How Australian men's captain Pat Cummins compares to Test great Alan Davidson
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Pat Cummins's earliest days of Test captaincy pose questions about the potential for him to reach his rightful place on Australia's list of all-time greats.
Not whether he will make the honour roll, rather how far he might climb.
Regarded as one of Australia's greatest all-rounders, Alan Davidson — who played in the famous tied Test against West Indies — has died at age 92.
Leadership will either make him a more celebrated champion — like Richie Benaud and Allan Border — or become a burden to lug around with the potential to slightly diminish his averages.
So far, so perfect; he is on top of the world.
Right now, the best Cummins comparison to Australian cricket royalty might be the late Alan Davidson AM MBE, whose memorial service was held at the SCG a fortnight ago.
Both were born in New South Wales, 64 years apart.
Davidson was an athletic left-arm fast bowler, with a high action and sense of occasion.
He finished his 44-Test career with 186 wickets at an average of 20.53. His best performance was 7-93.
He became the first man to make 100 runs and take 10 wickets in the same match (he did this with a broken finger in the 1960-61 tied Test against West Indies in Brisbane).
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"Not bad for a kid who grew up with nothing, who came to the SCG as a kid to watch the likes of (Don) Bradman and (Sid) Barnes, who played a game of rugby league here as a schoolboy and declared there and then that his next match would be a game of cricket," journalist Andrew Webster wrote in his new book about the SCG, If These Walls Could Talk.
Cummins, now playing his 35th Test, has taken 169 wickets at an average of 21.18. His best return is 6-23 (match figures of 10-62).
Like Davidson, he's the type of athlete who could have played several sports at a high level.
The new skipper is 23rd on the Australian men's Test wicket-takers list. He could climb as high as third. He's 28 years old, with only the career tallies of Shane Warne (708) and Glenn McGrath (563) seemingly out of reach.
Davidson's record with the bat was better than Cummins'.
In his 61 innings, the all-rounder made 1,328 runs at an average of 24.59.
Cummins has batted 50 times in Tests for 708 runs. His batting average of 16.46 is surprisingly low for a player who often seems comfortable as a top-order batter at the crease.
Statistics will only tell you so much.
The best compliment you could pay Cummins is to say he treats the game with the same respect that Davidson swore by.
"Davo was a terrific bloke," sports historian and leading author Ian Heads said.
"I saw a lot of him in the early days. There was always a sense that something was going to happen when he was on.
"Games are built around people like him and the memories linger."
The memorial service for Davidson at the SCG was attended by champions past and present.
"A lot of things were said about Davo," Heads said.
"And they were all true."
Davidson was a fan of Cummins.
In 2014, the then 85-year-old said: "He has a great future. He's not just a bowler, he can bat well and is extremely good in the field.
"Pat Cummins, for me, is a real talent, and I think that [ability to bat] will make a hell of a difference in the future.
"His whole career is ahead of him."
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Webster saw similarities between Davidson and Cummins that made him believe the latter would be able to handle the pressure of being Test captain.
"I was lucky enough to have lunch with both of them," he said.
"Davo was a servant of the game and Cummins is the same. They're both gentlemen. Cummins has a calmness about him.
"I don't think he'll be overwhelmed by workload or the occasion."
Davidson was inducted into the International Cricket Council Hall of Fame in 2011.
Cummins's place on the all-time lists has an asterisk (*watch this space).
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