Friday, December 8, 2023

Cummins: ‘I think that’s the pinnacle’

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What began as a daunting year for Pat Cummins and Australia has ended in ultimate glory, the kind of year that might sit alongside some of the best years any Australian side has had this century. It started with an honourable Test series defeat in India and it ended with a spectacular World Cup triumph, also in India. Along the way they became, not inconsiderably, World Test champions and retained the Ashes in England.

Cummins was in no doubt though that a sixth World Cup triumph, with the odds very much stacked against them in the final against hosts and arch-rivals India, represented the “pinnacle” of their achievements.

“That’s huge, I think that’s the pinnacle of international cricket, winning a one-day World Cup,” Cummins reflected, an hour or so after Glenn Maxwell hit the winning runs to seal an emphatic six-wicket triumph in Ahmedabad.

“Especially over here in India, in front of a crowd like this. Yeah, that’s huge. Yeah, it’s been a big year for everyone, but our cricket team has been here in India, Ashes, World Test Championship and top it off with this is just huge. These are the moments that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

“It’s just every international team comes together. You only get a shot at it every four years. Even if you have a ten-year career, you might only get two chances at it. And yeah, it’s just the whole cricket world stops with this World Cup. So, it doesn’t get any better.”

Cummins had spoken pre-match about silencing a big crowd before the game and his side did just that throughout the day. The bowlers first put an end to the flurry of powerplay boundaries India hit, restricting them to a record low of just four across the last 40 overs of the innings. And when they batted Travis Head alone hit three more boundaries than the entire Indian batting order, each one stifling the noise of over 90,000, the vast majority of whom were Indian fans.

Cummins was, by his own admission, nervous as he waited for the game to start this morning, clocking the sea of blue on their way to the ground as his team made their own way there. But he was nerveless when the game began, first in deciding to bowl first against the tournament’s most fearsome batting line-up, and then, with the ball himself.

He’s had an indifferent tournament with the ball, only to save his best for when it mattered the most. In dismissing Virat Kohli in the 29th over, he produced the moment that did more than most to stun the crowd into silence.

“Yeah, we did take a second in the huddle just to acknowledge the silence that was going around the crowd,” he said. “It just felt like it was one of those days where it was all made for him to score another hundred like he normally does so yeah that was satisfying.”

He had a good day as captain, never allowing India to settle as he rotated his bowlers, quite often after one-over spells. By the 30-over mark of India’s innings, he had made 14 bowling changes, the joint most by any side in this World Cup. No leadership decisions will feel as vindicated as those to keep Head in the squad despite his broken hand not allowing him to play in their first five games, and to persist with Marnus Labuschagne in the XI. Head hit a match-winning 137 in the final and Labuschange an unbeaten 58, together in a partnership of 192. Labuschagne played through the tournament, despite concerns about the impact it had on Australia’s scoring rate through the middle.

“We wanted to be pretty brave this World Cup, we didn’t want to kind of limp into the semi-finals, we wanted to be the team that could score 400 and you saw that the way we kind of shaped up with Trav, [David] Warner and then having [Mitchell] Marshy at number three,” Cummins said.

“We wanted to be really aggressive and then a couple of our all-rounders are obviously aggressive to finish up the innings so we would rather fail that way. But then Marnus just showed his class and in South Africa you had to pick him, he was fantastic and he was playing a different style to probably what he did for the first start of his ODI career. It was paying off and we know he’s a gun so you had to try and find room for him.

“And then the Trav Head one was, we thought his World Cup was over. It wasn’t until about the next night afterwards [the injury] where Ronnie [coach Andrew McDonald] came up to me. He’s like, ‘I haven’t slept all night, I think we’re going to keep him. We’re going to take the risk. He might be right for the Netherlands and then if we’re going to make the finals and we want to win the World Cup I think he needs to be there for the finals.'”

Cummins had only played two ODIs since November 2022 (and eight since November 2020) when the World Cup began. But he said he had rediscovered the joys of the format during the World Cup, calling for more games that matter. The future of ODIs is likely to be discussed at the ICC Board meetings this week in Ahmedabad though no concrete decision is expected.

“Maybe because we won, but I did fall in love with ODI [cricket] again this World Cup,” he said. “I think the scenario where every game really matters, it does mean a bit different to just a bilateral. So yeah, I don’t know. I mean, the World Cup’s got such a rich history, I’m sure it’s going to be around for a long time. There’s so many wonderful games, so many wonderful stories within this last couple of months. So, I think there’s definitely a place.”

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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