Cummins banishes captaincy queries with World Cup heroics for Aussies
Pat Cummins may be undecided about his future as Australia's ODI captain after the World Cup but few of his compatriots will be urging him to stand down after his efforts in India.
Australia have had no shortage of contributors through the tournament, with Adam Zampa taking 22 wickets and David Warner scoring a pile of runs.
Cummins's courage under fire and unlikely heroics with the bat, however, have been vital in his team's revival following back-to-back defeats at the start of the campaign.
An unbeaten 14 against South Africa in Thursday's semifinal saw Cummins walk off the ground with bat in hand and victory secured for the second time in the tournament.
In the first, he teamed up with Glenn Maxwell to save Australia against Afghanistan, hanging tough in an epic knock of 12 not out from 68 balls to allow his all-rounder team mate to thrash a double century for victory.
Australia has had its fair share of serious skippers, from "Captain Grumpy" Allan Border to the stone-faced Steve Waugh.
Cummins, by contrast, has kept the mood light in the dressing room and out at the crease, where the banter flows freely with batting partners no matter how high the stakes.
"I think it's easier out there than sitting in the dugout," Cummins said of batting in a tense finish.
Having led Australia to their first World Test Championship triumph in June, Cummins could become the fourth Australian captain to secure the global 50-over title on Sunday, joining Border, Waugh and Ricky Ponting.
For all Australia's success in the test arena since Cummins replaced Tim Paine as skipper two years ago, his captaincy has not always been universally admired. He has leant heavily on former captain Steve Smith and coach Andrew McDonald, while battling scepticism in Australia that a fast bowler can — or should — juggle leadership duties.
Australia's failure to win the Ashes in England earlier this year after leading 2-0 saw him come in for stiff criticism from former players and pundits who nit-picked at tactical decisions.
Even his place in the World Cup squad was questioned, given his relatively modest bowling figures in ODIs compared to fellow quicks Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Former captain Michael Clarke dropped a bombshell that Cummins was set to be dropped after the opening defeats to India and South Africa. It proved a red herring.
Cummins took two vital wickets in the next match against Sri Lanka, ran out another batsman with a sensational piece of fielding, and set Australia on its path to eight successive wins.
With Cummins in charge, victory over hosts India in Ahmedabad on Sunday would mark Australia as one of the great cross-format teams of the modern era.
"The team has done really well and if you win a World Cup that's a real feather in your cap as a leader," Steve Waugh told News Ltd media on Friday. "That's a legacy you can leave. You can never have that taken away from you.
"It's a big moment for him and the team."
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