Of Ricky Ponting

Written by  //  January 3, 2011  //  Sport  //  6 Comments

It would be a travesty if Australia’s crushing loss to England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground is to mark the end of Ricky Ponting’s Test Match career. Having been ruled out by injury, for the final Ashes game at Sydney, and with Australia playing their next Test Match only in August, we may have to wait for a while to get any semblance of clarity on the situation, but the sense that one gets is that the end may be nigh for Ponting.

For the best part of his career, Sachin Tendulkar notwithstanding, Ponting has been a batsman of unrivalled distinction – between January 1999 and December 2009, Ponting averaged a colossal 58.75 at a strike-rate of 61.31, while Tendulkar averaged 54.78 at a strike-rate of 54.62, scoring ten centuries fewer than the Australian. It is trite, no doubt, to say that Ponting’s job was made easier by the quality of the team that he played in, epitomized no more than by the openers that preceded him, for most of the time, Mathew Hayden and Justin Langer. Yet, there were numerous occasions when Ponting went into the middle, with the ball and bowlers, new and fresh, and batted with magisterial splendour. Never one to shy away from the pull and the hook or on-the-up drives through the covers, Ponting’s batting has always been a thrilling spectacle. Lunging nervously forward, with the highest of back-lifts, one could be forgiven for thinking, just for a moment, of the lumbering technical deficiencies in Ponting’s batting, but when he flashes the blade to make contact with the ball, rarely is the result anything but of resounding primacy.

Statistics, as always, are only partially helpful in expounding on Ponting’s virtues. His contribution as a batsman to the Australian cause for well over a decade has been exemplary. Knocks of utmost quality in the most trying circumstances, turning potentially perilous situations into ones of authority, has been a hallmark of his batting. Nonetheless in recent times, Ponting has been pedestrian, struggling on tour to India – his record in the country will remain a blotch on his illustrious career – and at home against England. Sensing technical faults in his batting, teams have bowled to him with acuity, often getting him early on the hook or the pull – strokes which Ponting has doggedly refused to sway away from – and with the moving ball, to which he has been strangely vulnerable.

But most batsmen, however great they may be, go through the phases of inquests, where their methods are tested to the hilt. Rahul Dravid, a batsman universally renowned as one of the most technically perfect, has been found wanting against left arm seamers off late. Tendulkar, not too long ago, was considered by some to be over the hill, to have lost his imperious aura – he scored just one century at an average of 44 in ten Test Matches between Novembers, 2004 and 2007 – yet he has ascended great heights in recent times, notching up seven centuries in 2010 alone. What sets the great batsmen apart is their ability to iron out flaws and regain an air of invincibility. In Tendulkar’s case, his poor run of form was, perhaps, a product of a glut of injuries – primarily to his elbow and back – which he has overcome to return to his magnificent best. Ponting, though, is a player of supreme physical fitness – even now he remains one of the best outfielders in the world – but the rigours of captaincy and the prospect of another Ashes loss are sure to have weighed on his batting.

His captaincy record – in spite of him being the most successful captain in Australian history – will forever be stained by the three Ashes defeats. His team’s enormous slide in recent times means that he must necessarily face the axe as captain. There is a need for a fresh start, perhaps with an unsullied leader, but a year fraught with numerous struggles aside, Ponting still has much to offer as a batsman. If released from the shackles of skippering the side, Ponting could well enjoy a new lease as a batsman. But Australia aren’t in the habit of retaining sacked captains in their side, and Ponting’s self-esteem may suffer a dent by playing as a mere member of a team that he has captained for over seven years. An exception, though, must be made by all parties.

In their darkest phase since the days of Kim Hughes’s pains, Australia could do with Ponting’s batting nous to guide them through what is likely to be a tricky and turbulent time. The case for him to drop down the order is well argued – Ponting is no stranger to a lower middle order position, having played at No. 6 in the early stages of his career, and Usman Khawaja, who makes his debut in Sydney should be given a chance to make the No. 3 position his own. But to relegate Ponting completely to the wilderness would not only be crude justice to one of the great batsmen of all time, but would be ill-advised considering the pitiful state of Australian cricket.

About the Author

Suhrith Parthasarathy is a journalist currently living and writing in New York. Suhrith grew up in Chennai, India and studied law at the National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata. He practiced as an attorney for two years before giving up the law for journalism. He is presently studying for his masters at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. You can find him on Twitter (@suhrith) or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/suhrithparthasarathy)

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6 Comments on "Of Ricky Ponting"

  1. sathish January 3, 2011 at 7:37 pm ·

    The question that needs to be asked is, is Ponting’s presence going to hold back the next generation Australian team? If Ponting’s in the team, he has to be the captain. The Australians don’t have a policy of having ex-captains in the playing 11, nor does Ponting seem to be the kind of character who will play under a different captain.

    While Ponting might not be the crux of the problem, it’s clear that the national team needs a overhaul. The likes of Khawaja, Tim Paine, Callum Ferguson, Phillip Hughes, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Steven Smith have to be blooded in. This could be done under Ponting, but I think, for Australian cricket as a whole, it’d be a lot better if they were to grow as players under a captain who will continue to captain them for a long time.

    I’m not sure, however, who the new captain should be. I don’t think it should be Michael Clarke.

  2. Ashok January 4, 2011 at 1:50 am ·

    for those who compared sachin wit ponting and said ponting is on par with sachin, here is a difference that stands out.. sachin, when the team not performed well or when he was out of form, came back well and batted well, whereas ponting is not able to do that. also, facing criticism’s from all corners, this shows that sachin is THE BEST player.
    I haven’t seen bradman bat, but by watching sachin, i’m sure bradman could not have batted better……….

  3. P E VICTOR January 4, 2011 at 5:01 am ·

    As far as I am concerned, Ricky is the greatest batsman in the world when compared to Sachin, because, Ricky has been incharge of Captaincy for a long time and scored 39 centuries and nearly 13000 runs in test Cricket. But in Sachin’s case, he has no responsibility and his captaincy record is zero. So, what I suggest is that Ricky should be ready come down from the Captaincy and without mental pressure, he can play for Australia and score more centuries and runs till his body fits to play cricket, which may be for another 3 – 4 years. But, Sachin should retire and pave way to youngsters.

    P E Victor

  4. rajendrakop January 4, 2011 at 5:20 am ·

    Wonderful article.
    keep up the good work guys.

  5. Leju January 4, 2011 at 6:52 am ·

    I think the Australian side is in the pre-metamorphosis stage. Over the years, experts have often lamented on how debutants these days seemed to be getting older. Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin are great examples. As much as this is an indication of the depth and strength of the Australian cricket fraternity, it’s also a trend that is counter-prodcutive. Older debutants mean shorter careers, and less time for a team to crystalise and meld together. The arrival of Steve Smith and now Usman Khwaja are positives that the Aussies need to build on if they are to emerge on top again. Its a long haul though, and I don’t think Ponting or Clarke have it in them to pull this off. Ponting’s best is past, even as a skipper, and Clarke, on the basis of recent performances is not ready to take on the mantle.

    Should Ponting continue playing? Well he certainly thinks he can, and there is enough white space in the record books that can yet motivate him. However, he does think he’s got a lot to offer as captain as well, so if that is taken away from him, one wonders if there is enough motivation for him to go on. The one positive(and I don’t really think its a positive for Australian cricket on the whole) is that for the first time in living memory, the selectors seem to be at a loss in terms of avaialble talent. Sure, the likes of Ferguson, Marsh, et al are waiting in the wings, but the persistence of Steve Smith at no 7 in the Ashes series, seems to tell me that they haven’t yet won the confidence of the selectors as yet. And that might just mean that there is a slot available for the punter, even if it is a little lower down the order than he is used to.

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