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Australia’s unlikely ‘Captain Woke’ Pat Cummins on brink of World Cup triumph

Australia captain Pat Cummins celebrates after taking the catch to dismiss South Africa's Quinton de Kock during their Cricket World Cup semi-final

Australia captain Pat Cummins celebrates after taking the catch to dismiss South Africa's Quinton de Kock during their Cricket World Cup semi-final. Photo: Arun Sankar/AFP

Published Nov 18, 2023


Pat Cummins may be an unusual captain, but he heads into Sunday's Cricket World Cup final against India in Ahmedabad on the verge of leading Australia to their second global title this year.

Cricket teams are often reluctant to appoint fast bowlers such as Cummins as their skipper because of concerns the extra workload will distract them from taking wickets.

But Cummins, thrust into the captaincy just days before the start of the 2021/22 Ashes after Tim Paine's shock resignation after a 'sexting' scandal, still led Australia to a 4-0 series win over England.

Then in June this year, Cummins oversaw Australia's 209-run thrashing of India in the World Test Championship final at The Oval.

Cummins also doesn't fit the 'macho' image of an Australia captain established by abrasive skippers such as Ian Chappell, Allan Border and Steve Waugh, although the paceman was accused of plotting the downfall of the similarly gritty former coach Justin Langer.

Following a defeat by India in the second Test in Delhi this year, Border said: "I'd be playing with a harder edge...The Kiwis (New Zealand), they are the ones that play the goodie two shoes."

Cummins' membership of the 'Cricket for Climate' group, meanwhile, led to suggestions he had influenced Cricket Australia to abandon a sponsorship deal with energy company Alinta — an accusation both he and his bosses denied.

'Woke means nothing'

He has been labelled "woke" by some critics.

"I don't even know what 'woke' means," Cummins told the Sydney Morning Herald in January. "It's a label, it means nothing."

But few opponents would call Cummins, an outstanding bowler with 239 wickets in 55 Tests at 22.94 apiece and 139 in 87 one-day internationals at 28.83, a soft touch.

His steel was evident when he refused to withdraw an appeal after Jonny Bairstow was controversially given out stumped during an Ashes Test at Lord's in July, despite the England batsman thinking the ball was dead.

Australia won that match and retained the Ashes in a series drawn 2-2.

Cummins knows about resilience given injuries meant he endured a six-year wait for a second Test appearance after a debut as an 18-year-old.

And Cummins, a shining light following the 2018 ball-tampering scandal in South Africa that cost Steve Smith the captaincy, is now just one game away from leading his country to a record-extending sixth World Cup title — despite defeats in their opening two matches.

"Basically, we had to be flawless to make it through to the semis," Cummins said Saturday. "And fortunately, we were."

His calmness was evident when, with Australia having collapsed to 91-7, Cummins held up an end as Glenn Maxwell's spectacular double century sealed a remarkable three-wicket pool victory over Afghanistan in Mumbai.

He also then held his nerve with the bat in a tense semi-final run-chase against South Africa.

"There have been no huge wins (at the World Cup)," added Cummins. "We've had to fight for every win, but we've found a way to win."