Cummins: England should focus on themselves, and not spirit of cricket

Pat Cummins has said that England should look at themselves and their own performances rather than invoking the spirit of cricket amid their anger at Jonny Bairstow‘s stumping at Lord’s.
The dismissal on the final day of the second Test – which Australia ended up winning by 43 runs despite a magnificent 155 from Ben Stokes – left the home side incensed, and reaction has reached fever pitch on both sides of the world since, including the Prime Ministers of each country getting involved.

“For what I think is a pretty common non-event, it does seem like everyone has a pretty strong opinion about it,” Cummins said. “I don’t think there’s any discussion; it’s out. If the shoe was on the other foot, I wouldn’t be looking at the opposition, I’d probably be thinking [about] our own batter, and would be thinking it’s pretty silly.”

England will have to become just the second side ever to come from 0-2 down if they are to regain the Ashes. Asked whether their reaction to the Bairstow dismissal has been a way to deflect from defeats, Cummins was not drawn directly into it, but added how impressed he was with how his team had handled the situation – from the immediate moment and the confrontations in the Long Room, to the 48 hours since, where the players themselves have said nothing unless asked.

“I know what our team does, and that’s [why] we concentrate on ourselves,” he said. “When we haven’t been playing up to scratch, we look pretty deeply at what we are doing, and try to make amends. We don’t apportion blame to conditions or opposition or anything else going on. I’m really proud of how our boys have conducted themselves [on] this tour, especially on that day five. [I] thought the way they maintained respect for the opposition, the umpires [and] the crowd, their dignity was first-class.”

In his column for the Daily Mail, Stuart Broad wrote that he believes Cummins will come to regret the decision not to withdraw the appeal, while England coach Brendon McCullum referenced his own experience of controversially running Muthiah Muralidaran out, which in later years he apologised for. It was a tone Joe Root used again, while speaking ahead of the third Ashes Test at Headingley, which is his home ground.

“I think Ben spoke very well on it at the end of the game. As a team, we want to play our cricket a certain way and want to leave a certain legacy,” Root said. “As a player, you want to play the game as how you want to play it. It was within the rules; it was technically out. If you’re happy with that, then fine. If not, I don’t think you can [criticise] other people that play the game slightly differently.”

Cummins, for his part, doubted his view would change. “Maybe ask me in years to come,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think a conversation about the spirit of cricket even comes into a dismissal like that. It was plain and simple a stumping.”

Cummins is expecting a hostile reception at Headingley – the scene of England’s remarkable Stokes-inspired victory in 2019 – although Australia’s captain reckons that would have been the case anyway. He said it was inevitable that players would face abuse from the public, and added that Australian crowds were as bad as anyone, but insisted it doesn’t bother his team.

“People pay for their tickets, they can turn up… whilst I hope that I would never go to a sporting event and try to abuse players, [which] some people do,” Cummins said. “I’m sure it’ll be a pretty fiery week from the crowd. But again, we’re on the field. I think in Australia, we’re as guilty as anyone a lot of the time. So I think it’s reality, to be honest.

“If you’re going to play professional sport, unfortunately, that’s one of the things that you’re going to have to deal with. It’s nothing new. I think you could talk about [it] till the cows come home, but I doubt it’s going to make much of a difference.”

“I’ve got no problems at all with Baz. I know how much he loves a beer, so that was surprising. Maybe we just see this one differently”

Pat Cummins on Brendon McCullum saying he wouldn’t want to share a beer after the controversial stumping

Root, meanwhile, called on the fans who come to the Test to simply “support” England, but appeared to caution against things going too far.

“I think that’s the most important thing – that you come in to support your nation. [It] doesn’t need to go beyond that,” he said. “It shouldn’t ever go beyond that. Everyone should be here to enjoy the cricket on the field. And, you know, that’s what it should be about, and shouldn’t be about anything other than that.”

Cummins said that beyond the post-match presentation at Lord’s, he has not had any further conversations with Stokes, and had noted McCullum’s comments about the teams not sharing a beer, which Australia coach Andrew McDonald had termed “disappointing”.

“I’ve got no problems at all with Baz,” Cummins said, having himself worked with McCullum in the IPL. “I know how much he loves a beer, so that was surprising. Maybe we just see this one differently, which is totally fine.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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