'Uncanny' similarities between Cummins and Steyn
Australia's new coach Mickey Arthur has drawn a comparison between the 18-year-old debutant Pat Cummins and a young Dale Steyn.
Arthur became South Africa's coach in 2005 at the start of Steyn's international career, and said Cummins can grow into a similarly formidable spearhead for the Australian attack, provided he is managed adroitly.
Upon taking the expanded coaching position of Australia, Arthur spoke warmly of the future of the team, and of how he planned to help build a team for sustained success this summer and beyond.
Cummins' redoubtable debut in Johannesburg won him the Man-of-the-Match award, and Arthur said he saw in the 18-year-old the future leader of the attack. Arthur was careful to balance this promise with a word of caution about not overburdening Cummins with too much expectation at such a callow age.
"I'm pretty sure he could be [a pillar of the team] down the line. I think we've just got to be a little bit careful just to temper the heightened expectation on him," Arthur said in Melbourne. "You always have expectations of an international cricketer, but expectations might have just gone through the roof.
"I see a similarity with him and Dale Steyn, when he came into the South African team. The similarities are uncanny except that Pat Cummins is a lot younger, which makes it all the more exciting.
"I do think he needs to be managed, he definitely needs to be managed down the line. What excites me about him is he can bowl quick. Genuine pace at any level of the game ruffles the feathers of batsmen and generally knocks the tail over. He's immensely exciting."
Equally exciting for Arthur is the chance to take on an Australian team that is showing signs of regeneration after last summer's Ashes defeat. He said the narrow victory over South Africa to square the series would help build the confidence and the culture of the team, even as it wrestled with various personnel changes.
"It is definitely going to help," Arthur said. "I saw a lot of excitement last night, you come back home and the players are upbeat, Australia's upbeat, the support staff are upbeat. It is better coming in and leading an environment like that than one that is completely down and downtrodden.
"I see the strength [of Australian cricket] in an immensely good structure. Also immensely talented cricketers. There's some experienced players that are icons of the game and there are also players coming through that are certainly very exciting. It is going to be up to us as coaching staff to mould that potential and make that potential and promise into good, sustainable Test cricketers."
Arthur coached South Africa from 2005 until 2010, taking the team from fifth in the ICC Test rankings to No. 1 for a brief period. A similar task confronts him in Australia, though this time he will be seeking more sustained success.
"The key right now is to get some sustainable success and achieving that pinnacle, with South Africa we always tried to knock off little components along the way," he said. "It was so important to get those components right to get to the ultimate goal. South Africa did that and hopefully we can now replicate that in some way.
"The key to ultimate success is strong leadership and clear role definition, but also consistency in selection, so players know exactly where they fit at any given time. I'm sure we'll cultivate that with Australia.
"I do [see similarities] in so many ways. I think the style of play that we want to try to play ultimately is going to be the same, with a few little tweaks because I think our cultures and conditions are similar. You build a team around pillars, and we need to identify who those pillars are and we'll do that as a selection panel down the line and be consistent."
Consistency was the watchword of the team performance manager Pat Howard, who presided over the appointments of Arthur and also John Inverarity as the national selector. Though the Argus review projected the rotation of coaching duties in some ODI and Twenty20 series to ease the burden on Arthur, Howard said the change wrought in 2011 had to be given the chance to settle before further adjustments occurred.
"That is something that is contemplated in the Argus report, but in the short-term we're definitely focused on getting consistency in selection and culture as we alluded to earlier across all three forms of the game," Howard said. "So for the time being Mickey will be involved in all three forms of the game in his role, absolutely. But are we counting out that option, no, we're just building some consistency first."
To that end, Australia's bowling and fielding coaches, Craig McDermott and Steve Rixon, will be retained until at least the end of the home summer, after making strong starts in their respective roles in Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo