often described as the second most important job in the country behind the Prime Minister, is a significant departure from tradition.
Australia's past 18 Test captains have all batted in the top seven. While there have been a couple of wicketkeepers (Paine, as well Adam Gilchrist and Barry Jarman as fill-ins) and an allrounder (Shane Watson as a one-off stand-in), no frontline bowler has held the role since Benaud.
And even he spent the majority of his career batting at seven or higher.
Ray Lindwall was the last specialist paceman to toss the coin, doing so in the second Test of a three-match tour of India in 1956 (Australia's first visit to the eventual powerhouses of world cricket) after regular skipper Ian Johnson and deputy Keith Miller were both ruled out through injury.
Fast bowlers Sharon Tredrea and Raelee Thompson previously captained Australia's women's team in the 1970s and '80s.
Although fast bowlers have shaken off a reputation being the brawns rather than the brains behind successful cricket teams, their employment as captain remains exceedingly rare.
Jason Holder is the main outlier of recent times, leading West Indies in 37 Tests between 2015 and 2020 (taking 100 wickets at 26.76 over that period) before being replaced earlier this year.
Pakistan's Waqar Younis, the Windies' Daren Sammy, Zimbabwe's Heath Streak, Sri Lanka's Suranga Lakmal, South Africa's Shaun Pollock and England's Andrew Flintoff are other pace bowlers to have captained Test teams this century.
Vodafone Men's Ashes v England
Nov 30 – Dec 3: England v England Lions, Brisbane
Dec 1-3: Australian intra-squad match, Brisbane
Dec 9-12: Australia A v England Lions, Brisbane
First Test: December 8-12, The Gabba
Second Test: December 16-20, Adelaide Oval
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Perth Stadium