When Australia won the T20 World Cup in 2021, there was a feeling that they had finally secured that one global trophy that had long eluded them. But the reality is there is another trophy, albeit newly created, that quite literally slipped through their fingers in 2021.
“I think being new, it probably didn’t hit us until the game was actually played and you saw over there New Zealand did well and you wish you were there,” Cummins said on Tuesday in Perth. “So it feels like second time around it’s got a little bit more on it. It felt like a big missed opportunity that first one. So it certainly gives a bit more context to every series now, something big to play for.”
“The big series, say Ashes or India series where you play four or five Test matches are obviously big battles, whereas the more common series where you play two or three in a series, it gives them a bit more global context and something a bit extra to play for,” Cummins said.
For the first time too, Cummins and a few of his teammates have begun talking about the significance of the next eight months of Test cricket for a group of players that are closing in on the end of their Test careers.
David Warner, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood are all in their 30s, with Warner, Khawaja and Lyon on the other side of 35, having formed the backbone of the Australian Test side over the past 10 years . Alex Carey and Marcus Harris, who are also in the squad, are also 30 plus, while Cummins will be 30 in May next year.
“In the next six or seven months we have got 15 Test matches, hopefully, there won’t be any turnover before that but of course, it is coming,” Cummins said.
“To be honest it is the most stable team I have played in ever. You could probably have picked the side 12 months ago. I feel like we are in a good spot.”
An eight-month stretch of Test cricket, featuring 15 Tests against West Indies and South Africa at home, India and England away, and the WTC final if they get there, is a golden opportunity for a group that hasn’t collected as many majors Test trophies as perhaps their collective talent warrants, despite being ranked No.1 in the world at present. There is a sense that those 15 Tests could cement a legacy as a great Australian team.
“I think it is such an exciting opportunity for our group, to play four of the biggest series you are ever going to play as an Aussie Test cricketer within six or seven months, that is a once a career opportunity,” Cummins said. “That’s all ahead of us, that’s exciting. Obviously, a home summer is always big, with a World Test Championship, that’s something big to play for. We get a few wins here it pretty much guarantees our spot in London. We have all come here fresh. We know it’s a big block of cricket and we are excited for it.”
Anything short of winning all five Tests at home this summer against West Indies and South Africa could leave them vulnerable to missing the WTC final again, given they have a tough four-Test tour of India to negotiate in February and March, having won only one Test there in 14 since the 2004 series triumph.
Neither opponent at home will be easy to navigate, with West Indies undefeated in Test cricket in 2022 while South Africa sits second on the WTC table despite losing their last two Tests in England midyear.
Australia are acutely aware of the opportunity that presents itself. They now must take it with both hands.
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo