Warne, Ponting’s thoughts on captaincy call BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 24: Pat Cummins and Steve Smith of Australia walk out to field during day four of the 1st Domain Test between Australia and Pakistan at The Gabba on November 24, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

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Australia has made a call on who will replace Tim Paine as Test captain after a week of uncertainty around the important role.

Pat Cummins has become the first fast bowler to captain Australia since Ray Lindwall more than 60 years ago as he has been officially unveiled as Australia’s 47th Test match skipper today.

Cummins has been elevated from the vice-captaincy after Tim Paine sensationally quit as captain when his sexting scandal became public last week.

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Former skipper Steve Smith has also been named vice-captain, completing his redemption story after he was suspended for a year as a result of the Cape Town ball tampering scandal.

The Daily Telegraph reports the Cricket Australia board met on Thursday night and notified Cummins and Smith of the decision after the pair were the only two players to interview for the vacant captaincy position.

The heat has been on both Paine and Cricket Australia all week and the wicketkeeper dropped a bombshell on Friday morning by stepping down from all cricket, putting his Test future in doubt.

Earlier this week, news.com.au readers made their voices clear in a poll, with 45 per cent of over 100,000 readers believing Smith should take the reins, compared to 34 per cent in favour of Cummins.

But while the news broke slightly early, Cricket Australia confirmed the news early on Friday afternoon.

“I am honoured to accept this role ahead of what will be a massive Ashes summer,” Cummins said in a statement.

“I hope I can provide the same leadership Tim (Paine) has given the group in the past few years.

“With Steve and I as captains, a number of very senior players in this squad and some great young talent coming through we are a strong and tightly knit group.

“This is an unexpected privilege which I am very grateful for and am very much looking forward to.”

Cummins becomes the first bowler to hold the role since Richie Benaud — although he also batted in the top seven during his career, hit three Test centries and averaged 24.45 throughout his 63 Test career.

After Cape Town, Smith was banned from holding a leadership position for two years, a term which expired in March.

He added he was also eager to return to the leadership position.

“I look forward to helping and assisting Pat in any way I can,” Smith said in a statement.

“Pat and I have played together for a long time, so we know our respective styles well.

“We are also great friends, as is the whole group. As a team, we want to play good, positive cricket and also really enjoy each other’s company.

“There are exciting times ahead as we focus on the Ashes and beyond.”

Although he was taking a more light-hearted tone on Channel 7’s The Front Bar, former Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting backed Cummins to be the man to break from tradition.

“I’ve got no doubt Pat Cummins can do it,” Ponting said on Thursday night. “If any fast bowler who’s played for Australia in the last 20 years can do it, it’s probably him.

“Some of the ones I played with…nah. Can you imagine Brett Lee or Glenn McGrath thinking about what’s going to happen in the next over? If Glenn McGrath was ever captain, he would have bowled himself 45 overs straight.

“I think the most important thing about this about Pat and the captaincy to be honest is he’s grown a lot. I heard everything around how he dealt with the Justin Langer stuff before they went way for the World Cup was outstanding. His leadership has grown.

“And I think if they put the right vice-captain beside him, someone who can be really honest with him when he needs to be and tell him when he needs to bowl and when he needs to stop bowling, I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge for him.”

‘Out the window’: Warne savages Smith appointment

The return of Smith to a leadership position after his role in the ball tampering saga has the potential to be a lightning rod for criticism.

Aussie cricket legend Shane Warne has slammed the fact Smith can return to a leadership position while David Warner remains suspended from ever captaining or vice-captaining his country after being made the scapegoat for what happened in South Africa back in 2018.

“We all love Steve Smith and are proud that he’s the best Test batsmen in the world again,” Warne wrote in an exclusive column for the Herald Sun. “But he should not be the Australian vice-captain.

“Everyone makes mistakes, we know that and we’ve all moved on from sandpaper-gate. But that happened under Steve Smith’s captaincy, he allowed that to happen on his watch.

“I think the punishment he was given was way too severe, which I said at the time. He paid a huge price for his mistake.

“But his second chance is getting to play for Australia again and in my opinion announcing him as vice-captain opens up CA for ridicule and criticism, and they should throw the code of conduct out the window.”

The Spin King added Warner has “the best cricket brain in the team” and called for Marnus Labuschagne to be named vice-captain.

On Thursday former captain Michael Clarke said Smith would have to avoid looking like he was taking the reins of the team on the field, if he was selected as Cummins’ deputy.

“He’s got to be careful Smithy, because he copped some criticism for doing that when Tim Paine took over the captaincy as well,” Clarke said on the Big Sports Breakfast.

“That he was standing in slip waving his hands, moving the field. If he is vice-captain or even if he is not, he has got to be very careful. There can only be one captain on the field.

“That is what leadership is about as well, owning that. If it is Pat Cummins, he can take advice and guidance but then it’s up to him to be making the decisions.”

Smith was slammed by former skipper Ian Chappell of “white-anting” Paine in 2019 when he appeared to make fielding adjustments without speaking to the wicketkeeper.

Clarke added Smith won’t be able to hide from the spotlight, as evidenced by the wave of condemnation that erupted over his crease-scuffing controversy last summer.

Smith was accused of “cheating” after shadow batting at the crease while Australia was in the field before re-marking centre, during the final Test against India in Sydney.

The former Aussie skipper was stunned by the reaction and questions about his integrity, admitting he could barely sleep after the game.

Clarke said the scrutiny would be so much worse if he was in a leadership position.

“I don’t think Steve Smith understands how extreme it is going to be,” Clarke said

“He got a tiny glimpse of it last summer against India when he scuffed the pitch and was called the biggest cheat on the planet. I don’t think he understands how heavy it is going to be on him.”

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