Pat Cummins may be undecided about his future as Australia’s one-day international captain after the World Cup, but few of his countrymen will be calling for him to step down after his efforts in India.
Australia had no shortage of contributors in the tournament, with Adam Zampa taking 22 wickets and David Warner scoring a ton.
Cummins’ bravery in the fire and incredible heroics with the bat, however, were essential to his side’s revival after back-to-back defeats at the start of the campaign.
Unbeaten on 14 against South Africa in Thursday’s semi-final, Cummins flew off the ground with bat in hand to secure victory for the second time in the tournament.
In the first, he combined with Glenn Maxwell to bail out Australia against Afghanistan, powerful in an epic 12-ball knock not out from 68 balls to give his team-mate a double century to win the match.
Australia has had its fair share of serious skippers, from “Captain Grumpy” Allan Border to the stony Steve Waugh.
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By contrast, Cummins has kept the mood light in the dressing room and out at the crease, where banter flows freely with partners no matter how high the stakes.
“I think it’s easier out there than sitting in the bench,” Cummins said of batting in the tight end.
After leading Australia to their first World Test triumph in June, Cummins could become the fourth Australian captain to secure the 50-over world title on Sunday, joining Border, Waugh and Ricky Ponting.
For all Australia’s success in the Test arena since Cummins replaced Tim Paine as captain two years ago, his captaincy has not always been admired.
He relied heavily on former captain Steve Smith and coach Andrew McDonald while battling skepticism in Australia that a fast bowler could – or should – juggle managerial duties.
Australia’s failure to win the Ashes in England earlier this year after leading 2-0 was heavily criticized by former players and pundits who were lousy at tactical decisions.
His place in the World Cup squad was also in question given his relatively meager bowling numbers in ODIs compared to fellow batsmen Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Former captain Michael Clarke dropped the bombshell that Cummins was expected to drop after the opening defeats to India and South Africa.
It turned out to be a red herring.
Cummins took two crucial wickets in the next match against Sri Lanka, missing another batsman with a sensational shot into the field to set Australia on course for eight straight wins.
With Cummins at the helm, a win over hosts India in Ahmedabad on Sunday would mark Australia as one of the great teams across formats in the modern era.
“The team did really well and if you win the World Cup it puts a real feather in your head as a manager,” Steve Waugh told News Ltd media on Friday.
“It’s a legacy you can leave. That can never be taken away from you.
“It’s a big moment for him and for the team.”
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