Pat Cummins says he was never mentally present for last year’s Test tour of India, describing it as the “hardest time of his life” as he grappled with his mother’s loss of health.

The challenging episode has encouraged him to take a more holistic approach to leadership, encouraging players to live full lives on tour.

Cummins travelled to India in February of 2023 and stayed for just two Tests before making a dash home to be by his mother Maria’s side as she received palliative care.

He did not return to team duty until after she died in May.

The Test captain opened up on his experiences on The Imperfects, a podcast which sees famous Australians reflect on difficult stages of their life which are not always in the public eye.

“I knew when I was getting on that plane [to the India tour] I was going to have to come back in a couple of weeks,” he said.

“Maybe only a handful of people knew that was going to be the case.”

As is the case with any Australian captain on any tour — but particularly in India — Cummins was heavily scrutinised as his side fell to a 2-0 deficit in the series, which kept the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Indian hands.

Cummins took just three wickets in two Tests.

The 30-year-old said while he travelled with his parents’ best wishes, he did not feel present.

“For those couple of weeks I was in India, especially now I look back at it, my mind was not in India. It was back home the whole time,” he said.

“Flying away … that’s the hardest time of my life, easily.

“I probably felt, the 12 months leading in, any time I flew away, I was like, ‘Time is finite here. I’m making a deliberate choice to go and play somewhere rather than spend it at home.'”

Cummins said both COVID-19, when travelling athletes were contained to hotel rooms to maintain their sporting commitments, and the loss of his mother changed his approach to captaincy.

“If we’re going to be away from our families, let’s make sure we’re having the time of our lives,” he said.

“Play really good cricket, but … pack your golf clubs, bring your coffee machine. If we’re in London, go and explore, go and see a show.

“We’re trying to create as much space in the diary for people to be able to live their lives.

“It’s definitely a lesson learned from mum. I don’t want to waste any time.”

Cummins was true to his mantra during the first Test against England last June, taking in a two-and-a-half-hour Bruce Springsteen show with his father after day one.

“Bruce Springsteen was basically the eighth family member,” Cummins said of his dad’s love for the American rocker.

“We fielded all day and then got in a cab and dragged to Aston Villa (home ground Villa Park) and watched Bruce Springsteen, so he had a hell of a week, dad.”

That approach has been on display this fortnight in New Zealand, when players have shown as much appetite for the contest as they have their off-day golf pursuits.

It certainly hasn’t affected results.

Australia won the World Test Championship, retained The Ashes, won the ODI World Cup last year and won five of six Tests with Pakistan, West Indies and New Zealand this summer.

Their final Test before an extended break begins on Friday in Christchurch against the Black Caps.


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