“His ability to motivate his team and whatever they did to turn things around after that second game, the coach and the support staff and Pat Cummins in the Australian team leadership group, whatever they did, they really turned things around and I turned it on.
IMAGE: The Australian cricket team celebrates their ICC World Cup win on Sunday. Photo: Courtesy Pat Cummins/Facebook
Two-time World Cup winner Shane Watson has praised Pat Cummins for defying all odds and leading by example to give Australia an unprecedented sixth victory at the world championships.
He may have won the World Test Championship final and successfully retained the Ashes in England, but Cummins’ appointment as ODI captain was made with the World Cup in India in mind following the shock retirement of Aaron Finch last year.
But the player came under scrutiny after the five-time champions lost the ODI series to India 1-2 and started their World Cup campaign with defeats to India and South Africa.
“For Australia to be able to win the World Cup here in India with the support, and things going against Pat Cummins, he just did it, and he made the transition very easily,” Watson said in the latest episode of The ICC Review.
“He’s not an experienced captain, even when he’s been involved in the World Cup, he’s only captained Australia on a single day on a handful of occasions.
“The decisions he took today (Sunday), his tactics were absolutely precise,” Watson said of Australia’s six-wicket win over India in the final here on Sunday.
A back injury ruled Watson out of the 2003 win, but the former Australia player proved a key member of the team’s victorious campaigns in 2007 and 2015.
Having witnessed those victories, Watson admitted he had never seen an Australian team win like they did on Sunday.
He added: “From my experience, watching the 1999 World Cup, then watching from afar in 2003 and the others in 2007 and 2015, to be able to win here in India, and to face India in the final and knowing these conditions, they would have been very extreme.” India can also make it,” Watson said.
India got off to a flying start in front of a crowd of over 90,000 at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
But Cummins kept his cool to restrain the Indian batsmen with smart bowling changes.
His bold decision to hand the ball to Glenn Maxwell early during India’s innings proved to be a masterstroke, a move supported by Travis Head, who scored a match-winning 137 off 120 balls.
“His ability to motivate his team and everything they did to turn things around after that second game, the coach, the support staff and Pat Cummins in the Australian team leadership group, whatever they did, they really turned it around,” Watson said.
“To be able to work through that, and you can definitely see there was a turnaround after just the second game of his performance, you’ll see there’s a little bit of extra strength in him after that.”
The left-handed opener survived a difficult early period against a powerful Indian fast bowling attack to score a century and lift Australia from 47/3 to 239/4 with Marnus Labuschagne (58 not out) inside 43 overs to close the affair.
“There’s no doubt he’s a high-risk, high-reward player. He follows the game,” Watson noted.
“Once he found his groove, as we saw after about 50 or 60 pitches, he was in overdrive. And then he was actually, whenever he wanted to hit the ball to the boundary he would do it.”
Watson is quick to acknowledge how important it is for Head to make an immediate impact, given his importance to the balance of the team.
“With no cricket, he comes out in the World Cup, scores a hundred against a quality New Zealand bowling attack, and then is able to repeat that in the semi-final against South Africa. The firepower he has and then the final,” Watson said.
“There’s no doubt that the way Travis Head reformed himself as a player and as a representative of Australia in all forms of the game was through that freedom and the fearless way in which he played.
“It was a revelation for Australia at the top of the order for sure. The way he was batting in cricket one day and we had to do that in India in the final, in difficult conditions, a difficult atmosphere for sure, but those conditions are certainly here today,” he said. “They were quite different from what he was used to batting in Australia, for example, and where he grew up.”
“To be able to do this in these conditions also shows something of very high quality,” he added.