SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia named paceman Pat Cummins as test captain and Steve Smith as assistant on Friday after a sexting scandal led Tim Paine to quit his post last week, just ahead of the Ashes.
On a dramatic day for Australian cricket, Cummins’ appointment came hours after it was announced that former captain Paine would take a break from the sport, excluding him from the Ashes series at home against former rivals English.
Cummins becomes the 47th captain of the Australian men’s test team as Smith returns to a key leadership role, having been forced to step down as skipper for his role in the ‘Sandpaper-gate’ ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
Cummins, 28, is the first fast bowler to lead Australia since 1956.
Following Paine’s downfall for sending obscene texts, Cummins knows there will be close scrutiny of his behavior on and off the pitch, especially with the Ashes from December 8 in Brisbane.
“As far as moral character is concerned, I am my own harshest judge,” said Cummins, who takes on one of Australia’s most prominent roles.
“I’m not perfect and there will be things that pop up, but as long as I can sleep at night, I’m really comfortable with the rest.”
Cummins is one of the best bowlers in the world. His 34 tests gave 164 wickets at 9:59 p.m., to go with 111 ODI scalps and 42 in T20.
But he has little experience as a leader, although he was elevated to vice-captain in 2019.
Cummins, who described himself as “excited rather than nervous,” said he would draw a lot from the experience of controversial hitter Smith, 32.
Smith will “have a slightly higher role of vice-captain,” Cummins told reporters.
Smith acknowledged that “there will be some negativity” around his return to the leadership fold, but added, “I am a more complete individual (than in 2018) and in turn that has made me a better leader “.
– Paine walks away –
Earlier on Friday, Cricket Tasmania said Paine, 36, would immediately quit all forms of gambling for the “foreseeable future”.
The Tasmanian wicket keeper stepped down as test captain a week ago following the public disclosure of a sexual text message exchange with a colleague in 2017.
His decision on Friday to step out of the spotlight altogether abruptly ended a heated debate in Australia over whether he should make the Ashes.
“As a result of discussions over the past 24 hours, Tim Paine has informed Cricket Tasmania that he will be absent from all forms of cricket for the foreseeable future,” Cricket Tasmania said in a statement.
While stepping down as skipper, Paine said at the time that he wanted to remain a “committed member” of the Australian test team and was looking forward to facing England.
There had been a wave of support in the Australian locker room to keep Paine on the Ashes side.
Cummins and Smith said he was very much on their minds.
“We really care about him and his family,” said Cummins, widely regarded in Australia as a good all-around guy with a great cricket mastermind.
“He is a valued and respected figure on our team. We love him and hope to see him back on the team soon.”
Cummins is confident that last week’s disruption and scandal will not affect the hosts’ preparations for the Ashes.
“We are really relaxed and confident,” he said.