Pat Cummins confirmed as Australia's new Test captain

Steven Smith returns to a leadership position with the vice-captaincy

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Pat Cummins has been named Australia's new men's Test captain on the day it appeared Tim Paine's international career may have come to an end a week after he stood down following the emergence of explicit text messages.
Steven Smith has returned to his first official leadership role with the national side since the ball-tampering scandal by taking the vice-captaincy position. It puts him an injury away from captaining the Test side again.
Cummins, who was interviewed for the top job along with former captain Smith, was approved by the CA board on Thursday night after the recommendation of a five-person panel consisting of chair Richard Freudenstein, chief executive Nick Hockley, director Mel Jones and selectors George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide.
"I am honoured to accept this role ahead of what will be a massive Ashes summer. I hope I can provide the same leadership Tim [Paine] has given the group in the past few years," Cummins said. "With Steve and I as captains, a number of very senior players in this squad and some great young talent coming through we are a strong and tightly knit group.
"This is an unexpected privilege which I am very grateful for and am very much looking forward to."
Cummins has been earmarked as a potential future captain for a number of years but was overlooked for a vice-captaincy position in 2018 before being elevated to a shared role in 2019 then as the single understudy in 2020.
"Pat is an outstanding player and leader. He has earned enormous respect from his teammates and from all corners of the game for his attitude and achievements, both on and off the field," Hockley said. "We are extremely fortunate to have an experienced group of senior players who themselves are superb leaders. I have no doubt that Pat and Steve will be well supported in their respective leadership roles."
His only captaincy experience at the professional level is with the New South Wales one-day side last season when he captained them in four matches in what became a trophy-winning campaign although he missed the final due to the IPL.
When NSW gave him the job it was with a view to him being Australia captain at some point amid concerns that candidates for the position were not being given enough opportunity at state level.
It will be a step into the unknown for Australian cricket with the men's team having not been captained by a fast bowler since Ray Lindwall did it on a one-off occasion in 1956.
Given the strains of fast bowling there is a strong chance Smith will take the helm at some point during their tenure.
"I am pleased to return to the leadership of the team and look forward to helping and assisting Pat in any way I can," Smith said. "Pat and I have played together for a long time, so we know our respective styles well."
Initially the timeline for the transition from Paine to a new captain might have been earmarked for after the Ashes but the events of last week meant the process was put into fast forward although CA said it would be a rigorous process with significant background checks for candidates.
Being an integral part of all three formats there was already a huge burden on Cummins although his durability as a fast bowler has been outstanding since his comeback in 2017. He has only missed two of Australia' last 35 Tests, albeit they have only played nine matches since the 2019 tour of England due to Covid-19 postponements.
Cummins is currently part of Australia's T20 World Cup and Australia A contingent still in quarantine on the Gold Coast. When they emerge next week there will be a short and intense lead-in to the Ashes with Cummins quickly having to grasp the various demands of being Australia captain before he walks out to toss the coin with Joe Root at the Gabba on December 8.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo