It was a nightmare start for the Southern Brave who went on to lose to the London Spirit.
Pat Cummins wants his Test team to be relentless, ruthless and win with a smile, but has ruled out trying to blunt their verbal edge.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s start to the Ashes series, a seemingly relaxed Cummins revealed the change in super intense coach Justin Langer since rumours of disharmony surfaced, and tipped Dave Warner to bounce back after a poor 2019 Ashes by making a big impact.
Here’s everything Cummins had to say at his pre-match press conference
On addressing team behaviour
Former skipper Tim Paine was among those charged with rescuing a team culture shaken by Sandpapergate and various sledging storms.
Cummins was asked if he would be raising behaviour with the team before the start of the Ashes, but he suggested he had no intention of standing in the way of his teammates.
“I don’t think I’ll be intervening first up until we see a problem,” Cummins said.
“I want to make sure everyone is themselves, does what they do best, that they don’t get caught up in too much unneeded fighting.
“I don’t think you need to go out to pick fights. I’m a big believer in concentrating on our own game, making sure that’s in order, getting ourselves up and not getting too caught up in what the opposition is doing.
“Hopefully I’ll be sticking to that and be encouraging teammates to do that but it’s Test cricket – there’s going to be some heated moments. We’ll keep everyone in check. I think the last few years has put everyone on notice so I don’t really see too many people getting out of line.”
Cummins seemed to be relishing his place in the spotlight this week as it sinks in that he’s become the 47th men’s Test captain.
“I’m in a really good place,” Cummins said. “I would say I like to be under done more than over done going into a Test series. The body feels great.
“We’ve had probably four or five really good centre wickets whilst we’ve been up here in Queensland over the last few weeks and I just feel in a really good place. All the quicks are bowling really well – feel fresh with no niggles.”
On Warner’s prospects
Warner had a difficult time in the 2019 series, dominated by Stuart Broad, but has hit some strong T20 form over the World Cup campaign.
“I don’t look at his series record over in England as a great look into this summer,” said Cummins.
“They’re totally different conditions. It’s really tough for opening batters in England. He came back a couple months later and had his best summer yet for Australia, against New Zealand and Pakistan.
“The way he really took it to the attacks, batted long times, that was a huge reason why we we won all those Tests.
“I’d love to see him have a similar impact this summer. I know bowling to him in the nets he’s one of those batters that I feel like if you get it just wrong, he can really make you pay. And that’s a daunting prospect for any bowler when he’s on.
“He’s a huge player for us, coming off a great World Cup. He looks in great touch. Yeah, he’s in a really good place. So he’s been great for over a decade for Australia so I would expect he’ll be in for a big summer.”
On the relationship with JL and T20 skipper Aaron Finch
“The last three weeks we’ve had two weeks quarantine and have a week here preparing and he’s been really great,” Cummins said when asked about Langer’s mood.
“Similar to the World Cup, he’s certainly still head coach and but I think the environment that he creates not only for the players, but the coaches around him, really empowers the team.
“We’ve seen Michael Di Venuto take charge of the batting and Andrew McDonald take charge of the bowling. It’s just really good, clear roles for everyone in the team.
“And yes, he’s in some ways taken a step back and let the players really dictate the environment they want. It worked incredibly well over in the World Cup and he has a huge credit to do that and hopefully it continues for this summer. He’s been great so far. ”
He added he had spoken to Finch about leading the team.
“We’ve had some really good chats,” Cummins said. “I’ve really enjoyed being vice captain under Finchy the last two or three years.
“I think the environment we created in the World Cup is a blueprint. It’s slightly different T20s and Test cricket – the demands – but I think we have a relaxed environment empowering everyone to do it their own way.”
On his team dominating with the bat
Cummins said the team had spoken a lot about scoring big runs at a good pace.
“If you look back to the 2017-18 Ashes series here in Australia our batters were incredibly ruthless,” said Cummins.
“You know, 500, 600 run totals, I think at the WACA we were close ito 700 runs – we were incredibly relentless with the bat.
“At times, I think we’ve probably declared a little bit short than what we would have liked in ideal situation and just let the other team into the game at time. So it’s a big focus for our batting group this summer.”
On having Steve Smith as deputy
As he did when he was named captain, Cummins acknowledged his relationship with Smith might be like no other leadership teams we’ve seen. As a bowler, Cummins understands there could be times when it’s for the best to let Smith take more control.
“Smithy and I have been really good mates for a long time,” Cummins said.
“When I was just turned 18, he lived in the city, I lived back at home, so I’d sleep on his couch occasionally, to save a drive in.
“He’s a legend of the game, tactically really switched on. He always comes up with different ideas. He’s captained 30-odd Test matches for us. So of course, I’ll be leaning on him.
“I’ll be having the final say as captain, but I’ll be looking to him for ideas at times. And then in terms of, I guess, handing over to Steve, I think it’ll become clear when we’re out there if I need to.
“I’m not saying I’ll always be doing that, or I need to do that all the time but there’ll be times where it’s hot, or I need to rest and I’ll have no problem handing over to him. You might see him moving fielders and having a bit more say than, potentially you’ve seen before on a field, which is great.”
On talking to Tim Paine
Cummins said he was in regular contact with his predecessor Paine.
“He obviously wishes he was up here and part of it all but he needs to be home,” Cummins said.
“He’s going alright. We have some good chats and I’ll probably give him another call this arvo and keep leaning on him for different ideas on how to work with or players. ”
On James Anderson’s withdrawal and playing at the Gabba
“He’s obviously a great player and it’s a shame that he won’t be out there tomorrow but it doesn’t change what we’re going do,” said Cummins.
“We’ve had our XI set for a couple of weeks now it won’t change much. I had a look at the wicket and it looks like a normal really good Gabba wicket. The weather looks to be a little bit more encouraging than it was perhaps a few days ago. So I don’t see it being too different from normal Gabba start to the summer.
“I think I look around our team we’ve got a pretty special side. We’ve got some of the great’s of all time for Australian cricket in that changeroom. If we can get most of them clicking we’re going to be pretty tough to beat.
“It’s a familiar venue. Us quicks really like bowling on it. It’s got good pace and bounce on its day and you feel like you’re in the game.
“It can also be a daunting place if you get it wrong, batters can get away quickly and you’ve seen all our batters basically pile up big scores here. So we really like playing here.
“The first day is a sellout, which we love and we haven’t had that for a few years. In terms of conditions that are probably most foreign to England it’s probably the Gabba with the pace and bounce.”
On the impact of Joe Root
An English reporter asked Cummins if he felt England couldn’t win if Joe Root didn’t have a massive series.
“I don’t know about can’t win,” he replied. “I think he’s got to be right up there as the biggest wicket though.
“I think he’s number one ranked btter in the world at the moment. He’s had a really good last 12 months or so. So he’s going to be big, wicket but I wouldn’t say he’s necessarily going to make it or break it for them.”
On his bowling plans for Cameron Green
“He’s going to be huge having that fifth bowling option,” Cummins said.
“In terms of workload, he’s still young, he’s had injuries and he’s a fifth bowler so it’s not in my best interest to bowl him into the ground.
“We’ll be using him at times There might be certain days where he has a bigger workload than other days and having that extra option probably takes a spell off just about all four of us bowlers which is huge in the context of not only five days but a five Test match series.
“I think at times he might be playing the holding role, but he’s about seven foot tall bowls fast and swings the ball, so he’s an attacking option as well.”
On starting life as a skipper
“I didn’t sink in until the launch a couple of days ago walking up onto the Gabba for the first time and even today, just the little things like doing the captain’s press conference and chatting to the umpires, it’s all starting to feel a bit real.
“It will really hit home tomorrow when I walk out there and do the toss and all my friends and family are watching on TV. I know there’s been a lot of publicity and noise but inside the camp we’ve been really relaxed and excited to get started.
Before play a statue of Allan Border will be erected outside the Gabba. Cummins was asked if it felt special to be the next in line as Aussie captain.
“AB was before my time but I’ve seen the videos of Captain Grumpy which are funny to watch,” he joked.
“It’s almost crazy being 47th men’s Test captain. The lineage of Painey, Smithy, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve Waugh, they’re the legends of the game who I grew up watching, so it’s really special.
“You can pick out different parts of each captain – Steve Waugh was with us in the Ashes last time and it was great to see how simple he kept things.
“There’s so much noise and things going on, with data and things to get caught up with, especially us cricket lovers. I think the way he distilled it down and kept it really simple was great.
“Michael Clarke made me feel 10 feet tall when I walked out to bowl, even if I didn’t feel like I was super confident. Ricky Ponting is a great people person. Steve Smith led from the front, Painey’s a great person, so great examples to take from all of them.
On his own style he added: “I hope that I stay relaxed. I think it’s when I play my best cricket. It’s when most play their best cricket.
“So hopefully we can keep that and the bunch of guys we’ve got is just a fantastic bunch, we get along really well we have a lot of fun. Hopefully we’re tight knit group, we enjoy our cricket, we’re relentless when we get a chance and do it with a smile on our face.”