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Captain Cummins hailed after Australia’s World Cup triumph

Ricky Ponting has declared it’s time to discard all the negativity about Pat Cummins’ captaincy and salute his fellow World Cup-winning skipper’s “almost faultless” leadership.

Nov 20, 2023, updated Nov 20, 2023
Australian captain Pat Cummins with the World Cup trophy. Photo: AP/Rafiq Maqbool

Australian captain Pat Cummins with the World Cup trophy. Photo: AP/Rafiq Maqbool

Australia’s brilliant final triumph on Sunday, which came after Cummins had taken the daring option of putting a flying India side in to bat, prompted the 2003 and 2007-winning captain Ponting to offer the most generous of tributes to the captain’s continuing excellence .

Asked about Cummins’ captaincy on Sky Sports on Sunday, he said: “I think that’s been almost faultless, to be honest.

“I mean, any captain deciding to bowl first at the toss, that’s a gutsy, courageous move.

“Australia felt that if they could bowl well on that dry wicket early on and restrict India, batting was gonna get easier in the second innings – but we all know if you get that call wrong and you lose the game, that’s a huge decision to make for a relatively young captain.

“I thought his leadership actually has got better and better right through the tournament.

“His bowling has got better, and the way he used his bowlers today and some of his field placements to (Virat) Kohli and KL Rahul, outstanding, so once again, an Australian team just finds a way to get it done in the final.”

There had been plenty of critics ready to pile in on Cummins after the Test series defeat in India, and his tactical nous was also constantly put under the spotlight during the drawn Ashes series, despite Australia still coming home with the urn and the World Test Championship trophy.

But Ponting insisted: “I don’t know where the negativity’s come from because there’s been no real basis for it.

“You look at their overall Test record since he’s been captain is outstanding. And now he’s a World Cup-winning captain, a World Test Championship-winning captain and a captain who retained the Ashes, so that negativity needs to be put aside now.

“Because there have been a number of moments – think back to the first Test of the Ashes – where he stood up and actually got the job done himself.

“Under extreme pressure with bat or ball, it’s generally been him when his team’s in trouble who’s changed the course of the game. So he thoroughly deserves every plaudit that comes his way as far as leadership is concerned.”

Australia’s Glenn Maxwell embraces Marnus Labuschagne after hitting the winning runs. Photo: AP/Rafiq Maqbool

Australia’s victory was built on a batting performance for the ages by South Australian Travis Head.

Chasing 241 for victory on Sunday (Monday AEDT), Head hit 137 to help take Australia out of early trouble and to a comfortable win with seven overs to spare.

His runs came as part of a 192-run fourth-wicket stand with Marnus Labuschagne, who struck a controlled 58 off 110 by turning the strike over and letting Head star.

Together the pair helped silence a rocking Narendra Modi Stadium, after the previously-unbeaten hosts had Australia 3-47 and staring down the barrel of collapse.

But just when it appeared Australia could fall apart after Steve Smith failed to review his lbw when a Jasprit Bumrah ball hit him outside off stump, Head and Labuschagne kept their composure.

They were able to wrestle back control of the match by regularly finding singles, never being tied down by the spinners while barely taking any risks.

Getting desperate, India brought back Bumrah and Mohammad Shami in the 24th and 28th overs.

Both times, Head responded by hitting the first deliveries of their spells to take the sting out of the situation.

The left-hander brought up his hundred off 95 balls, and swatted away short balls at will when targeted by India’s quicks.

He also slog-swept both Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yavav for sixes, hitting four in total as well as 15 fours.

Head was eventually caught on the boundary trying to finish the game, allowing Glenn Maxwell to slog the winning runs off his first ball.

The title comes after a year when Australia have retained the Ashes in England and beaten India in the World Test Championship final.

“This pips it all, this is top of the top of the mountain,” captain Pat Cummins said.

“It will be a year we remember for a long, long time. It’s been an awesome.

“We’ve spent the whole Aussie winter away overseas playing playing. But we’ve had a lot of success.”

Australia’s 1999 triumph is widely considered the most remarkable of their World Cup wins, after overcoming a sluggish start to the tournament in England.

But this campaign should be considered as close to its equal.

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Australia were soundly beaten by India and South Africa in the opening week, and axed wicketkeeper Alex Carey after one game.

Selectors made the call to keep Head in the squad despite nursing a fractured hand back home, while Labuschagne was only brought into the group on Ashton Agar’s calf injury.

Coaches were unable to pick their first-choice XI until the semi-final stage, by which point Australia had won seven straight games to qualify.

Then in the final, they were forced to play on a slow, previously-used wicket in a sold-out 132,000-seat stadium of India fans.

And despite it all, they thoroughly outplayed the heavy favourites.

“That’s just the belief that’s in the squad,” seamer Josh Hazlewood, who took 2-60, said.

“This is bigger than (the last triumph in) 2015. We won that at home in front of our home fans.

“But the challenges we’ve been through the last couple of months, coming here, playing in these conditions against India, who are a pretty special team.

“Getting the win on a day like this is amazing.”

Cummins’ captaincy was superb, making the bold call to bowl after winning the toss and banking on batting with the dew at night.

He got his fields right, regularly changed bowlers at the right time and pegged India back after they were 2-80 following the first 10 overs.

From then on, the hosts only hit four more boundaries.

The captain also took 2-34, becoming the first quick in the tournament to bowl 10 boundary-free overs, while bowling Virat Kohli for 54 in the process.

Australia’s fielding was also far superior, headlined by a Head catch running back at point to change the match when he removed Rohit Sharma for 47 off 31 balls off Maxwell’s bowling.

Mitchell Starc also removed Shubman Gill early and KL Rahul (66) late to finish with 3-55 as India were bowled out on the last ball of the innings.

– AAP

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