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Farewell Ponting

Nick Bryant | 12:45 UK time, Tuesday, 29 March 2011

"Major announcement at 1pm SCG TODAY involving a senior Australian cricketer." As soon as that not particularly cryptic email from Cricket Australia landed in inboxes around the cricketing world, everyone knew that Ricky Ponting's tenure as Australia's captain could now be measured in hours rather than months or even years. In truth, nobody needed an email. As soon as Australia crashed out of the World Cup at the quarter final stage - a disaster for a country that hoisted the trophy in the last three tournaments - it was clear that the Ponting era had come to an end.

Ricky Ponting

I'm in England, where the news of Ponting's resignation is a big deal. It's the headline sports story of the day. He's a figure who English fans love to hate, but sneakingly admire. A great batsmen, an extraordinarily tough competitor, though a tactically suspect captain.

As I've written before in this space, I've long thought that Ponting gets an unfairly bad press, not least from Australia's cricketing scribes. He was never a popular replacement for Steve Waugh, a legend among Aussie sporting legends, and his critics will claim that his success as an Australian captain came during the Warne/McGrath era when the team could virtually have run on auto-pilot. Certainly, as soon as Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist and co retired, we saw the end of cricket's unipolar world in which Australia was the sole superpower. Afterwards, Ponting's job was to manage his side's decline.

I first met Ponting at a fashion event soon after arriving in Sydney - we had both been dragged along by our wives - and he was charming, friendly and, best of all, extremely candid. Australia was just about to set about regaining the Ashes, and he was disarmingly honest about why his team had been beaten in England the year before. He was also confident they would beat England convincingly on home soil - not a bad call on the eve of a 5-0 series.

At press conferences, Ponting tended to avoid the dreadful "they gave it 100%" clichés and spoke much more intelligently about the nuances of the game. At those same press availabilities, however, he could be painfully thin-skinned, especially when he copped criticism from former players - and especially former captains - about his lack of tactical smarts.

His books, the Captain's Diary series, also revealed the good and bad. The supportive captain, who cherished the Baggy Green culture invented to a large extent by Waugh. The loving husband, and later devoted father. The dedicated pro who thought there was no better job in the sporting world than captaining his country.

But they also revealed him to be rather peevish at times. He used the books to settle quite a few scores, and once I remembering his complaining about the cost of laundry on an Ashes tour in Britain, which seemed a lesser concern for a multi-millionaire sportsmen. Recently, we've seen a few ugly outbursts on the pitch, which suggested he was buckling under the pressure of leading what by Australian standards was a fairly mediocre side.

Ponting has said he plans to keep playing at an international level. The great fear of Cricket Australia was that he would not want to play on unless he was the captain. And for my money he is still Australia's finest batsmen, even if his form has slumped alarmingly in recent series. Perhaps he will drop down the batting order.

So farewell Punter Ponting - a man who brought to the game much more of the good than the bad and the ugly.


  • Comment number 1.

    Working while on holiday? Tut tut Nick! I bet your wife is not happy...

    I am also in the UK and can imagine the uproar back in Australia afer the latest defeat. On the bright side, at least we got 5 out- that's 5 more than the Poms which I find rather comforting.

    I agree that Ponting has been given a bit of a hard time, but it was always going to be difficult bacause as you point out, he is certainy no Steve Waugh.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well to be honest Steve Waugh had such people to rely on as:

    McGrath, Warne, Slater, Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Ponting, Mark Waugh, Gilespie etc. and he wasn't adverse to manipulating run rates in the world cup to ensure New Zealand qualified at the expense of the West Indies ("We're not here to win friends, mate" was his comment). A golden era of players spanned two captains - one of whom had the luxury of retiring when they were still all playing and winning and the other didn't. Nostalgia gives one a halo and leaves the other a bitter pill swallow. I don't like either of them, but I respect them both equally.

  • Comment number 3.

    We shouild immediately, if not yesterday, bite the bullet and start blooding some youngsters.
    Instead of giving blokes who weren't good enough 5 yrs ago "their turn" now that they're almost 30 - and older, pick the best of anyone aged 28 and younger and let them go for it.

    Have to draw a footy correlation.. you dont mind your side taking its knocks on the way down if the payoff is 5-6 good kids who will be there when the sun comes out again.

    At the moment we're on the way down and the kids aren't getting a shot. Why? The oldies are losing anyway. The difference between a loss and a loss from a stack of kids is - the kids will get better.

  • Comment number 4.

    looks like the little swiss tablets are wearing off... i think the australian and english sides are suffering from the malaise that has long afflicted the english football team. Namely being forced to play too much. the same could be said for the german football team who went down to australia yesterday with a very weakened team.

  • Comment number 5.

    Ricky is a great player, but an average captain. I don't think he could bat at 3 and captain well at the same time. He should have taken the AB/Waugh approach and moved to 6 years ago.
    Its hard to see Clark been well accepted by some sections of Australian media and fans. But if the selectors choose to bring more youth into the team, the experiance of Clark and his seemingly approachable nature would make him a good mentor for the younger players (minus that Tattoo's and alcohol)

  • Comment number 6.

    Should be remembered as a great batsmen and fielder (Australia's second best of all time - debate?) - sadly, the decline will continue under Clarke until the end of the "Review" - when hopefully we say goodbye to the part time Adelaide mob who masquerade as selectors ...... keep your eye out for George Bailey

  • Comment number 7.

    I first realised I didn't hate Ponting when I started to feel sorry for him. Until that point I must have just hated losing so regularly. The crusty commentators who shake their heads and cluck dissaprovingly at the booing of Ponting entirely miss the point. It's pantomime booing and really he's held in high regard. There's no vitriol in the boos as there is in football e.g. when Rooney plays at Goodison, it's an acknowledgement that he's been our tormentor for so long we've come to hold him in some affection.

    Having said that, though I've never met him, he comes across as quite invidious. He's a major proponent of 'the spirit of the game' should he perceive another side - usually England - as pushing the boundaries of the rules yet was always remarkably relaxed about the same spirit when his own team behaved in a similar fashion.

    If he goes I'll probably miss him in a strange way. One needs to enjoy beating one's opponent, rather than to simply enjoying winning. Who could be bothered to work up any emotion over the insipid Clarke or Watson? I enjoy laughing at Johnson and Smith and, of course, Doug the rug, but aside from Ponting the only other Aussie player with the potential to get under my skin is Siddle. A fiery little bulldog and great competitor whom I thoroughly enjoy seeing sweating and swearing after being smashed to the boundary. I'm sure I'd love him if he were English.

    So I don't know about the people who count, but for me Siddle would make a great captain. I've never been sure why the captain's job is invariably given to the best batsman.


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