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Ponting under fire

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Ben Dirs | 08:22 UK time, Tuesday, 23 November 2010

"Seriously, I could captain this side." It is the sporting equivalent of staring up at a painting in a modern art gallery and stating: "My kid could do better than that". Or taking a sip of wine in an expensive restaurant and muttering: "Yeah, suppose it's alright".

Over the past 15 years Australia has had an awful lot of would-be captains, probably millions of them - and an awful lot of them have been English.

They popped up in pubs and bars and on sofas, throwing their hat into the ring every time an Aussie batsman passed 100 in an Ashes Test, every time an English partnership had seen off the seamers and the ball was tossed to Shane Warne. No doubt I said it a few times myself: "Seriously, I could captain this side."

It is, of course, a vacuous statement - but not without a smidgeon of truth.

It can quite easily be argued that Australia had in its team that humiliated England 5-0 in the last Ashes series down under more bona fide greats than England has produced in the last 30 or 40 years. When the actual captain Ricky Ponting called it "arguably the best team in any sport in the world", he was not guilty of hyperbole.

Australia dominated cricket when Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were in the side - photo: Getty

Warne and Adam Gilchrist would be shoo-ins for any all-time side, while Ponting and Glenn McGrath would certainly be in the reckoning. Add a legendary opening partnership in Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, Mike Hussey and Michael Clarke in the middle order and quicks Brett Lee and Stuart Clark and you have a juggernaut of an outfit.

With such weapons at his disposal for his first few years as skipper, Ponting, who replaced Steve Waugh in 2004, was given something of an armchair ride, winning 27 of his first 35 matches in charge. After that, however, Ponting's armchair started losing springs.

In the space of a couple of years Warne, McGrath, Langer, Gilchrist, Hayden and Lee all called it a day, as did lesser lights such as Stuart MacGill and Damien Martyn. And just like that, Ponting went from a skipper in charge of a great team with the best winning percentage in Test history to, well, a skipper with a pretty good record in charge of a pretty good team.

"Let's be honest, Ricky's had some wonderful players at his fingertips," says Mike Gatting, the last man to lead England to Ashes glory in Australia, in 1986-87. "And a captain can only be as good as his players, to be perfectly honest.

"If you've got a Warne and a McGrath in your side you don't have to tell them what to do because they are very good professionals who love winning and want their country to win. You shouldn't have to do too much to get them worked up. The same with Gilchrist, Langer and Hayden."

There are many in Australia - former fast bowlers Geoff Lawson and Jeff Thomson have been merciless in their criticism - who believe 35-year-old Ponting has been unmasked as a poor captain and that he should have been replaced by Clarke following the 2-0 series defeat in India, which made it three Test defeats on the spin, something that hadn't happened to Australia since 1988.

But former skipper Ian Chappell, who won 50% of his Tests to Ponting's current record of 64%, is not one of them, believing the punchy Tasmanian remains the best man for the job.

"Ricky Ponting is a good captain," says Chappell. "It shouldn't come as any surprise that when you lose Warne and McGrath, Ponting isn't winning as often as he was. But Ponting can point to the fact he wins 64% of his Tests overall and say it works.

"And I've not seen a day's play with Australia where I've looked out there and felt the team hasn't been pulling as one - I've never seen that happen under Ricky Ponting's captaincy. The day that happens is the day you know you've got a problem and that's when you've got to go."

However, there are many who disagree with Chappell and argue that statistics are not the best way to measure a captain - the same people would argue that former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming and former England skipper Michael Vaughan were vastly superior to Ponting, not because of their winning percentages, but because of the manner in which they marshalled inferior sides and got them punching above their weight.

Ponting reflects following Australia's 2-0 series defeat in India last month - photo: AP

Ponting's frailties were there for all to see during the 2005 Ashes series, when he was knocked out of his groove by an injury to McGrath, the lack of form of some of his key players and the in-your-face aggression of Vaughan's England outfit.

One of the biggest mysteries of that series was Ponting's decision not to pick MacGill, a man who finished his career with 208 Test wickets at an average of 29, for the final two Tests when his fellow leg-spinner Warne was scalping England batsmen for fun. Fast bowler Shaun Tait, preferred to MacGill at Trent Bridge and The Oval, was then mysteriously underused.

Then, in Cardiff in 2009, with England nine wickets down in their second innings and Monty Panesar and James Anderson in the middle, Ponting made the truly baffling decision to bring on part-timer Marcus North to bowl two of the last four overs, with fellow spinner Nathan Hauritz operating from the other end. Panesar and Anderson held firm, Ponting appeared haunted at not being able to force the win and England went on to reclaim the Ashes.

During the recent Test series in India, Ponting took a lot of flak in Australia's media for negative fields, a lack of faith in his players and a tendency to flinch in the heat of battle, a most un-Australian trait. When Warne criticised Hauritz's field placings during the second Test in Bangalore, Ponting's reaction, proclaiming poor old Hauritz had chosen them himself, seemed indicative of a lack of leadership skills.

Australian fans declare themselves baffled at why a batsman of such attacking verve and pugnacity and so steeped in the traditions of the game should prove to be so devoid of tactical nous and composure when things get uncomfortable.

There won't be too many people putting their hand up to replace Ponting if he becomes the first Australian captain to lose three Ashes series since Billy Murdoch in 1890. But you might hear a lot of people saying: "Seriously, who'd want to captain this side?"

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  • Comment number 1.

    Spot on as always Ben. Punter has always been one of the people as a cricket fan I dislike and fear in equal measures - mainly due to his ability to "do us in" without even looking like he's trying. It's a shame to see his stock fall so low, but we should write him off at our peril. Wasn't he under the kosh last time we toured Oz, and look what happened then!

  • Comment number 2.

    It'd have been interesting if you'd managed to quote Ponting's winning percentages since the retirement of warne and McGrath, we're surely all in agreement that no matter how good a captain you are, when you lose players of that ability you will find it a lot harder.

    As for the ashes overall I think a lot of us are getting a bit carried away and are assuming that we are going to roll the aussies over...let's not forget that we have a top order who are more than capable of almighty collapses and a bowling attack which has not always shown to be great in non-swinging conditions...

  • Comment number 3.

    Good article and probably fair I would say.

    Ponting is without question, one of Australia’s all time great batsmen but as a captain, he’s little lacking. You didn’t mention his bizarre decision to field after winning the toss at Edgbaston during the 2005 Ashes. Having lost McGrath to injury that morning and with a clear batter’s pitch, it was strange, particularly as England went on to score 400. There is no question that this decision was a heavy contributor to Australia losing the series. He was a captain who always seemed to make the right decisions when things were going Australia’s way but never seemed to quite come up with a match turning solution when they were under pressure, probably because it didn’t happen too often! Let’s face it; ‘turning to Warne’ didn’t exactly take a rocket scientist!!

    I do however believe that he is the right man to captain Australia right now as I personally don’t think they have anyone else who is a natural leader right now. Hussey and Clarke have not exactly impressed during their short stints and I don’t think North is a good enough player. Katich would be a possibility but I’m not convinced he’s the right man. Ponting is well respected; he’s a senior player and the right man to lead them currently. It will be interesting to see what happens to him if Australia lose this series.

  • Comment number 4.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with Pierre.... I hope I'm wrong, but it wouldn't surprise me to find a 'back to square one' feeling among England fans after the first test. Johnson, Bollinger and Siddle are good bowlers on their own wickets; whereas none of England's pacemen have a proven record in this country. Having said that, I think that Australia ARE beatable - I'd certainly fancy India or South Africa against them again at the moment...whether England have the quality is a moot point. As regards captaincy, people should get off Ponting's back; of course a team without the greats of the last couple of decades is not going to fare well all the time. Ponting is in a similar situation to Mike Brearley now in terms of the quality of the team under him - his captaincy will be vital this time. If it's any consolation to him, I reckon the last decent captain Australia had was Allan Border - Taylor and Waugh made some weird tactical decisions (eg batting first in overcast conditions with better batting weather forecast to come - remember 1997?), but the quality of their teams always made ANYTHING they did look right.

  • Comment number 6.


    You're kidding right, so in your opinion Swann is not test class? Just a bowler ranked 2 in the world. What about Jimmy Anderson? Yes I know he will not be bowling in the best conditions but to write him off as not test class is ridiculous.

    Ben, I enjoyed this article but I do disagree with the people who say Ponting is a poor captain. Ponting is a statistically great captain. Saying that his wins were the result of his quality team and that his losses are the result of his poor captaincy does him a disservice in my opinion.

  • Comment number 7.

    @ Pierredelafranchesca

    According to the Guardian, Ponting's won 20 of 38 tests since Warne and McGrath retired (correct as of 16/11/10), which is a 52.63% win rate.

  • Comment number 8.

    no one seems to be mentioning the name Mitchell Johnson in all this

    IMO his poor bowling was one of the main reason the Aussies lost last year and with him being back to somewhere near his best he will be more than a handful for the English Batsmen

  • Comment number 9.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 10.

    Ricky Ponting’s Captaincy ? I have been one of the millions you describe who have confidently asserted “I could Captain this side”.
    You’ve posted 480 off and after a couple of sessions in the field the opposition have recovered to 220 – 4. You look round the field and ponder who shall I bring on now to break this partnership ? Shall I bring on Pigeon or shall I bring on Warney ? Hmmm or both ? One of them takes a wicket and the oppo subside to 300 all out. You trot back into the pavilion mentally patting yourself on the back at another cunning and astute decision.
    Ricky Ponting should be a good captain. Throughout his career he has performed the first criteria to be captain and that is warrant his place in the team. He is one of the three outstanding batsman of his generation (4 if you include Robert Key). However it perhaps interesting to note that neither of the other 2 succeeded as captains for very different reasons. Sachin never wanted the job. It’s hard enough juggling the roles of batsman and demi-god without chucking the captaincy into the equation. Lara, on the other hand, was way too self centred and egocentric (apologies for the tautology?) to ever show the empathy to lead other players. Ponting does not suffer from either of these problems as he clearly relishes being captain and it appears as though he has always enjoyed the support of the rest of the team.
    I have read Punter’s Diary of the 2005 Ashes and the thing that struck me was that he managed to come to wrong conclusion during his considerations at the end of each match. It is a cliché but it is true that usually the best players don’t make the best captains; the obvious example being Mike Brearley. Part of it maybe down to the fact that as you have progressed through your early career, because you are not quite as talented as the annoyingly good other players, you have had to develop a cunning streak to enable you to compete.
    The reason he has carried on being captain for as long as he has is probably down to a few major factors.
    a)Shane Warne’s texting habits.
    b)He has continued to be an outstanding batsman. Australia do not have a history of removing the captaincy from a player and then them staying in the team. Australia understandably were reticent to jettison a man with 12000 odd runs and over 35 test centuries.
    c)No obvious replacement candidates of late. Very few Australians appear to rate Clarke as Captain. Cameron White appears to be a potential leader but there are doubts over his batting (unlike his bowling upon which there are no doubts).
    Like Napolean’s generals it is probably better to be lucky than good and few have been luckier than Ponting. I think history will look back at Ponting as a great batsman, a tough fighter, decent leader of men but just lacking that little something that defines great captains.

  • Comment number 11.

    Saying that his wins were the result of his quality team and that his losses are the result of his poor captaincy does him a disservice in my opinion.


    I agree, because losing away to India amongst other things isnt actually that much of a shock. Even when they had the great players listed above the Australians never had it all their own way on the Subcontinent.

    That being said, it would be interesting to see the split in his captaincy statistics from the point at which Warne and McGrath retired.

  • Comment number 12.

    Matt1815 - don't do it. Nine 5 wickets hauls in 24 tests have all been flukes apparently.

  • Comment number 13.


    I don't know why you think Mitchell Johnson is back to his best, he’s looked as off-colour in his recent matches as the majority of his team-mates. At least he took wickets in 2009, even if he did launch the occasional ball to second slip and allow himself to get wound up by tail enders!!

    It’s worth mentioning as well that Ponting’s form at the moment isn’t a lot better than Kevin Pietersen’s. One century in his last 29 innings doesn’t suggest he’s in good nick!

  • Comment number 14.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 15.


    Can I suggest you take a look at the number of wickets Swann has captured in the last 12-18 months, and who he has taken them against? I think you'll find his 2nd place spot in the world rankings is merited by the fact he has taken a heck of a lot of wickets. It has been clear on several occasions that a number of batsmen have got decidedly jittery when he is brought on - he has been able to generate a certain aura that makes at least some batsmen worry about how to play him.

    Also, Swann takes an amazing number of wickets in the first over of a spell.

    He is not merely just a good county pro.

    Anderson deserves greater praise too. Australia may not have the best conditions for him, but he could potentially be a very high impact bowler in the first 15 overs or so. He's also now a very experienced bowler, so I'd back him to have enough nous to adjust the way he bowls accordingly.

  • Comment number 16.

    I don't really understand why you're on such a massive downer. Haven't you been watching how well our bowlers have been performing in Australia? The Test's are a different affair of course, but the fact they've been doing so well in the warm up matches is a matter for optimism, not defeatism.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'd say the Aussie selectors and board must be pretty relieved they didn't take the captaincy away from Ponting right now. Clarke's been losing games as captain in the shorter form so he's hardly covering himself in glory. Add to that the fact he's an injury worry ahead of the First Test and they'll be relieved they didn't strip Ponting of the job and give it to Clarke. It would have been a disaster to give it to Clarke only to then have to hand it to someone else if he is to miss this match. Not exactly the confident preparations the Aussies would have hoped for.

    In terms of captaincy style he may not be up there with the all time greats but he's been a victim of circumstance really. He inherited a team at the peak of their powers so has probably found it difficult to learn as much as he could have. People say you learn more from negative experiences and losses than positive experiences and wins. He hasn't had to deal with many losses till much later in his captaincy when it's been harder to learn. Former players will always have opinions on these matters but personally I think he's been a very good captain for Australia and will continue to do so while he has the job. And I think this series will actually be his last as captain. There will 2.5 years after this before the next Ashes series and it'll be a good time to let him go and give the job probably to Clarke who can ease himself in rather than starting with the job of reclaiming the urn.

  • Comment number 18.

    "Ponting will be back in form by smashing our 3 county pro's all over Brisbane"

    It's quite possible you're a WUM but if you actually believe that Anderson and Swann are just county pros, then I suggest that you watch more test cricket!

    I’m guessing Mitchell Johnson is as good as Glenn McGrath and Siddle is new Dennis Lillee!!

  • Comment number 19.

    Amidst all the conversation about him as a captain (and can you imagine the legacy if he becomes the only Aussie captain to lose the Ashes THREE times?!), it's important for England to remember just how good a batsman Ponting still is. Not a guy you want to get bedded in.

  • Comment number 20.

    Ponting is a very lucky captain ..... the real captaiins were Border and Taylor who made this team to what they are or were!!! Even Waugh had a brilliant team and anyone could have been captained them!!!

    If Ponting loses the ashes he will be booted but if he wins, he will stick on after the WC and then get booted coz I really cant see Aussies winning the WC, eitherway Ponting will be gone by next April.

    BUT, Ponting is a very, very good batsman ........... and it wint be a cake walk for England and they better not be over confidant like last time or else Aussies will have the poms for breakfast like last time!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    I think Ponting is a great captain. Maybe he was caught with his pants down a little when all the big guns packed up and retired but ultimately i still think he’s managed the transition the best he could have.

    It must be tough for him to captain such an ugly side. I saw an interview with Siddle today whilst sipping on my home cooked soup (way too much pearl barley) and nearly gipped at the sight of him. Still it could have been the soup...

  • Comment number 22.

    Steak and Ale

    Your having a laugh

    "He is one of the three outstanding batsman of his generation (4 if you include Robert Key)."

    or too much Ale. Key good county player!

  • Comment number 23.

    Irrespective of whether Ponting is a great captain or not (I'd personally say he's slightly above average which is backed up by the stats from #7 and Australia's current spot in the world rankings), I don't understand why Australia's selectors have problems moving the baton on while he's still playing.
    Option 1 - replace Ponting as captain but he still plays. New captain can learn while turning to Ponting for advice (even if that is only to do the opposite of what he says) and he has Australia's best batsmen of the era playing at number 3.
    Option 2 - wait until Ponting quits / is retired and a new captain has to learn on the job without either his advice or his runs.

  • Comment number 24.

    Are you suggesting that Robert Key should not be mentioned in the same breath as Tendulkar, Lara or Ponting ?
    How dare you.

  • Comment number 25.

    Papa Shango, are you an Aussie in diguise or are you just ignorant & intellectually challenged? Swann has been unstoppable over the last year. He has more test wickets than any other cricketer this calendar year, 6 ahead of Steyn. So is Steyn just an average county standard cricketer then?

    All the legends of the game have been touting him as the difference between the 2 sides ahead of the ashes, that's both Aussie and English greats. But what do they know huh? They've only played at the very highest level of the game for prolonged periods of time with great success, but you are of course much better qualified.

    3 of our 4 bowlers are ranked in the top 10, so obviously we are not just test class, but more so than any other attack in world cricket.
    You sir, are a wind up merchant with no cricketing knowledge whatsoever.

  • Comment number 26.

    World rankings are pointless. Not long ago Monty was up there!! Swann is a good county pro,


    The man has taken 5 wickets in an innings something like 9 times in 20 odd test matches. Decent by anybodies standards.

  • Comment number 27.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 28.

    Before you go papa just a quick question. Which current spinners do you think are better than Swanny ?

  • Comment number 29.

    9. At 12:02pm on 23 Nov 2010, papa shango wrote:
    World rankings are pointless. Not long ago Monty was up there!! Swann is a good county pro, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey & Haddin will be all over him. Anderson can only take wickets in May at Durham!!

    Next you'll be telling me Collingwood merits a test place?


    papa Shango, these comments are meaningless!! If our players aren't of test class why have we been to South Africa and drawn the series, beaten Australia and everyone apart from a shambles of a tour to the West Indies in the last 18 months? We aren't the top ranked nation in the world be we certainly aren't to be dismissed.

    Swann has bowled fantastically well in the last 2 years and fully merits his place as the top spinner in the world at the current time (whether the ranks are to be believed or not). Why cant a player return from the county game years after his international debut to become a bowler of serious pedigree? Although I am not putting him in the same bracket, surely a spinner that makes things happen is better than not, remind you of a certain blonde Victorian?

    Broad has been solid for the last 18 months with bat and ball and fully justifies his place, but at times even his place in the side has been questioned, like just before his match winning spell at the Oval in 2009. Everyone can have a lean time, but that’s when others have to step up to the plate, I have seen this more from the English than the Aussies since the greats retired.

    I haven't seen much from the Aussie bowlers that make them stand above our bowlers, if you are going to tell me they are better please back that up, and dont say the world rankings. Mitchell Johnson hasn't bowled well since before the last Ashes serious and Doug Bollinger well he was an unknown quantity and hasn't made the same impact in the last 6/9 months. Xavier Doherty has been around for a while and only seems to selected because of the KP situation.

    James Anderson - people love to write him off, remembering him for his past performances. He has developed into a very consistent performer for England for England and yes he prefers conditions that swing but he isn't the wayward bowler of old.

    Two very watery statements that show the depth of knowledge of yet another England cricket fan, please make statements based facts not personal likes or dislikes.

    This series will be won in the key moments, the Aussies dominated the stats in 2009 and yet lost the series because they weren't able to deal with the key moments of the series. Lets see if anything will have changed, If they don’t start well I can see the home fans getting on their backs.

  • Comment number 30.

    Pretty fair assessment of the respective teams. One small point of order, I think you mean blond not blonde. A blonde Victorian is probably something else which perhaps we shouldn’t go into, if you pardon the phrase.

  • Comment number 31.

    I was dreaming of being there already!!

    Apologies, blond Victorian. Please excuse all the other errors, was written in a rush and not re-read before posting.

  • Comment number 32.


    Sorry but your comment is just plain uninformed. I get the feeling you are simply making a ridiculous point and have no wish to back it up with hard evidence. In cricketing parlance, you're batting on a very sticky wicket, and have as good a defence as Courtney Walsh or Danny Morrison.

  • Comment number 33.

    @20... right on the dot...
    taylor and border were much more astute with their strategies.. Ponting was good till he had collossal figures performing for him. if he had a tuff situation turn to warne or pigeon... after the greats he seems bereft of ideas whn the team is in a spot of bother

  • Comment number 34.

    My abiding memory of Rickty Ponting will be of him getting hit in the head on the first morning of the First Test in 2005. It was a moment that showed the England side that Australia were human; they were the same as everyone else; they had flaws; bluntly - they could be hurt.

    For more of my favourite Ashes memories go to:

  • Comment number 35.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 36.


    Perhaps you can confirm who has taken the most wickets out of all of them in Test cricket over the last 12 months...? You still haven't provided any evidence, simply names. Ian Botham took more wickets than Anderson, but doesn't mean they're going to take him from the commentary box to once more strike fear into the Aussies.

    Rattling off a list without something to back it up with doesn't achieve very much.

  • Comment number 37.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 38.

    He's picked up more than a few wickets, he's picked up more than any other bowler, as someone else pointed out earlier. You don't have to apologise for having an opinion, but saying Swann is just a good county pro has to be nothing but wrong when you look at the evidence. I'm not convinced you have because you seem bent on thinking he isn't that good.

    I hope you will be disappointed come Thursday/Friday/Saturday when Australia bat in their first innings, where hopefully Swann (and Anderson) will prove you wrong.

  • Comment number 39.

    35. At 4:28pm on 23 Nov 2010, papa shango wrote:
    Singh, Vettori, Hauritz, Ajmal. 4 spinners better than Swann. Shall I name 20 quicks better than Anderson?

    Yep. Now we know you are either an Aussie or a football fan. You clearly know nothing about cricket. If Hauritz was better than, or even close to being as good as, Swann, he would be playing in the Aussie side at Brisbane - he isn't. Please do come back after the last test at Sydney when we can see just how wrong you were about Swann.

  • Comment number 40.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 41.

    13. At 12:09pm on 23 Nov 2010, Dragon_Soup wrote:

    I don't know why you think Mitchell Johnson is back to his best, he’s looked as off-colour in his recent matches as the majority of his team-mates. At least he took wickets in 2009, even if he did launch the occasional ball to second slip and allow himself to get wound up by tail enders!!


    52 wickets in his last 12 matches to me says Johnson will be more of a threat than 18 months ago sir

    and dont forget he will be bowling at home which always helps !!!

  • Comment number 42.

    papa shango:

    You might've gotten away with Singh and Vettori (not that I would've agreed) but Hauritz and Ajmal. Are you for real? You can name 20 quicks who you think are better than Anderson if you like but I doubt anyone will agree with you!

    You are clueless!

  • Comment number 43.

    Dirty Harry summed it up best on opinions.
    I could make an argument that Swann’s effectiveness will be reduced this winter. Australia have fewer left handers. The extra bounce in Australia may affect his chances on lbw decisions which is one of Swann’s major strengths. His performance against Australia in 2009 was pretty modest. These would be legitimate arguments.
    This would not however detract from stellar numbers over 24 matches. His figures no matter which way you look at them far exceed those of any other spinner over the last couple of years.
    I personally would be surprised if Swann took more than 15 wickets at around 32 – 35 a piece. The question will be the context of when the wickets are taken. England over the past couple of years have specialised in match winning spells by their bowlers. If this is repeated this winter England may sneak it.

  • Comment number 44.

    It's impossible to say definitively whether or not the great players Ponting (or any other captain has had) would have been as great with a different captain in place.
    To diminish Ponting's skills (as captain) or those of Waugh due to the resources available seems unjustifiable, I don't remember the Autralian side being particularly lacking in talent when Border was in charge - I think that a lot of remarks made seem as if they are based on personality rather than skill - I certainly always 'liked' Border more than the other two and I suspect I am not alone.
    Arguably the only way that you can judge a captain is on his results with the players he has available and on that basis, regardless of decisions that appear odd in hindsight, Ponting is a great captain.
    (Oh and papa shango is just trying to wind people up, apparently it has been working to some extent)

  • Comment number 45.

    I was in Australia during the 2004/5 season when he had his lap of honour round the Test grounds as Aussie captain. I chatted to some of the local fans, being English myself, and found an air of pessimism whenever Ponting's name was mentioned. The consensus was, great batsman, potentially rubbish captain.
    Time seems to have borne out this pessimism as Ponting has handed England the initiative in two Ashes series. I know England had to be good enough to take that initiative, but Border, Taylor and Waugh would never have given them a sniff. He has been a poor captain of a great team and a poor captain of an extremely mediocre team.
    Ponting will lead Australia to a losing series, probably 3-1, and retire in ignominy as a captain and glory as a batsman, the complete opposite of Brearley. Unless he finally stops blaming everyone but himself and his team he will not be able to stop the final blemish on his record of losing the Ashes in Australia.

  • Comment number 46.

    Sorry *he* of course refers to Steve Waugh. I was teaching a study skills class on proof reading today!!!!

  • Comment number 47.

    Lacklustre article.........really poor. Nothing new. Could have been written two years ago.
    Would you like help with some Ashes titles that might be worth researching?

  • Comment number 48.

    As ever on these arguments the truth probably lies somewhere between the two poles of thinking.
    Ponting is not a great captain but he's not useless either.
    If you apply the label of great to him as a captain then that is to compare him with the likes of Lloyd, Worrell, Imran Khan, Benaud, Jardine. As a captain I don't think he bears comparison.
    However I think he is a decent leader of men who deserves probably more respect than he receives. In Australian eyes he probably suffered from 2 problems (apart from losing 2 Ashes series).
    1) He is Tasmanian.
    2) He is not Shane Warne.
    Neither of which should preclude him from reasonable consideration.

    PS Papa - Yorkshire or Lancashire ?

  • Comment number 49.

    Ponting might not be an excellent captain but he is any day better than cliche-ridden, over-defensive , non-strategist Andrew Strauss.

  • Comment number 50.

    To prove something to all those who love to use stats are a barometer

    In the last series there were 8 hundreds for Aussie Batsmen - 3 were in the first test and the thrashing at Headingley mainly only two for England - Strauss and Trott

    3 Aussies took over 20 wickets I think in the series and England's leading wicket taker was Broad on 18 I think !

    So whilst stats is great ..its more important when you put those performances in

    Broad bowled a magical spell at the Oval which turned the game in Englands favour and Trott got a hundred to make it doubly difficult

  • Comment number 51.

    Any side is going to be hit with a bump back down to earth when you lose players like McGrath, Warne, hayden , LAnger and Gilchrist in a short space of time

    much like the West Indies who had a period of searing fast bowlers - Holding, Marshall, Garner, Ambrose, Croft with destructive batsman like Richards, Greenidge, Richardson and co

    Ponting inherited a great side no doubt about it and its always going to be a hard act to follow

    Problem is he is the only one left of the old team so more pressure on him

    Despite his impressive batting record..I still think its all down to the fact he is use to the hard bouncy wickets in Australia and is more vulnerable on the sub continent as he has an awful record against India

    Plus he never had to face relentlessly Warne and McGrath coming at him like Tendulkar, Jayawardene, Kallis, Dravid or like Greg Chapell the West Indian attack

  • Comment number 52.

    Ricky Ponting does not want the ignominy of losing another Ashes series and which will no doubt force him to retire

    the trouble also has been the selectors seem to be confused over which players to pick ..they are not sure about current players but not too keen or convinced by replacements either..the handling of Hauritz is shambolic. Surely Ponting needs some form of input into his side

    as for Mitchell Johnson ..he is the 2nd fastest bowler to get 100 test wickets but he can be wayward as witnessed at Lords last year

    If he is on fire he is dangerous but if he is off colour then Ponting has a serious problem with his bowlers. There has not been a settled attack with constant injuries and continued questions about bowler X or bowler y

    Unlike previous years Australia had a settled attack which helped enormously

    Previous series England have been blighted by bad preparation and injuries to key bowlers and seems like the boot is on the other foot so to speak

  • Comment number 53.

    Theres no doubt the english can talk a good game, but the batting line up looks suspiciously like the one that got beat 5-0 last time. Theres no doubt England have improved and Australia has come back to the feild. But I sence the English are under lots of pressure, because they know it wil be a very difficult series to win.

  • Comment number 54.

    "the trouble also has been the selectors seem to be confused over which players to pick ..they are not sure about current players but not too keen or convinced by replacements either..the handling of Hauritz is shambolic. Surely Ponting needs some form of input into his side"

    I doubt very much Punter is the kind of bloke that would sit back and wear such nonsense, I can only conclude he has or did back the measure however ludicrous. What I want to know is what will the selectors do without Merv Hughes to carry the can for them should things all go pear shaped.

    "Theres no doubt the english can talk a good game, but the batting line up looks suspiciously like the one that got beat 5-0 last time. Theres no doubt England have improved and Australia has come back to the feild. But I sence the English are under lots of pressure, because they know it wil be a very difficult series to win."

    Yes the batting line up does look similar doesn't it, however this time they look up for the challenge and with Australia's recent retirements they are very much a team in transition and having come back from the sub continent after a poor showing against India, England will sense the smell of blood and fear. Rarely has the Australian set up looked as vulnerable and there for the taking as it does right now. I predict and hope it will be a keenly fought contest but believe England have the edge even as tourists this time.

    I reckon by the time its all over you Aussies might wanna be buying your beers, half pints in pint glasses, that way the tears wont over fill em.

  • Comment number 55.

    #53, If I had a pound for every Aussie who has mocked us English for over-optimism, and then predicted another whitewash in the same post(!), I could get in a round for every commenter on this blog. Well, except Papa Shango, he doesn't deserve a pint.

  • Comment number 56.

    "I'm not denying Swann has picked up a few wickets, but he will get found out. A lot of players do well 1st time round against teams, the Aussies will have a plan to get after him"


    Swann has played 1 Test series and 2 ODI series against Australia. In the most recent ODI series, he took 8 wickets at 20 runs a piece and picked up a MOTM award in the third game.

    Not a Test series I know, but if you were correct, you'd think that having faced Swann 13 times in 2009 (5 Tests, 7 ODIs plus the Champions Trophy ODI), they'd have played Swann with ease this summer.

  • Comment number 57.

    I think Ponting's a great batsman and a pretty decent captain. I've long nursed a sneaking suspicion that the reason he's not as widely liked as Border (another stereotypical no-nonsense, hard-headed Aussie) is his startling impersonation of George Dubya Bush's long-lost son.
    Fate can be cruel sometimes...

  • Comment number 58.

    ok Tim, i'm not predicitng a whitewash as Australia aren't as good as they were 4 years ago but typically the optimism has been cranked up by English supporters yet again. a good thing to be optimistic but the same things were being said by you lot 4 years ago and what happened? i have a 20 year old cricket-mad nephew who looks at me with disbelief when i say England may have a chance this time - in his lifetime he has never seen an England cricket team give us anything remotely like a contest in Australia. i hope that England do give us a contest this series. it's extremely disappointing and boring to have secured yet another Ashes series victory by lunch on the 1st day- ruins the whole summer

  • Comment number 59.

    This Ashes I very important for him. If he wins the ashes with Australia, he will definitely stay as captain and continue playing cricket. But if he loses the Ashes, he will probabily lose captaincy and even decide to retire from cricket

    The 1st test match is very important
    Now only 24hrs left till it starts

    I still put Aussies as slight favourites to win Ashes as they are at playing at home and got an excellent record especially against England

  • Comment number 60.

    Ponting deserves credit as does Strauss for as well as putting winning sides out there as keeping all those ego's in check.

    Roll on Wednesday night and thank god for TMS and ITV4 (of all places)

  • Comment number 61.

    Theres no doubt the english can talk a good game, but the batting line up looks suspiciously like the one that got beat 5-0 last time.

    True, but rather crucially the Australian bowling line up looks absolutely nothing like the one they faced last time.

  • Comment number 62.

    Nothensuperspur. Apart from spin, Australias bowling is pretty good. Watson is a great plus and Bollinger and Hilfanhaus and good bowlers in Australia conditions. Australias decline has been it's batting and specifically its middle order, still too strong for england though.

  • Comment number 63.

    He's just got one of those faces.

  • Comment number 64.

    The term 'legendary' is being used loosely. Certainly not Langer and Hayden. Most certainly Trumper and Duff, Woodfull and Ponsford, Barnes and Morris, and Simpson and Lawry.

  • Comment number 65.

    Good blog.

    I think Ponting has earned his place as both a legendary captain and a legendary number 3.

    I don't think he'll go until after the next Ashes.

  • Comment number 66.

    After the loss to England in 2009, I thoght Ponting should have called it quits with the captaincy. Michael Clarke had been waiting in the wings for a long time and the time was right for him then to take over. After the last Ashes defeat, Australian cricket needed new energy and it didn't get it. Ponting continued, the heir apparent in Clarke started 2009 fighting with other team members, began 2010 splitting with his fiance and frankly looked hideous with the bat against England in the ODI series this year. The middle order stagnated, and the bowling attack went through many variations. Now Australia are stuck in a difficult position. Irrespective of the result of this Ashes series, it must surely be Ponting's final series in charge. If he loses, his position as three times defeated Ashes captain would be untenable. If he won, I can't see a better time for him to bow out as Aussie Test captain, an Ashes winner on home soil.

    The problem with him stepping down is that there is no obvious replacement. Clarke's stock has fallen significantly. The tradition is for Australia to give the best player the captaincy, something Clarke is not right now. The tradition is for a deposed Aussie captain to not stay in the side. In this case, tradition should be thrown out of the window. If Dhoni can captain India successfully with his best batsman in Tendulkar being a former captain, then there is no reason why Ponting shouldn't stay on as a batsman. Indeed, a Ponting released from the pressure of captaincy may well find his batting rejuvenated and go on to follow Tendulkar's lead in terms of run scoring at a more mature age. It's a far more sensible idea than, say, giving Marcus North the captaincy. Australia need Ponting the batsman a lot more than they need Ponting the captain.

    Who would replace him? It's a hard choice. Australia post-Ponting would need stability and I don't believe Michael Clarke would be a good choice for that role. England after the Pietersen-Moores battle needed stability and Strauss was the obvious candidate for the top job. Simon Katich has similar qualities to Strauss and so he would be my pick.

  • Comment number 67.


    If Mitchell Johnson was bowling as well as he did in South Africa (his best), Australia wouldn't be losing sir. Wickets yes, control no!

  • Comment number 68.

    Erm... if you look beyond the statistics, at HOW Swann has taken his test wickets (including Ponting), largely with spin, and, I might add, on all types of surfaces, that should tell you that he IS a world-class performer.
    As for saying that this Aussie side doesn't contain a Warne, McGrath, etc: so what? BOTH sides would do well to remember that all legends have a starting point.

  • Comment number 69.


    only one man has made more runs in the history of the game: Sachin Tendulkar, and he is rightly considered a living legend.

    Ricky does not get the respect he clearly deserves. Having great players in your side does not get you over 12,000 runs and 39 Test Match centuries.

    And speaking of captaincy, regardless of how you look at it, Ponting has still won more Test Matches as Captain than any other captain in over 140 years of the sport.

    This will be the closest contest on Australian soil for decades (at last)...but write Punter off at your peril, he's a champion of the game.

  • Comment number 70.

    Since 2007 you have to say Australia's bowling and batting has been severely weakened !

    Losing Hayden , LAnger and Gilchrist plus Mcgrath, Warne and Lee from the bowling thats a lot of big players

    Plus the Aussies selectors can;t seem to make up their mind if they want to stick or change with players

    the big mistake England made last time was they had a settled side with Read and Panesar then decided to bring back Jones and Giles from the Ashes winning team despite one was dropped because of poor form and the other injured for a year

    I could never understand the decision behind when both Read and Panesar played well in the summer that year for England in their roles and won matches

  • Comment number 71. Fordyce points out:

    Ponting averages 66 at the GABBA, and 100 when Australia play England there.

    Nuff said

  • Comment number 72.

    what made the Aussies formidable was some of the sledging and mind games that Warne and Mcgrath use to do to the batsmen

    It got over the top with the series against India when the whole world condemned the Aussies as being bullies and unsporting and it seems without this tactic there are not as formidable

    the Aussie media are really bashing their own team rather than as in previous tours labelling England a bunch of no hopers and useless

    I think its clear the Aussies having enjoyed domination at cricket, rugby and swimming are so desperate for the success and heaping pressure on their own teams a bit more

  • Comment number 73.

    I think that the English are right to be optimistic about the upcoming series. This is our weakest team in a long time and England has been playing well over the last couple of years.

    A couple of things though. It seems alot of people have forgotten how close the Ashes in England actually were, and this series is being played in Aussie conditions. If 1 or 2 sessions had gone Australia's way in England last time out and the result would have been different.

    England I believe def have an advantage in Captaincy. Ponting does not instill faith with his decision making were as I think Strauss is obviously a natural leader.

    To be Honest I think that Australia has a better batting lineup, especially in Oz conditions, but England I think has the edge in the bowling dept. Swann is way ahead of any spinner in Oz at the moment.

    I truely believe that England will struggle to win any of the first 3 tests. Oz have not been beaten at the GABBA in 20yrs, We have only ever lost once to England in Perth and that was in 78, and the fact that it has rained for about 7 days in the last 8 years in Adelaide I will back the Aussies.

    Sydney and Melbourne are Englands best chances although there is a bigger chance of rain.

    Perdiction: Australia 3-1 (wins in Bris, Perth and Adelaide, Draw in Melbourne, England win in Sydney) or Draw 2-2 (Draw in Bris, Australia win in Perth and Adelaide, England win in Melb and Sydney)

  • Comment number 74.

    #72 Re sledging: It got over the top with the series against India when the whole world condemned the Aussies as being bullies and unsporting and it seems without this tactic there are not as formidable.


    This is an uniformed statement. It was India, and Harbajan in particular, that was guilty of taking sledging too far in that series. He repeatedly used racial taunts (calling A.Symonds a monkey) and then first denied he had said anything and then claimed he'd actually said mah-kee, a derogatory hindi term. Our players aren't angels (we don't want them to be) but they're not racists. Harbajan has been sanctioned and suspended for disciplinary reasons more than anyone else in the game.

    And as for "heaping" on pressure on our teams, yes we are hard on them and we expect them to win. Why shouldn't we?

    England are only just learning that international sport isn't just cushy boat tours and cucumber sandwiches. England do, and always have, lacked the mental toughness required to win consistently. They hired an Aussie to coach the Eng Swim team, and countless Aussies to make them competitive in cricket. And about time!

  • Comment number 75.

    And don't forget the Aussie who is their Cycling coach! Or the fact that the British Sports Institute was carbon copied from the AIS! Also what expertise are they calling in for the OG's?

    Getting back to point this is putting aside the fact that Rod Marsh setup the English Cricket Academy and the last 2 bowling coaches for the ECW have been Aussies.

    Oh and to the whole sledging thing! Who have the last 2 coaches been for the Indian cricket team who have actually bought professionalism and taken out all the secular bs from the team and helped them become arguably the best in the world (SA being the other team btw)

  • Comment number 76.

    the Aussie approach of being tough at times arrogant bullies was started by Border... tired of the constant derision from the press how weak the Aussies were..he changed their attitude and mindset when the Aussies came to England in started the England team even people like Botham who was mates with Border found him more aloof.

    Nasser Hussain caught onto it that England were soft compared to the upsetted a few people but it was the truth then and he had to show a bit nastiness and toughness in his leadership although it was not popular with everyone

    Would any Aussie agree then their cricket got complacent or its one of these phases where the period of domination has ended and they are going through a transition phase

    I should add Troy Cooley worked as England's bowling coach in 2005 series but the stupid ECB did not renew his contract and the Aussies greatly took him and the results showed in the bowling


    Aussies have been for sledging and getting under batsmen skin for doing it especially when McGrath use to snarl and utter words in front of the batsman

    You also had Warne playing games joined by Gilchrist and a few others in close proximity...I'll always remember Warne messing with Nasser Hussain's mind in a one dayer and Nasser lost it afterwards and threw his wicket away from a good position for the team

    Ponting is the villain because some of his actions in the past cast him as such namely the India incident where he told Dravid he was out with a finger action and when he swore in front of the cameras in England after being run out

  • Comment number 77.

    Ponting is under serious pressure to show what is at stakes

    If he wins the Ashes he is a hero again

    If he loses the Ashes he would be labelled absolutely useless captain and no doubt would be sacked and that usually in Australian terms means never play for the international side again

    Trouble is the media are too busy saying the selectors have done this and that wrong and should not have picked player X but player Y and saying how unbalanced and unsettled the whole team is

    the bottom line appears to be they don;t appear to have much faith in this lot

    Also certain player's private lives have been bought up in the press like Clarke and Johnson about their partners which does not help

  • Comment number 78.

    Dear England

    Welcome back to Australia.

    It's great to have you down here again.

    You've met Pete Siddle before haven't you? He's the pedestrian trundler that wouldn't get a game in your almighty pace attack. Anyway, I hope you enjoy your stay.

    All the very, Signed:

    The Little Urn

  • Comment number 79.

    Papa Shango, your powers are uncanny! You've out-predicted the slide rule, pencil- behind-the -ear, earnest, tongue out efforts of your betters. How very dare you!

  • Comment number 80.

    Is M. Strauss position at risk? After all he was the lowest scorer in both innings.

  • Comment number 81.

    re: 78 myislandhome
    Thanks for the heartfelt welcome!
    I must admit that at first I thought you didn't really mean it.
    But wow!
    All that effort Mr Siddle and friends put in over the last few days giving our guys throw downs to hit to all parts, has really made us feel welcome.
    PS: we hope Mr Siddle can get his wheels back on and start trundling again real soon.


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