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Last night Pat Cummins was recognised as Australia’s best cricketer by taking out his first Allan Border Medal, ending four years of dominance by Steve Smith and David Warner.
With the two world-class batsmen under suspension, it was fitting a world-class quick won the coveted medal. Cummins is only the fourth in 20 years after Glenn McGrath won in the inaugural year 2000, Brett Lee in 2008 and Mitchell Jonson in 2014.
He made an impressive off-the-cuff speech after accepting the award from the legend himself, but one quote was most meaningful.
“I’m confident in my body, confident in my skills and injury free.”
Cummins was referring to the frustrating and painful days between the last day of his debut Test against South Africa in November 2011 as an 18-year-old in Johannesburg, where he won the man-of-the-match award with 6-79, to the first ball of his second Test at Ranchi against India in March 2017.
All 1942 days of them.
Now fully fit, Cummins enjoyed a spectacular 2018 with 44 wickets at a miserly 19.97 apiece as well as the first two half-centuries of his blossoming career.
Already the Australian vice-captain, the next step is the coveted captaincy.
Before the naysayers go into overdrive in the belief bowlers aren’t successful Test captains, Richie Benaud kills off that comment.
The champion leggie who could bat a bit led Australia in 28 of his 63 Tests, claiming 248 career wickets at 27.03 and scoring 2201 runs at 24.45 with three Test tons.
Offie Ian Johnson, who couldn’t bat, captained Australia in 17 of his 45 Tests with 109 wickets at 29.19.
Even legendary paceman Ray Lindwall led Australia for one Test against India at Brabourne Stadium in 1956 among his 61 career Tests of 228 wickets at 23.03 and 1502 runs at 21.15 with two tons.
England has also had three bowling captains.
Offie Ray Illingworth led his country in 31 of his 61 Tests, claiming 122 scalps at 31.20.
Ian Botham was a genuine all-rounder in captaining England 12 times in his 102 Tests with career stats of 383 wickets at 28.40 and 5200 runs at 33.54, including 14 centuries.
But Bob Willis was all pace with 18 as captain among 90 Tests, with 325 wickets at 25.20.
India has also enjoyed the captaincy trifecta of all-rounder Kapil Dev, left-arm orthodox spinner Bishan Bedi and leggie Anil Kumble.
Dev is the only Test cricketer in history to crack the 400-wicket, 5000-run barrier. In his career of 131 Tests he led India 34 times in posting 434 wickets at 29.64 and 5248 runs at 31.45, including eight tons.
Bedi was captain in 22 of his 67 Tests, claiming 266 wickets at 28.71.
Kumble could bat a bit, scoring 2506 runs at 17.77 with one century, but it was his bowling that took command, with 619 at 29.65 in captaining India in 14 of his 132 Tests.
Pakistan makes it three captains in a row, with Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, and Waqar Younis.
Imram, now Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister, was a genuine all-rounder, with 362 wickets at 22.81 and 3807 runs at 37.69 in captaining his country 48 times in an 88 Test career.
Wasim led Pakistan for 25 of 104 Test caps and was also an all-rounder with 414 wickets at 23.62 and 2898 runs at 22.64 with three tons.
Waqar was a genuine quick as captain for 17 of his 87 Tests, claiming 373 wickets at 23.56.
The West Indies have had only two in Courtney Walsh and current skipper Jason Holder.
Walsh led the Windies for 22 of his 132 Tests, with a career 519 wickets at 24.44, while Holder has been skipper for 29 of his 37 Tests, with 93 wickets at 27.69 and 1783 runs at 33.64, including three centuries.
Zimbabwe has had only one bowler as Test captain in Heath Streak, who led for 21 of his 65 Tests and posted 216 wickets at 28.14 and 1990 runs at 22.35, with one ton.
I’ve left Sri Lanka’s only Test bowling captain for last to give room to his full name: Herath Mudiyanselage Rangara Bandara Keethi Bandara Herath. He was captain for five of his 93 Tests in capturing 433 wickets at 28.07 during his career.
So there are plenty of examples of bowlers making good Test captains.
Pat Cummins will join the list sooner than later.