“I think there will be some negativity from some people about it – I understand that and I get that,” says Smith
After the appointment, Cummins made it clear that he has no intention to rest himself from Tests – he may have to scale back his commitments in other formats – but Smith is now an injury away from captaining Australia again three-and-a-half years after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. Even if not officially in charge, he is likely to have a much more active role than previous deputies.
“I think there’s a couple of more unknowns about having a bowling captain and that’s why from the outset I was absolutely determined if I was captain to have someone like Steve as vice-captain next to me,” Cummins said. “I feel like I’ve got quite a lot of experience to draw on. A lot of the problems or potential issues around being a fast-bowling captain I’m sure we’ll be able to work through.
“Obviously, it’s not our decision who is captain and vice-captain. I made it pretty clear that if I was given the captaincy that this is how I saw the team running and I tried to bring Steve along for that as well. He’s so central to how I see my captaincy style but [also] how I see the team functioning.”
Smith admitted that his return to a leadership role may not be universally accepted. “I think there will be some negativity from some people about it,” he said. “I understand that and I get that. But for me, I know that I’ve grown a great deal over the last three or four years. I’m a more rounded individual and in turn I think it’s turned me into a better leader.”
The pair are part of the group of Australian players still in quarantine on the Gold Coast after the T20 World Cup – something that Cummins suggested may have proved helpful during the recent upheaval – and they both discussed the direction they could take the team in before being interviewed by the CA panel earlier this week.
Now that it is official, they will start to work on the finer points of the partnership ahead of the start of the Ashes on December 8, and Cummins indicated there may be occasions when he cedes to Smith in the field.
“There’s going to be times where I’m out in the middle, it’s a hot day, I’m in the middle of a spell and I need to turn to people for advice, for tactics, for experience and that’s the main reason, one of the big reasons why I wanted Steve to be vice-captain”
“There’s going to be times where I’m out in the middle, it’s a hot day, I’m in the middle of a spell and I need to turn to people for advice, for tactics, for experience and that’s the main reason, one of the big reasons why I wanted Steve to be vice-captain,” Cummins said. “How that looks? I think it potentially could look differently to [how] you’ve seen partnerships work in the past. I think that will remain pretty fluid.
“A 22-degree day might look differently to a 40-degree day. There will be times on the field where I’ll throw to Steve and you’ll see Steve move fielders around, maybe doing bowling changes, taking a bit more of an elevated vice-captaincy role and that’s what I really want.
“That’s what I’ve asked and I’m really glad Steve is happy with that as well. We’ll nut out exactly how that works, but it’s going to be a real collaborative approach. Steve has got such huge strength especially around tactically out on the field.”
For his part, Smith will go where his captain asks but hopes that his 34 Tests of experience at the helm can complement the new approach that Cummins will bring.
“I’m completely guided by Patrick and whatever he needs on the field,” he said. “If there’s times when Patrick hands to me and wants me to take over and do some different things out on the field I’m there for that. My job is to support Patrick as much as I can.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo