Pat Cummins named Australia Test captain with Steve Smith deputy as Tim Paine takes leave of absence

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 Australia's Pat Cummins, right, celebrates with teammate Tim Paine after taking the wicket of India's Cheteshwar Pujara during play on day two of the second cricket test between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia on Dec. 27, 2020. Cummins was named as the new Australian team captain, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 after the resignation of former captain Tim Paine, Friday, Nov. 19. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake, File) - AP
Australia's Pat Cummins, right, celebrates with teammate Tim Paine after taking the wicket of India's Cheteshwar Pujara during play on day two of the second cricket test between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia on Dec. 27, 2020. Cummins was named as the new Australian team captain, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 after the resignation of former captain Tim Paine, Friday, Nov. 19. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake, File) - AP

Fast bowler Pat Cummins has been named the 47th captain of the Australia Test team, with former skipper Steve Smith announced as his deputy, after Tim Paine stood down from the position last week.

Paine resigned after revelations he had been investigated and cleared over sexually-explicit text messages sent to a female former colleague four years ago.

Cummins, 28, becomes only the second specialist fast bowler to take the captaincy after Ray Lindwall, who led for one Test against India in the mid-1950s.

Cummins will be supported by new vice-captain Smith, who returns to a formal leadership role for the first time since losing the captaincy during the Newlands ball-tampering scandal in 2018.

"I am honoured to accept this role ahead of what will be a massive Ashes summer," said Cummins in a statement. "I hope I can provide the same leadership Tim has given the group in the past few years.

"With Steve and I as captains, a number of very senior players in this squad, and some great young talent coming through, we are a strong and tightly knit group."

As vice-captain, Cummins was the obvious choice to replace Paine and his appointment enables a rapid transition with the start of the Ashes series against England less than two weeks away.

Popular, telegenic and amiable in public, Cummins has taken over as Australia's leading paceman in recent seasons and tops the ICC's Test bowling rankings.

Smith replaces Cummins as vice-captain, returning to a formal leadership role after serving a 12-month ban and a two-year leadership suspension.

Steve Smith's return to a leadership role completes a turnaround in fortunes for the former captain - AP
Steve Smith's return to a leadership role completes a turnaround in fortunes for the former captain - AP

But former Australia bowler turned commentator Shane Warne questioned the decision, saying it opened Cricket Australia up to "ridicule and criticism" after their stance in the wake of sandpaper-gate.

“We all love Steve Smith and are proud that he’s the best Test batsmen in the world again,” Warne wrote in the Herald Sun. "But he should not be the Australia vice-captain."

“Everyone makes mistakes, we know that and we’ve all moved on from sandpaper-gate. But what happened under Steve Smith’s captaincy, he allowed that to happen on his watch. I think the punishment he was given was way too severe, which I said at the time. He paid a huge price for his mistake.

“But his second chance is getting to play for Australia again and in my opinion announcing him as vice-captain opens up CA for ridicule and criticism, and they should throw the code of conduct out the window.”

The news came as Paine's manager, James Henderson, confirmed his player would miss the Ashes as he take an immediate leave of absence from cricket for mental health reasons.

Paine stepped down from the captaincy last week after details of a sexting scandal became public. Henderson said he was "extremely concerned" for the well-being of Paine and his wife Bonnie following the fallout.

Paine had played a second XI game for Tasmania this week and was expected to fly to Queensland on Saturday to join Australia's squad ahead of the first Ashes Test on December 8.

But the 36 year-old's participation in the series looked unlikely on Thursday night after it was confirmed Paine would not be available for selection. Cricket Tasmania added Paine would be absent from all forms of cricket "for the foreseeable future".

Henderson tweeted: "Confirming that @tdpaine36 is stepping away from cricket for an indefinite mental health break. We are extremely concerned for his and Bonnie’s well-being and will be making no further comment at this time."

Cricket Tasmania said it would continue to support Paine as he steps away from the sport.

In a statement, it said: "Following discussions over the last 24 hours, Tim Paine has advised Cricket Tasmania that he will be taking a leave of absence from all forms of cricket for the foreseeable future.

"Tim’s decision makes him unavailable for selection for today’s Marsh One-Day Cup match against Western Australia. His place in the squad will be taken by Charlie Wakim.

"Cricket Tasmania will continue to support Tim and his family both professionally and personally over the summer."

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