Ricky Ponting refuses to go gently into that good night*…

Written by  //  October 12, 2010  //  Sport  //  1 Comment

First, let’s get the obvious cliches out of the way.

All four results are possible. It is going to be a great day for Test Cricket tomorrow. The team which holds their nerve will win. It is never easy chasing a total on a fifth day pitch. There’ll be something in it for the bowlers…

There. Much better.

I missed most of today’s actions thanks to a rogue muscle pull in the lower back that I attribute to the hard plastic seats in the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Forced to catch the action from the alleged comfort of my sofa and having to listen to the banal nonsense being served up by Arun Lal and co. in the form of commentary, my Test Match viewing experience diminished drastically.(For those in a similar position, I would suggest the test match sofa to escape the drudgery of the NEO Cricket commentary team). Also, Tendulkar got out pretty quickly, and the rest of the tail folded up so my attention drifted.

Suddenly though, Australian wickets started tumbling and the match got interesting as the Australians generally contrived to give themselves a chance of losing this match. To repeat an oft repeated cliche, this is not the great Australian team of old (i.e., four years back), and their stunning propensity to indulge in very 90s style batting collapses is a bit of a shocker to those of us used to seeing hope disappear when Ponting was followed by Martyn who was followed by Waugh and then Gilchrist.

There’s still one man standing from that great middle order though. Ricky Ponting.

Ricky Ponting is not a popular man in India. Certainly he has never tried to win over the hearts and minds of the Indian fan, and his abrasive, cussed nature is not naturally endearing to most Indians. Nor has he particularly distinguished himself in India. India continues to be the place where he’s had the worst personal batting average in any country. Plus he seems to get out to Harbhajan Singh a lot, raising questions on his abilities against quality spin on turning tracks.

Captaincy wise, he had a great start with a great team. Now he’s having a tough time, with a not so great team. He has to be the best batsman, inspirational leader and most experienced player all at once. Naturally, he’s never won a single Test match in India as captain. A record he has only one more chance to erase.

With all this on his mind, Ricky Ponting played one of the best innings by an Australian batsman in this “series” so far. Marcus North’s century was a career saving (and maybe Test match saving one too) knock, but Ponting’s 72 in the second innings of the Bengaluru Test was far more important. He’s held a crumbling innings together and single handedly given his bowlers a chance to make something of this Test. On a turning, testing track, he has kept out Harbhajan and Ojha, backed by an unusually sharp fielding unit and a vociferous and vocal crowd, long enough to keep at least one more result open as a possibility for this Test.

This innings is also more poignant in the context of his own career. Toward the fag end of his long and distinguished career, Ponting is in the danger of going out on a low. No longer as prolific with the bat as he was in his heyday, he’s still the best batsman in the side, but that only goes to show how much he’s been let down by his team. Already, he’s lost the Ashes twice, and this January, for the first time in over two decades, there’s the very real prospect that he may well see it retained by the old enemy. Australia are no longer the dominant force in world cricket, and have rapidly slipped down the ranks in Test Cricket. The latter half of Ponting’s six year term of captaincy so far has been one of slow, but certain decline. Likewise, his batting.

With all this, he still has a shot at redemption tomorrow. Today’s efforts against the tide have brought him the time he needs to take one more shot at success and glory in India. A victory here will be far more cherished than any half a dozen against any other opponent anywhere else. It may not re-write the declining fortunes of the Australian team, but for Ricky Ponting, it offers an opportunity to rage, rage against the dying of the light**.

* & ** Apologies to Dylan Thomas

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