Sports, Cricket

An Aussie WC winning captain like no other

Published : 21 Nov 2023 09:10 PM

Put Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Pat Cummins into a room together and welcome to the easiest odd-one-out question ever. It's obviously Cummins. The first three are, by and large, all from that one particular lineage of Australian captains. Hard nuts, take no prisoners, Mates R 4 life, sport is war until it's a shared beer.

What is common between all of them is also obvious, that they are, after Sunday night, ODI World Cup winning Australian captains and what that should tell us, is that niceness or nastiness, hardness or softness, wokeness or whateverness, has nothing to do with captaincy.

What captaincy boils down to is all the little decisions Cummins made in Ahmedabad that ultimately paid off. Such as the decision to bowl first, having been unsure about it right until the toss. He gambled that the wicket would play better in the evening, but also calculated that not getting it right with the bat first would be fatal in a way not doing so with the ball wouldn't. Imagine the flak had they lost.

He actually hit a tactical high in the final, nimble and fluid with his plans, shedding some of the rigidity and mis-steps of the run-in. He hurried through bowling changes in those middle overs, often bringing on bowlers for one-over spells, not in panic, but with a clear purpose: don't allow Indian batters any rhythm. That allowed plenty of resources for the death should they have been needed; a strong possibility against the team with the second-highest scoring rate in this tournament in that phase.

Some of that mood filtered through ahead of the start of the World Cup, when it was reasonable to wonder how good a fit Cummins was as ODI captain. He'd only led Australia four times before in the format. Squeezing a three-man pace attack in the XI, in which one bowler was an undoubted format great and the other the No.1 ranked bowler at the time, in conditions where three might not be needed, was a legitimate concern.

Six weeks later and we're reminded that there's nothing like a World Cup win to drop dead all the chatter. Not the right format? World Cup winner. Not enough leadership experience? World Cup winner. Too woke? World Cup winner. Too polarising? World Cup winner. Too soft? World Cup winner. Too nice? World Cup winner. Did wrong by Justin Langer? World Cup winner. Not Aussie enough? World Cup winner.

It has not been the flawless campaign of Ponting's sides in 2003 or 2007. In its stuttering start, perhaps there was a bit of Waugh's 1999. Winning it in India, where they began as underdogs right the way through until they won it, had a little of Border's 1987. And in nearly half of this squad being part of the 2015 triumph under Clarke, it can't help but retain some of the flavour.

But really, as with each one of the others, this one will also stand as a triumph all on its own, identifiable in time instantly and primarily by the name of its leader.