Former Australia pacer Jason Gillespie said on Sunday that Test captaincy will be a huge challenge for pacer Pat Cummins. He added that Cummins will depend on some senior players during his captaincy, which is the reason why Steve Smith was made the vice-captain.
Cummins was made the 47th captain of Australia’s Test side after Tim Paine stepped down due to an off-field scandal. Smith, who completed his leadership ban after the Sandpaper saga of 2018, was made his deputy ahead of the Ashes.
“Captaincy will be a huge challenge for Cummins, but he’s made it really clear that he wants a collaborative approach to his leadership role and specifically asked for Steve Smith to be his deputy for that reason. There will be occasional overs when he leans on senior players such as Smith to take ownership while he heads to fine leg to catch his breath,” wrote Gillespie for Sunday Mail.
“Some will argue that a captain should never place himself in such a fielding position, but I don’t have a problem with him focusing on what he needs to do as a premier fast bowler – having a bit of a drink and a mental refresh. If the team can’t function for six balls while the captain is out in the deep, there is something wrong, isn’t there? Surely, they can find a way to get by without him directing traffic every delivery,” added Gillespie, who played 70 Tests for Australia.
Gillespie also backed left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc to come good in the upcoming Ashes. Starc has been included in the playing eleven for the first Test at Brisbane despite drawing flak from critics for his past performances. “Mitchell Starc’s place in the Australia XI for the first Test has been questioned by a few former players, but I am not among them. Here is a guy who has 255 Test wickets, who is a proven, big-time performer and even though I concede he needs to put in a few more consistent displays, I am backing him all the way.”
The 46-year-old went on to elaborate on Starc’s advantages and the personal turmoil he went through during the last Australian summer. “He bowls fast, swings the ball, his record in pink-ball Tests is incredible and remember that the second match in Adelaide is under lights. His left-arm variety creates foot marks for Nathan Lyon, the off-spinner, to work with too. During the last Australian summer, he wasn’t at his best but if you look a bit deeper into things, he was having some issues away from the game.”
“He lost his father Paul to cancer, was living in a challenging bubble environment and to play through that and not be able to see his dad before he passed away in February was heart-breaking. Having to deal with that as well as staying focused on his game was a big ask. Forget that he’s an international superstar. First and foremost, he is a son. It was a tough time for him and his family.”
Gillespie signed off by saying that rotation of pacers will come into play at some point in the Ashes. “I will be surprised if Australia do not begin the series with that first-choice quartet, although I see Starc and possibly Hazlewood rotating at some point through the five matches. Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser are waiting in the wings and with the Ashes being more condensed than ever – an entire series being played within the space of 42 days must be a record – I expect the bowlers to be in and out.”