India v Australia Tests – Men: Pat Cummins to miss third Test, Smith to lead in Indore

The family emergency that saw Pat Cummins dash back to Australia after the second Test will see the fast bowler remain at home for next week’s third match, Steve Smith will take the captaincy reins in India after Australia announced captain Pat Cummins would not return for the third Test in Indore next week due to a family illness. Pat Cummins flew home to Sydney following the Aussies’ second-Test defeat last week, explaining in a statement that his mother “is ill and in palliative care”.

With a nine-day break between Tests following the three-day finish in Delhi, it had been hoped the 29-year-old would return to India for the third Test beginning Wednesday. But Australia confirmed on Friday that Pat Cummins would miss the Indore Test. They are keeping the door open for him to return for the fourth Test in Ahmedabad, but Smith could end up captaining in both the remaining matches.

“I have decided against returning to India at this time,” said Pat Cummins

“I feel I am best being here with my family. “I appreciate the overwhelming support I have received from Cricket Australia and my teammates. Thanks for your understanding.” Smith spent four days in Dubai with his wife Dani following the second Test before re-joining the Australia squad in Delhi on Thursday evening (India time), when he was informed of Pat Cummins’ decision to remain at home for the next Test.

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The wider playing group was informed at training on Friday morning at Arun Jaitley Stadium.  The Aussies are training in the Indian capital for two more days before flying to Indore on Sunday. It will be the third time Smith has led the Test side since his reinstatement as vice-captain in late 2021 when Pat Cummins took over from Tim Paine. Smith has filled in as skipper for two Tests that Pat Cummins has been unavailable for – both of which have been in Adelaide over the past two summers.

Steve Smith was captain for 34 Tests between 2014 and 2018, including Australia’s most recent Test tour of India in 2017, a controversy-marred campaign in which Smith dominated with the bat, scoring three centuries. It has so far been a less prolific series this time around for the star right-hander, who has scored 71 runs at 23.66 in four innings so far.

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While the leadership transfer should prove smooth enough given Smith’s extensive leadership history, Australia’s selectors now must decide on how to balance the bowling attack in Pat Cummins’ absence. Three spinners could again be on the cards if the pitch is anticipated to take a turn, especially now after Cameron Green declared himself fit again after a finger injury sidelined him from the first two Tests against India. Green’s return would give Australia a second seam-bowling option after Pat Cummins was the sole quick in Delhi.

“When you come in as an allrounder, you might be able to help out with team balance maybe a little bit,” Green told reporters in Delhi on Friday. “It will be interesting to see which way the selectors go for this game.” Mitchell Starc, who is also on the mend from a serious finger concern, is expected to be available to play and could be a direct replacement for Pat Cummins.

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