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News

Head named co-vice-captain as Australia look to 'future-proof' leadership stocks

"He's got all the makings of a really strong leader," says Pat Cummins of his new junior deputy

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
13-Dec-2023
Australia's World Test Championship final and ODI World Cup hero Travis Head has formally been elevated to co-vice-captain in Australia's Test team alongside Steven Smith, with current captain Pat Cummins saying that he has all the makings of a future Test leader as they try to future-proof the leadership stocks within Australian cricket.
Head, 29, was added to Australia's leadership group on Wednesday, just a day out from the first Test against Pakistan in Perth, as Cummins also revealed Australia's XI with only one change being made from the last Test they played back in July at The Oval against England: Nathan Lyon returns from injury in place of Todd Murphy as the lone spinner.
Smith remains the senior vice-captain and will continue to be the first choice to stand in for Cummins when required. Smith has stood in for Cummins in four separate Test matches over the last two years when Cummins has missed matches for a variety of reasons, having also captained Australia in 34 Tests between 2014 and 2018.
Head had previously been a co-vice-captain of the Test team alongside Cummins when Tim Paine was captain. The pair was named as Paine's new deputies in February 2019, replacing the previous co-vice-captains in Mitchell Marsh and Josh Hazlewood, who had been installed in the roles in October 2018 following a team vote in the aftermath of the sandpaper scandal. But Head, like Marsh and Hazlewood, lost the title when he lost his Test place after being dropped from the side during the 2019-20 home series against India.
But his stunning run of form over the last two years across all formats has Head well-entrenched in the side, despite briefly being controversially left out for the first Test in India earlier this year. Cummins confirmed the move had been made with an eye to the future.
"Really excited to have Trav on board as the co-vice-captain," Cummins said on Wednesday. "He's been playing for a long time. He's always been a leader in our group. So we thought it was a good time to formally recognise that. Whilst nothing's imminent, Steve's not going to play forever. I daresay I'm not going to captain forever. So we feel like we've got some responsibility to future-proof the team and start trying to give opportunities to other leaders.
"I think the personality that he brings to the team is something that we all love. And I think you see it in the way he plays his cricket. There's a certain amount of freedom to it. He takes the game on. He enjoys it. He's always got a smile on his face"
Pat Cummins on Travis Head
Cummins is entering his third year as Test captain having been appointed in November 2021. He has consistently noted that he will not have a long tenure as captain despite an incredible run of success that has included winning the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup this year. Meanwhile, Smith is 34 and highly unlikely to be the permanent captain again.
Head looms as one of the leading candidates to be Australia's next long-term skipper post-Cummins. He had long been groomed as a future leader within Australian cricket having been elevated to captain South Australia in Sheffield Shield cricket at the tender age of 21. He has led South Australia in 62 Shield matches, including two Shield finals in his first three seasons. He has also captained his state in 27 List A matches including two Marsh Cup finals and led Adelaide Strikers to a BBL title in 2017-18. He has captained Australia A in eight List A games and one first-class match between 2018 and 2020 and even led Worcestershire in a List A game in 2018.
While Cummins stopped short of confirming that Head was the heir apparent, the captain noted that his own experience as a vice-captain had helped his transition to the role exponentially.
"It doesn't guarantee anything," Cummins said. "But we're giving him a good opportunity. So when you look through the candidates for future captains, of course, he's going to be right up there. And I know in my last couple years before I became captain, being in some of those conversations as a vice-captain really helped fast-track my readiness. So down the track, it might be Trav, it might be someone else, but we want to make sure they're as prepared as they can be."
Cummins noted that Head was a popular member of the team but had greater tactical nous than he was given credit for, which is part of the reason for his elevation.
"I think the personality that he brings to the team is something that we all love," Cummins said. "And I think you see it in the way he plays his cricket. There's a certain amount of freedom to it. He takes the game on. He enjoys it. He's always got a smile on his face. He never takes anything too seriously. He's great at bringing the team together for team morale, for putting his arm around players that need it.
"Sometimes you can mistake that for someone who's not a deep thinker about the game, but I think tactically, he's excellent. So he's got all the makings of a really strong leader like we've seen him do for South Australia for quite a few years and we're making that a little bit more formal around the Aussie team."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo