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Pat Cummins vs Mitchell Starc. INR INR 20.50 crore vs INR 24.75 crore. Hardly a rivalry, even if it’s been talked up ahead of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) game at Eden Gardens on Saturday. For Cummins, it’s only going to be “weird looking across and seeing him in the other dugout”.

“I will say this: hopefully I don’t have to face Starc because that means our batters have done quite well,” Cummins said at a press conference a day off from the game. “It’s funny… it’s one of the beauties of the IPL; I have been playing with Starcy for 15 years, [and] I can’t remember another game where I have played against him. Also it’s going to be weird looking across and seeing him in the other dugout.”

But there’s that big salary to live up to. “Yeah, being an opposition captain, seeing how we go about playing him will be an interesting part of tomorrow. But we’re both bowlers, so I am not sure we’ll cross [paths] too much.”

Cummins, as has been discussed ever since he was named SRH captain for the 2024 IPL season, has never captained a T20 side at a competitive level despite being Australia’s Test and ODI captain and playing international cricket – all formats – since 2011. A fast-bowling captain at that.

“Really excited, good to go,” Cummins said while acknowledging his lack of experience helming a T20 side.

“It’s got its challenges,” he elaborated. “In that you play 14 games in six-seven weeks, plus finals. I’m used to playing a lot of Test cricket, so four overs isn’t as taxing on your body. But it can be mentally taxing, the travel, obviously a different country, play a new team every few days you have to prepare for… But it’s nothing new, we’ve done it before. Obviously, the game day is most important. That’s what we put most days into. No teams play the same XI for all 14 games. I am sure we’ve got to call on our squad and we’re lucky we’ve got a young, fit squad.

“You want a bit of people rivalry, you know, a bit of rivalry when people try to break into the XI”

Pat Cummins

“I think it’s been a part of the IPL, you have expectations, you have a lot of fans who demand a lot out of the team, they want results. Yeah, being captain is probably a little bit more [of responsibility]. But it’s not much different to what we’re used to as players. We’ll give it our best.”

As for the players who don’t get many chances, Cummins has a simple message: “You want a bit of people rivalry, you know, a bit of rivalry when people try to break into the XI.”

At SRH, Cummins will have for company Travis Head, who he leads in Tests and ODIs, but it’s going to be very different from leading Australia, who he has captained to world titles in both those formats.

“The biggest difference is that you know your team-mates really well playing for Australia. There’s a lot of things doesn’t need to be said, because I have played with Joshie Hazlewood and Starc for 15 years. So there’s a real kind of trust and you just don’t really need to say much, everything kind of runs by itself,” Cummins said. “I think here, learning [about] some new players, that’s going to be the biggest difference, and just learning those different roles within the team. I know a few of the other guys, obviously, and have done a bit of homework to try and get the best out of the guys. But that’s probably going to be the biggest difference.”

Are SRH light on the spin-bowling front?

There is Wanindu Hasaranga in the ranks, but that takes away an overseas slot and leaves just two, with Cummins as captain a starter. Outside of Hasaranga, SRH’s best spin options are Washington Sundar and Mayank Markande. Both solid performers at the IPL over the years, but not quite names that would strike fear in opponents.

“Whilst not having any huge names that have played a lot of cricket for India, I’ve been really impressed with the guys we do have,” Cummins said. “Washington, who can bat in the top seven but also give handy overs. Markande as well, who’s had some success as well. So I feel like we’ve got that covered. We’ve also got guys like Aiden Markram and Travis Head, who can chip in if we need to as well. So feels like there’s a bit of quality there and if it’s a spinning wicket, we’ve got plenty of guys who can bowl.”

Which might be the case at Eden Gardens, which Cummins knows well, having turned out for KKR in the past. His great 14-ball half-century, however, didn’t come in Kolkata, but in Pune, against Mumbai Indians, though Cummins would like to give it another heave on Saturday.

“Maybe, I’d love to. It’s great fun. It’s much more fun than trying to block and hang around and cop a few on the body,” he said. “So yeah, I look forward to that, especially the IPL, I’ve got a few runs over the years… I’ve been hit for a lot of sixes in my life, so I’ll try to get a few back.”



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