OPINION

Huge questions over Cummins' ability to lead Test team

CAPTAIN: Pat Cummins will be the first fast bowler to captain his country since Ray Lindwall in 1956. Picture: Gareth Copley-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

CAPTAIN: Pat Cummins will be the first fast bowler to captain his country since Ray Lindwall in 1956. Picture: Gareth Copley-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

In sport and most fields of endeavour, great captains and leaders are born, not created.

Pat Cummins' ascension to the Australian Test captaincy was predictable, but there are huge question marks about his credentials as a leader.

His only first-class experience as a skipper is for NSW in the limited-overs competition and has yet to lead the state in the Sheffield Shield.

As vice-captain to former captain Tim Paine and a squeaky-clean image, Cummins had been long earmarked as his successor, but the star paceman will be on a steep learning curve in the next two months and beyond.

When he takes over in the first Test at the Gabba next week, Cummins will be the first fast bowler to captain his country since Ray Lindwall replaced the injured Ian Johnson in 1956 - and there has been a good reason why the role is normally given to batsmen.

Spinners such as Richie Benaud and Johnson found it much easier to handle the job.

It is much tougher to lead the bowling attack as Cummins will do with the added burden of captaincy.

Cummins believes he can defy history as a fast bowler in collaboration with his vice-captain Steve Smith, who will have his blessing to set fields and make bowling changes at certain times. But can that work? Surely there is only one captain at any time on the field.

Coach Justin Langer and other experienced people can also help him, but ultimately all decisions will rest with Cummins.

You can understand the rationale behind Smith's resurrection as a leader, but the former captain was not the greatest tactician on the field either with his field placements or bowling changes.

How good will Cummins be in these key components of captaincy?

He might be in the class of great skippers such as Mark Taylor and Ian Chappell, but that is unknown at this stage.

The other major issue for Cummins is his workload, with the five Ashes Tests this summer crammed into six weeks. He has committed himself to be there for all Tests, but it is highly likely Australia will have to rotate its fast bowlers.

You have to feel sorry for Paine, who has paid such a heavy price for his stupid mistake.

The Tasmanian's decision to stand aside for mental health reasons released pressure on selectors, particularly chairman George Bailey.

Bailey had said he would recuse himself from voting because of his close business and working relationship with Paine if the panel he leads could not agree on the wicketkeeper's selection.

But as chairman of selectors, he has to make tough calls and is sure to face many more in the future, with former teammates still playing for Australia in all formats.

If Bailey can't do that, he should also resign.

England bullish in another battle with Warner

England has been on the receiving end from David Warner at his punishing best often enough in the past decade to treat him with the utmost respect.

Warner emerged from the triumphant T20 World Cup campaign with his confidence restored; however, the Englishmen have no reason to fear the powerful NSW left-hander based on his recent performances against them.

FORM: Since the start of 2018, David Warner has scored only 387 runs against England in all formats. Picture: Michael Steele-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

FORM: Since the start of 2018, David Warner has scored only 387 runs against England in all formats. Picture: Michael Steele-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

Since the start of 2018, Warner has scored only 387 runs against England in all formats to average a paltry 14.88.

In 11 Test innings against England in that period, Warner has scored only two half-centuries, with eight scores below double figures.

Warner's record in one-day internationals and T20 games has also been disappointing.

Stuart Broad has claimed Warner's scalp seven times in the 11 Test innings and he, James Anderson and the other England pacemen will relish having another crack at the opener on his home soil.

Warner's Test average against England is just under 40, well below his career average of 48.09 in 86 Tests, although he averages 60.25 against the Englishmen in Australia, including three centuries.

Warner, 35, is coming towards the end of a successful international career and would be determined to turn around his recent form slump against England this summer.

Australia needs a positive start from Warner and fellow opener Marcus Harris, who is yet to consolidate his spot at the top of the Australian batting order.

Wires crossed over Lawry

In the wake of Paine's fall from grace, there were parallels drawn between the wicketkeeper's treatment from Australian cricket's hierarchy and the handling of Bill Lawry's sacking as Test skipper more than 50 years ago.

Lawry was treated shabbily by the administrators and selectors at the time, but the commonly-held belief that he learned of his fate by listening to a radio report is a fallacy.

After the sixth Test against England in Adelaide finished in a draw, South Australian journalist and former Sheffield Shield cricketer Alan Shiell tried to contact Lawry at the team hotel for comment after learning he had been omitted for the final Test in Sydney and replaced as skipper by Ian Chappell.

Lawry was not in the room, but teammates Keith Stackpole and Ian Redpath took the call and were informed by Shiell of the Australian selectors' shock decision.

Both were stunned and contemplating how they would inform Lawry when he returned to the room soon after.

They sat him down and delivered the sad news before it became public knowledge.

Has Howard got it right?

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