In the moments after Australia took a 4-0 Ashes win, on the edge of the overwhelmingly positive sentiment for Pat Cummins’ side, you may have seen a negative message circulating on social media.
The post in question came from Nick Paine, brother of former Australia Test captain Tim, who was fired on the eve of the Ashes for sending unsolicited, explicit photos to a colleague in 2017.
In the post, Paine said his brother “deserved this farewell on his home turf in front of his family, friends and his staunch supporters”.
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The scenes of Australia lifting the ashes at Bellerive Oval were described as “rending”.
Be that as it may, for the Paine family, who have every right to stand up for any of them, there is a big mistake in reading the room.
The Australian men’s test team hasn’t looked this healthy in years, and it’s largely due to the thriving team-first culture spearheaded by Paine’s replacement, Cummins.
Under Cummins’ supervision, Australia used 15 players, handed out three baggy greens, recalled one player after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, another after nearly three years, and created a true superstar out of a 32-year-old, en route to one of Ashes’ most resounding victories.
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Of course, Cummins didn’t bring Australia here on its own. Brave selections and Justin Langer’s willingness to listen more to his players played a big part.
But you can’t help but wonder if Australia would be in the same position now if Paine was still in charge instead of Cummins.
There can be no doubt that while Paine’s behavior off the field left much to be desired, he was a fine Test wicketkeeper, a solid batter and a strong leader. He played a crucial hand in taking this side out of the darkness of the 2018 Cape Town ball-shaming scandal – and the men’s cricket world is now Australia’s oyster again.
And yet, while his departure came for all the wrong reasons, it’s hard to argue it wasn’t timely from a cricketing perspective.
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On Sunday night, Cummins took the stage to take the Ashes instead – a moment drenched in the symbolism of Australia’s generational change.
There he praised the likes of Cameron Green, Travis Head, Marcus Harris, Jhye Richardson and Scott Boland.
“It feels like we’re really building something big,” Cummins stated boldly.
The only player with more than four years of testing experience to mention Cummins by name in his speech was Nathan Lyon – and that’s only because he didn’t have a chance to bowl him in Hobart.
When Australia received the trophy, Cummins put a time limit on the champagne celebrations to allow Usman Khawaja, a devout Muslim and rising Test herd, to participate.
It was clear that this wasn’t a celebration of winning the Ashes, but rather a celebration of team culture and the new beginnings that make Australia look in really good shape.
A farewell party for 37-year-old Paine couldn’t be further from what Australia needed here.
The cruel truth is that his sudden departure has accelerated Australia where it needs to be.
Australia now has a much-loved and respected captain who could realistically do the job for a number of years instead of Paine, who was about to retire.
Cummins, 28, had a new vision for the Australian test team; to trust the players, promote freedom and bring tranquility to the locker rooms.
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Previously, players were tense, stressed and chained to coach Langer’s high expectations, culminating in a shocking series loss to India in 2020-21.
A mid-year player revolt pushed Langer into the background, with his job dependent on finding a willingness to delegate more often and micromanage less.
It must be said that Paine was part of giving Langer feedback, but Cummins was reportedly a key driver of change as the golden boy of Australian cricket.
He wasn’t expected to get the keys months later, but in the driver’s seat, Cummins nailed every turn.
Cummins immediately made fun of his doubts that he could fulfill the double role of captain and pacer by taking 5-38 in the Gabba’s first innings.
Wickets flowed all series, with Cummins finishing as the leading wicket taker with 21 at 18.04.
Not only did he use himself at the right times, but it was not at the expense of others, who were also thriving under the Cummins regime.
Mitchell Starc was back close to his best with 19 wickets at 25.36, Green taking his first Test wicket, then 12 more at 15.76, while Boland claimed an incredible 18 wickets on his debut at 9.55.
Cummins was not afraid to make the tough decisions, such as Lyon not bowling for a single over in Hobart in sailor-friendly conditions.
His bowling rotations and fielding placements were perfect for the vast majority of the series, with the only misstep being a late return on day four in Sydney.
Even then, it was only one ball away from a perfect statement as England continued to cling to a draw with their 10th wicket.
Cummins proved his astute cricketing spirit on more than one occasion, such as the gamble of bowling first in the MCG, where England were blown away.
There were also more subtle, clever captaincy moments, such as successfully landing a leg-side kick to Dawid Malan in Sydney, or when he lifted himself up at the Gabba and handed the ball to Green, who needed just seven balls to beat Joe Root. to fire. for 89, crushing England’s second-innings resistance.
Cummins is under no illusion that tougher tests will not wait for him on the horizon.
In reality, debuting as Test captain doesn’t get much easier thanks to the tawdry performance England offered.
But Cummins has shown that a fast bowler can be a good test captain, albeit with a largely experienced group, and with a former leader as his deputy. Cummins’ willingness to lean on Vice Captain Steve Smith should be seen as a strength, not a weakness.
What’s more, Cummins proved what many suspected all along; that less is more when leading the Australian cricket team.
“I think the way guys have played has definitely made my job really easy,” Cummins said. “I love this bunch of guys.
“Captaincy was pretty easy with so much experience on the side. Just give them free rein and they bring the performances the way they did, so it was just great.”
Speaking about his pursuit of tranquility in the Australian locker rooms, Cummins made it clear – in the most respectful and humble way possible – that he was always right.
“I think that’s not just when I’m playing my best, but I think that’s when the team is playing at its best,” Cummins said. “Everyone wants it, everyone is looking forward to it, energetic.
“So I think sometimes I keep calm, even during the tea break (on Sunday) when England had a really good opening partnership.
“I just love how calm and calm everyone stayed and just focused on the work. I think this series really showed that everyone is at their best when they think that way.”
Where Australia would be now if Paine were still in charge is unclear – but it’s hard to see how it could be any better than this.