‘His ability to be able to galvanise his team and whatever they did to turn things around after that second game, the coach, the support staff and Pat Cummins in the leadership group of the Australian team, whatever they did, they really turned it around and turned it on.’
Two-time World Cup winner Shane Watson has lauded Pat Cummins for defying all odds and leading by example to hand Australia an unprecedented sixth triumph in the global showpiece.
He may have won the World Test Championship Final and successfully retained the Ashes in England, but Cummins’ appointment as ODI skipper was made keeping in mind the World Cup in India following the sudden retirement of Aaron Finch last year.
But the pacer came under scrutiny after the five-time champions lost the ODI dress rehearsal series against India 1-2 and began their World Cup campaign with defeats to India and South Africa.
“For Australia to be able to win this World Cup here in India with the support, and things going against Pat Cummins, he’s just done it, made the transition so easily,” Watson said on the latest episode of The ICC Review podcast.
“He’s not an experienced captain, even coming into this World Cup, he’d only captained Australia in one day in a handful of occasions.
“The decisions he made today (Sunday), his tactics were absolutely spot on,” Watson said of Australia’s six-wicket win over India in the final here on Sunday.
A back injury had ruled Watson out of their 2003 victory but the former Australia all-rounder proved to be a key member of the side’s victorious 2007 and 2015 campaigns.
Having witnessed those triumphs, Watson admitted that he had never seen an Australian team win like the one they did on Sunday.
“With my experience, watching the 1999 World Cup, then watching from afar 2003 and the others in 2007 and 2015, to be able to win here in India, playing India in the final and knowing these conditions, they were going to be as extreme as India could possibly make them,” Watson said.
Put into bat, India got off to a quick start in front of a 90.000-plus crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
But Cummins kept his calm to rein in the Indian batters through smart bowling changes.
It was his bold decision to hand the ball to Glenn Maxwell early during India’s innings proved to be a master stoke, a move backed by Travis Head, who scored match-winning 137 off 120 balls.
“His ability to be able to galvanise his team and whatever they did to turn things around after that second game, the coach, the support staff and Pat Cummins in the leadership group of the Australian team, whatever they did, they really turned it around and turned it on,” Watson said.
“To be able to then just work through it, and you could see there definitely was a shift after the second game just from his own performance, you’d see there’s a little bit of extra intensity in him after that.”
Left-handed opener Head survived a tricky early period against an imperious Indian fast bowling attack to score the century and lift Australia from 47/3 to 239/4 with Marnus Labuschagne (58 not out) inside 43 overs to seal the affair.
“There’s no question that he’s a high risk, high reward batter. He takes the game on,” Watson noted.
“Once he finds his groove, as we saw after probably about 50 or 60 runs, then he was just in overdrive. And then he was just really in, whenever he wanted to hit the ball to the boundary he did.”
Watson was quick to acknowledge how important it was for Head to make an immediate impact, given his importance in the team’s balance.
“With no cricket to be had, to come into a World Cup, getting a hundred against a high-quality New Zealand bowling attack, and then to be able to replicate that in a semi-final against South Africa. The firepower that he possesses. And then the final,” Watson said.
“There’s no question that Travis Head in the way he’s really reformed himself as a player and as a performer for Australia across all formats of the game has been just through that freedom and fearless way that he’s been playing.
“He’s been a revelation for Australia at the top of the order for sure. The way he’s been batting in one day cricket and we had to do it in India in a final, in challenging conditions, one the atmosphere for sure, but these conditions here today certainly were fairly different to what he’s used to batting in Australia, for example, and where he got brought up,” he said.
“To be able to do that in these conditions as well as shows something of a very, very high quality,” he added.
- World Cup 2023
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