The eruption of glee in Pat Cummins an instant after producing a defining delivery in his storied career to dismiss Virat Kohli on Sunday is the punctuation point to his legacy.
His arms thrown wide in joy after an inside edge from the Indian talisman cannoned into middle stump, the Australian captain’s celebration was instinctive.
Pumping his fists and roaring with delight as he charged towards his teammates, Cummins epitomised every fast bowling great in history in a salute complete with fire and fury.
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Australia claim 2023 Cricket World Cup | 03:49
Cummins played his role as puppet master to perfection in the previous 15 overs prior to the delivery, pulling a string of changes that denied Kohli and KL Rahul rhythm and tempo.
The decision to return himself to the attack was as pivotal as any moment in the World Cup final given the threat Kohli posed as he threatened to advance India’s cause at the crease.
Cummins is a collaborative captain. Leading into the 2023 World Cup, Mitch Marsh identified this trait as a crucial skill in his armoury. And the skipper has great faith in his teammates.
But as Ricky Ponting noted during Australia’s six wicket triumph over India in Ahmedabad, Cummins also has the happy knack of delivering himself when it matters most.
“Under extreme pressure with bat or ball, it’s generally been him when his team is in trouble who’s changed the course of the game,” Ponting said.
After leading Australia to its sixth ODI World Cup title, Cummins described winning the tournament as “the pinnacle” given the stage and circumstances surrounding the victory.
Brett Lee, a fast bowling powerhouse who was a member of Australia’s triumphant 2003 and 2007 ODI World Cup-winning teams, agrees with this assessment.
“If he looks back in ten to 15 years on his career and thinks what was a defining moment, this will definitely be it,” Lee told foxsports.com.au.
“It is a massive spectacle. I’ve had the pleasure of playing in a couple. This is a big moment. (In front of) 130,000 people in India against a side that was on fire _ India came in undefeated _ a lot of people thought it would be a walk in the park for them.
“But (Cummins’) captaincy and the way he led his men, the bowling changes, the way they were in the field, this will go down as a big moment in his career.”
Cummins praises Head’s selectors | 02:36
STRANGLEHOLD ON INDIA APPLIED
The release of emotion after he ended the 67-run stand between Kohli and Rahul was momentary as Cummins shifted his thinking to the next stage of the masterpiece.
India’s icon was removed. But the importance of maintaining a stranglehold and tightening the leash further in order to claim the ODI decider in Ahmedabad remained critical.
An over later the Australian skipper, between deliveries while fielding near the boundary, was seen deep in discussion with Australia’s coach Andrew McDonald plotting the next step.
This was an example of the collaboration Marsh, who served as Cummins’ stand-in in South Africa in September when the fast bowler was sidelined with a wrist injury, had identified leading into the World Cup.
Having led Australia in just four ODI matches prior to the World Cup, Cummins leant on the experience of Steve Smith and Dave Warner, Marsh and others including McDonald.
The clinical performance with the ball against India, and also against South Africa in the semi-final, is indicative of a bowling team working in harmony in planning and execution.
Australia’s fast bowlers enjoyed great success on a slow pitch by banging the ball in short of a length. Rapidly rotating spinners Adam Zampa, Glenn Maxwell and Travis Head worked.
Cummins carries an even demeanour that camouflages the ruthlessness required to excel. But that ruthlessness is there. The competitor that rages within him was evidenced in his celebration after taking the wicket of Kohli but also in the repeated successes of Australia.
Steve Waugh said prior to the final he always felt the 30-year-old would blossom with the responsibilities that come with captaincy and become a better cricketer because of it.
Cummins has certainly learnt from a couple of testing experiences this year. A wayward hour of wild swings and lost heads cost Australia in a compelling Test series in India in March.
After claiming the World Test Championship in June, Australia retained the Urn but could not finish off England in the drawn Ashes series in the UK through the northern summer.
But there were no dips in concentration in the decider, nor any easing of the pressure valve when it mattered most in Ahmedabad.
Australia went for the jugular with the ball, restricting India to just 92 runs in the final 21 overs after the removal of Kohli, and showed steel with the bat after an early challenge.
“I don’t think there was anything last night that Pat Cummins got wrong. He was outstanding and he deserves a lot of credit for that,” former Australian captain Tim Paine told SEN.
“I thought Pat Cummins had one of the great games as the captain and then, when he bowled, that was as good as I have seen him for a while.”
Most awkward trophy celebration ever? | 00:43
SILENCING THE CROWD, AND THE KNOCKERS
As Rohit Sharma was smacking fours in the infancy of the Indian innings, a familiar question was emerging in chat groups and social media sites. Had Cummins blundered by bowling after winning the toss?
“I think (their performance against South Africa) added to that call. At first, when they did the toss, I was thinking ‘What? Really?’. There were a lot of people on social media asking ‘Why did they bowl first?’” Lee said.
“But it turned out to be the right call and you have to be over there to have a look at the conditions. What they wanted, essentially, was to try and chase with a bit of dew on the ground and the ball sliding on nicely.
“I’ve always thought runs on the board in a final is very important, but once again Cummins has proved that he backed himself and his bowlers (and) they came home for him.
“It was such a good call in the end. It was the right call. But when the toss went up, I thought ‘Wow’.”
From his appointment as Test captain ahead of the 2021 Ashes, the New South Welshman has dealt with queries regarding his suitability as captain that are now rendered redundant.
There was the historical prejudice regarding the merits of a fast bowler assuming the role given the individual responsibilities that come with trying to bowl the opposition out.
A 4-0 thrashing of a dispirited England followed and Australia are the reigning World Test Champions and unbeaten on home soil under his leadership in Test cricket.
But the queries flared again when Cummins was named to replace the retiring Aaron Finch as ODI captain a week out from the T20 World Cup in Australia last year.
There were initial challenges and it was not only his nous being questioned at a time where there was lingering resentment in some quarters about Justin Langer’s removal as coach.
Getting on the park regularly enough to build experience leading in the ODI format is an example.
He played two of three ODIs against England in a largely forgettable series immediately after the T20 World Cup.
Cummins then missed Australia’s successful series in India in March following the death of his mother before the wrist problem after the Ashes saw him sidelined for South Africa.
The 30-year-old was also subjected to some ugly critiques that attacked him as a person.
The “woke” captain? The commentary was absurd, unnecessary and off the mark then and looks ridiculous now.
Cummins, who took 2-34 from his 10 overs, has the most successful win-loss ratio in history for a captain who has overseen their nation in at least 15 games.
He has led Australia with distinction in all formats over an exhaustive year of massive commitments and it is clear his teammates have thrived and grown under him.
It is the most formidable of rebuttals.
“I think (his captaincy) has been almost flawless, to be honest. I thought his leadership actually has gotten better and better right through the tournament,” Ponting said.
“I don’t know where the negativity has come from, because there’s been no real basis for it. You look at their overall Test record since he’s become captain (and it) is outstanding.
“And now he is a World Cup-winning captain, a World Test Championship-winning captain and a captain who has retained the Ashes, so that negativity needs to be put aside now.”
EVERY WICKET – Australian bowling clinic | 02:20
THE DEFIANCE OF A TEAM FOR THE AGES
Courage was a feature of Australia’s 1987 World Cup triumph in India and Pakistan.
The 1999 champions had a never-say-die belief, while the brilliance of the 2003, 2007 and 2015 sides is beyond question.
The 2023 World Cup team delivered a victory for the ages and exemplifies all of those traits.
Well beaten by India and South Africa in the opening two matches and looking fatigued, flat and befuddled after a long year, the response proved nothing less than extraordinary.
Resilience came to the fore, but no less important were the moments of individual brilliance, team harmony and planning, balance, patience and flexibility that proved perfect in the end.
Australia’s pride and competitiveness was reflected in a feisty social media post from David Warner who, in the hours after the triumph, wrote; “Well, did you see that happening?? We did. Come on Australia. 0-2 and written off.”
The veteran opener was as indefatigable as he was fleet with his feet in an extraordinary performance in the outfield throughout Australia’s winning streak.
He was aided superbly by Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell and others including Travis Head, whose outstanding catch to dismiss Sharma was another final-turning moment.
Labuschagne, who batted with selfless discipline and resolve in the 192-run match-winning partnership with Head, is the illustration of a reliable, professional cricketer.
The Queenslander was not supposed to be in this World Cup-winning team after initially failing to earn selection for the squad. Things needed to go awry for him to have a chance.
Yet his attitude did not wane. When called upon, be it initially for the lead-in tour to South Africa and then throughout the tournament in India, he was ready to go at every turn.
Maxwell proved the wildcard in every sense. To make it back to the crease at all, let alone star in a World Cup, is remarkable given how badly he broke his leg in a mishap last year.
Concussed after falling from a golf cart midway through the tournament, the Victorian produced an innings for the ages when defying full-body cramps to score a double-century to rescue his nation against Afghanistan while ably assisted by Cummins.
It was not an isolated moment.
Every Australian batsman played a critical role at some stage during the tournament. And the bowlers shone when it mattered most, with their execution exemplary in both finals.
The faith selectors had in Travis Head, who joined the squad midway through the six week campaign after recovering from a broken hand, reaped the richest of rewards in the finals.
In a tournament resplendent with astonishing innings, Head’s contribution of 137 runs in the decider was a match-winner and sits among the finest played in a World Cup.
And the decision to introduce Josh Inglis, who took five catches in the final, as wicketkeeper in place of Adam Carey after one match proved the right call yet again.
“To me it would have been that calmness that Pat Cummins would have put over his players, because they weren’t looking good after the first two games, (would have been crucial),” Lee said.
“They got off to a shocker, but once again with some belief and talent, they have lifted the World Cup.”
Australia take on India in a 5 match T20 series beginning on Friday. Exclusive to Fox Cricket, available on Kayo Sports!
“ONE OF THE GREAT CATCHES!” | 00:43
THE CELEBRATION OF A NATION AHEAD OF A HOT SUMMER
Cricket never stands still, as evidenced in Australia’s relentless schedule throughout 2023.
Later this week a five-match T20 series against India begins. In just over three weeks Australia will host Pakistan in Perth to open the annual summer of Test cricket on home soil.
The triumphant World Cup side featured eight of the 11 players who held the Urn against England during the summer and it is expected all will feature again throughout the summer.
It is four years until the defence of the ODI World Cup in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe and it is certain the Australian squad will have changed significantly.
Josh Inglis, aged 28, is the youngest member of this champion side.
Warner wants to carry on in short-form cricket once his Test career ends this summer but he will be 41 by then. Mitchell Starc is an ODI legend but would be 37.
Glenn Maxwell is now 35. The majority of this side will be around that age when the 2027 tournament begins.
Prognostications can wait. As Australian legend Adam Gilchrist noted, this is a time for revel in a triumph that will long be remembered.
“So proud of this Australian team and crew,” Gilchrist wrote on social media.
“To win another World Cup in this manner and circumstance they have is one of the finest victories in our sporting history, I reckon. Time to celebrate.”