In 2021, Australia have seen three different captains in Test cricket: Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, and Steve Smith. Before the start of the Ashes, Paine tearfully resigned from the post due to his lewd text messages to a former Cricket Tasmania female staffer from 2017 coming into the limelight. Amidst the storm, Cummins was appointed to lead Australia in Test cricket with Smith as his deputy.
The Cummins-Smith leadership duo went well as Australia won the first Test at Brisbane by nine wickets. But an unexpected turn of events saw Cummins being ruled out of the Adelaide Test due to being a close contact of a Covid-19 positive case while dining indoors in a restaurant on the eve of the Test. That brought Smith back into the captaincy role, for the first time since the Sandpaper gate Test in Cape Town, 2018.
Former India pacer Snehal Pradhan is completely convinced by the idea of how Australia have Cummins and Smith in their leadership nucleus. “It’s too early to really make any comments on Cummins’ captaincy. I mean, just one Test match where he had a great first innings and got a great start. But not a great sample size. In general, I love the idea of fast-bowling captains. I played a lot of my cricket under Jhulan Goswami, who was a very good fast bowling captain. I also buy into the idea that Australia are putting a model with Cummins and Smith,” said Snehal during a media interaction organised by Sony Sports on the sidelines of Adelaide Test.
Snehal further delved into why a vice-captain’s role becomes crucial when a pacer is appointed as the captain. “Like, when the fast bowler is a captain, then the vice-captain becomes really important. Because as a fast-bowler, when I am in the middle of a spell, I don’t want to care about field placings as much as I care about when I am not bowling. To have someone, on whom I can entrust the responsibility so much when I am in the middle of a really tiring 7-8 over spell, is a good template to work with. By necessity, that person is probably a batter. So, I think it’s a good template to work with.”
She feels Cummins’ biggest worry as a captain will be the workload. “”I don’t think Covid situation comes into it as anyone could have been affected by the Covid situation. Cummins is really unlucky. It could have been a batting captain; it could have been like a Tim Paine. And then suddenly you have to replace that player. From the workload point of view, of course, for a player who plays all three formats, who is a fast bowler, who ideally wants to be bowling 140-plus consistently, some amount of rest and rotation is going to be part of the job.”
The 35-year-old again pointed out how the vice-captain becomes a decisive figure in scenarios like what happened with Cummins in Adelaide. “The role of the vice-captain in that situation becomes really important because you are picking your vice-captain knowing that he or she is going to lead in this case. Usually, you pick your vice-captain only as a stopgap arrangement, or only as someone who will lead in case of an injury. So, that’s definitely what I would say about the workload management side of things in this situation. I like the idea, but then your vice-captain becomes really important.”
With Australia going the daring path of a pacer as captain in Test cricket, can India, closer home, go down that path as well? Snehal doesn’t think so. “In terms of fast-bowling captains, who could fit the role for the Indian team, who knows? I mean, we don’t have any shortage of batting captains. Just for convenience’s sake, batting captains are more convenient because you don’t have to worry about your primary skill while you are on the field. I don’t think we will see a fast-bowling captain because we have got so many batting leaders coming up through the system.”
Snehal Pradhan is part of the Hindi Commentary Panel for the ongoing Ashes Tour on SONY TEN 3 that started from December 8, 2021, and will go on till January 18, 2022.