Pat Cummins’ introduction to Test cricket was nothing short of special. It is easy to forget that the 24-year-old earned his first baggy green cap all the way back in November 2011 against South Africa at the Wanderers.
Then 18-years-old, Cummins had become the youngest Test debutant for Australia since Ian Craig in 1953. That the Sydney-born man would pick up a six-wicket haul and hit the winning runs in that Test in a man-of-the-match performance showed that the hype around him was real.
It is a shame then that in the six years since making his debut, Cummins had played only four Tests coming into the Ashes 2017-18 series. All four of those Tests had come in 2017 against India and Bangladesh.
A stress fracture to his back has been the pacer’s undoing over the past few years and his constant injury troubles had brought to a halt a fledgling international career. There has been many a time that Cummins seemed destined to mount a comeback, only for him to breakdown once again at the first hurdle.
Such were his injury troubles that while a future in the limited-over format remained bleak, his body’s ability to withstand the rigors of five-day cricket remained a distant dream. It would have been easy for Cummins to give up on a Test return and focus on the limited-overs as he sought to manage his workload but the pacer has remained focus on the former and is now reaping the rewards for his perseverance.
Credit must also been given to Cricket Australia for sticking with Cummins in his long years of injury woes but it’s a testament to the latter’s determination that he put his hand up when Mitchell Starc broke down in the tour of India earlier in 2017.
After missing much of 2016 with injury, Cummins had only just returned to the international fold in the limited-overs clashes against New Zealand and Pakistan. It would have been logical for him to build his fitness up some more before making the leap back to Test cricket but when the chance to replace Starc in India arose, Cummins wasted no time in taking up the call.
He was a revelation in the two Tests he played against India despite the 2-1 loss and he displayed the same once again in the tour of Bangladesh later. His ability to thrive on slow subcontinent decks was pleasing to see and his willingness to bend the back after years of rotten luck was refreshing.
Before the start of the Ashes, Cummins had aimed at playing all five Tests as he sought to prove to himself and everyone that his injury troubles were behind him for good.
And play in all five games he did to end up as the leading wicket-taker in the series with 23 scalps to his name. Australia’s three quicks topped the wicket-taking tree and that Cummins outshone Starc and Josh Hazlewood, even marginally, is a fitting finale to his long and treacherous comeback road.
That Cummins had the talent and possessed all the weapons that make a lethal fast bowler was already known in 2011, it is his rise like a phoenix from the ashes of his injury troubles to once again fulfil that potential which is the story of Australia’s big win.
Skipper Steve Smith might take all the plaudits for his insane run-scoring in the and rightly so, however, in Pat Cummins, Australia have rediscovered a gem they thought they had lost for good.
Trevor Bayliss has announced he will leave his post as England coach in September 2019, when his current contract expires.
Here, we answer some of the key questions arising from the announcement.
Heavy defeats in an Ashes series tend to raise questions about the job security of key personnel and when the inevitable scrutiny arrived at Bayliss’ door, he saw no reason to lie.
Throughout his coaching career Bayliss has never stayed in a post much beyond four years and his stint with England will fit the pattern to a tee.
Those with a greater interest in presentation and perception may have chosen to choreograph news of their planned departure at a better time but the plain-speaking Australian tends to favour an honest answer.
DOES A LONG GOODBYE UNDERMINE HIM?
Telegraphing his exit more than 18 months in advance is certainly unlikely to strengthen Bayliss’ hand, but there is so much cricket in the current, exhaustive calendar that he holds plenty of power for as long as he remains in position.
Players who want to be involved in big set pieces like a home World Cup in 2019 and the subsequent domestic Ashes would be well advised to hang on his every word. But whether a measure of support ebbs away among fans, or even in the ECB’s corridors of power is an open question.
If he is to go out on a tide of goodwill, it will be based on results.
WILL HE GROOM A SUCCESSOR?
Ego is essentially a non-factor for Bayliss, so he will likely do precisely what is asked of him by his employers.
If that means welcoming an heir apparent into the fold and easing his path, expect Bayliss to do it with minimal fuss. If it means getting on with the job while headhunters do theirs, that should also work.
WHO ARE THE LONG-RANGE CANDIDATES?
There was once strong support for Bayliss’ current deputy Paul Farbrace easing into the top job when the time came, but the former’s suggestion that “a new voice” is needed suggests that may not be the favoured plan.
Paul Collingwood is highly-respected and ticks many of the right boxes – an involvement in the coaching set-up but enough distance for deniability, good relations with the current generation, a strong knowledge of the county game – but he is still active for Durham and has never held a permanent coaching position.
Might Chris Silverwood, a title winner at Essex and recently appointed as England bowling coach, fancy a fast-track promotion or will Australian Jason Gillespie, once a red hot favourite for the job and now back in the country with Sussex, come back into the fray?
One thing is for certain though, a third stint for Peter Moores seems unlikely.
COULD ENGLAND SPLIT THE COACHING JOB?
Bayliss’ proposed end date of September 2019 will mark the end of an enormous summer for English cricket.
Not only are they hosting the World Cup, and looking to get their hands on it for the first time, but they are hoping to regain the urn from Australia soon after. Is it possible, or even sensible, for one man to mastermind both projects?
With Bayliss on the way out, the ECB might well consider handing part of his portfolio on to someone else by way of an audition. England pioneered this approach when Andy Flower handed the one-day reins to Ashley Giles but found it an unwieldy method and duly binned it.
The current international schedule almost demands a reappraisal of an idea that may just have been ahead of its time.
Provided by Press Association Sport
England coach Trevor Bayliss will walk away at the end of his contract in 2019 but has vowed to begin the job of building a team ready to win in Australia.
Bayliss insisted the 4-0 Ashes defeat, which was confirmed with this week’s crushing loss in Sydney, had no bearing on a decision that had long been made and it had never been his intention to stay longer.
Having started his tenure by winning the urn in England in 2015, he will sign off next September after another home Ashes contest.
“I told Andrew Strauss (director of England cricket) probably 12 months ago that September 2019 is when I’m contracted to and that would see me out,” he said.
“I’ve never been anywhere any more than four or five years. Whether you’re going well or not I’ve always felt that round about that four-year mark is time to change. A new voice, a slightly different approach slightly reinvigorates things, so I passed that on to him 12 months ago.”
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) January 8, 2018
Announcing his plans shows admirable honesty from the plain-speaking 55-year-old but with English fans, players and administrators all desperate for an improved showing Down Under in four years’ time, it is also a brave step.
Put simply, many of the most important issues facing the national – over selection, style and even infrastructure – will be overseen by a man who will be gone before crunch time arrives.
It puts him in a position somewhat akin to second-term president, trying to institute initiatives he will not benefit from and which could be easily reversed by his successor.
If anything, that elevates Test skipper Joe Root’s importance even more, a fact Bayliss is happy to promote.
“I’ve got no problem working towards a long-term goal even if I’m not going to be there,” he said.
“You leave a coaching position hopefully with the team in a better place than when you started. Joe Root as the captain will still be there and there’s a base of six or seven players that will still be young and good enough to be in the team.
“The captain is in charge, but we’re there to help out. Joe is a young captain and I would expect in four years when he comes back, with another four years’ experience and an away Ashes under his belt, he’ll feel a lot more comfortable.”
The Test squad which travels to New Zealand next month is unlikely to show too many drastic changes, perhaps even just one change apiece in the batting and bowling ranks.
Reactions to Ashes’ defeats have certainly been more dramatic than that in the past but Bayliss accepts the side must evolve if it is to reach new levels.
That process will get under way sooner rather than later, but with a warning attached not to expect instant results.
“It’s not going to be an overnight success. If you bring three or four young blokes into the team it will be a slower process as they learn what the international game is about,” he said.
“It’s about slowly getting them involved, not necessarily in the team but around the squad to begin with and filtering them into the team when positions become available or when they force their way in.
“If it is to occur that we’re not necessarily as successful as we’d like to be because we’re blooding some young players it’s about being able to take it on the chin. Hopefully everybody realises we are heading in a certain direction.”
Provided by Press Association Sport