Smith to lead Australia against West Indies; injured Cummins out
Steve Smith will captain Australia in Adelaide for a second straight year after Pat Cummins was ruled out of the day-night NRMA Insurance Test against West Indies due to a quad strain.
Scott Boland will play his first Test since last summer’s Ashes as the replacement for Cummins, who has failed to recover in time from the injury he sustained during Australia’s 164-run win in Perth.
The 29-year-old had looked spry while completing a fitness test with physio Nick Jones during Australia’s main training session on Tuesday, but the hosts ultimately elected to play it safe with their fast-bowling captain.
Cummins also missed last year’s Adelaide Ashes Test as a close COVID-19 contact. Vice-captain Smith stood in as skipper on that occasion and will again take the reins this week.
The Aussies expect Cummins to be right for the first Test against South Africa at the Gabba next week.
“I don’t think he was too far away (from playing) and he will continue to build this week,” Smith said of Cummins.
“But with what’s coming up, a big series against South Africa and then Tests in India, there’s a lot of cricket.
“From a strategic point of view, to have the possibility of (Cummins) going down and putting the load through the other quicks having bowled some overs at the end of the Perth Test, it was a risky decision to continue going.
“I think we’ve made the right call and he’ll be fine to go for the next Test match I’m sure.”
Smith, the former full-time captain of Australia in all three formats before the Cape Town scandal in 2018, was restored as Cummins’ deputy last year.
The star batter was surprisingly overlooked to stand in for Cummins during the Dettol ODI series against England last month, with Josh Hazlewood given a first crack at leading the national side.
But Smith’s extensive experience as leader clearly holds considerable value for the Test side with Cummins in the rare position of being a fast-bowling captain.
“I have to do it my own way, I can’t be someone else,” said Smith.
“I am pretty chilled – I took over for the game here last year and thought it went pretty smoothly. So same again.”
Seamers are typically more prone to injury than their batting counterparts, though Cummins, despite the early part of his career being derailed by back issues, has been one of the side’s most durable operators over recent years.
This upcoming Test will mark just his third Test missed through injury since his return in 2017, having previously sat out Australia’s 2018 tour of the UAE against Pakistan with a back concern.
Boland meanwhile presents a strong back-up pace option having patiently ran the drinks since his iconic Ashes campaign last year.
The Victorian snared 18 wickets at the mind-blowing average of 9.55 in his debut campaign against England last year but has since ridden the bench on overseas tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka and was 12th man in the home summer opener against the Windies.
Nathan Lyon believes the Adelaide pitch will hold similar characteristics to the MCG track Boland returned figures of 6-7 on last year.
The right-armer told cricket.com.au’s Unplayable Podcast this week that the mentorship of Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood has only made him a better bowler over the last 12 months.
“Being able to spend so much time with guys like Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Mitchell Starc – once you become a bit closer mates with them, I feel like I’m a bit more to open asking them questions at training and stuff like that,” said Boland.
“They’ve been great for me, they’ve been pretty much an open book. If I’ve ever got a question, they’ve been happy to answer it.
“I met them a few times before the last summer but never really spent an extended amount of time with them. It’s nice to be able to train alongside those guys who are obviously the best in the world.” (Cricket Australia)