As the Australians after a disastrous Ashes campaign look to regroup, their captain has come under immense public scrutiny.
Ricky Ponting, a batsman with tons of talent and potential and a captain par excellence has an axe hovering over his head. After nearly two decades of Australian domination thanks to the leadership of Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, and Ricky Ponting, the era of dominance and invincibility is finally waning. Ever since Australia were so outplayed in India late last year, the team has struggled to perform consistently at the highest level . Ricky Ponting's world champion tag now lies in history.
The harsh reality must be dawning on the men from down under who after the retirements of key players have struggled. Ponting, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke, the only remaining players from 2005 have lost twice in England. They had their chance for revenge and failed against a inferior outfit than the 2005 vintage. Surely showing the lacking 'Australian aura'. Ricky Ponting regularly said Australians play their best when their backs are to the wall, but that's not true with this side. The new Australian team, is not lacking in talent but is not consistent and therefore unable to produce the same results as before. This is an outfit that can't transform any situation into a win, especially under extreme conditions, and just this we saw at the Oval.
But surely, the answer is not sacking Ponting. James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, has said sacking Ricky Ponting from the captaincy would be "completely unfair". "Ricky's had a very, very good series." Sutherland told, "He's been under incredible pressure. I thought the dignity and poise that he showed in defeat was something that all Australians should be very proud of." The most battered man from the Ashes must be Ricky Ponting. Seeing him in Oval after the match, one could see just how shattered and hurt he was, even though he tried to put on a straight and brave face. A champion player, no doubt.
Ricky Ponting, the batsman had a wonderful series and Ponting the captain wasn't bad either. But Ponting's captaincy was truly below his usual high standards. Ricky Ponting in the last 12 months has done quite a lot of mistakes as a captain. Many times the decisions of captains may not be always right but they also do no tend to affect the result of the match much, and thereby these miscalculated decisions or wrongful judgments go unseen. But this has not been the case with the Australian skipper. With a new team, fair bit of experimenting must be done to understand their full strengths, but these experiments have gone horribly wrong for Australia making Ponting look dumb and stupid. Everyone makes mistakes, and Andrew Hilditch, Australia's chairman of selectors, has conceded that everyone in the Australian side misread the pitch in Oval. So the blame must not entirely fall on the captain's shoulders.
To Ponting's defense, it must be said that building up a team from scratch to match the 'unbeatable Australian team' is no easy task that can be done overnight. Ian Chappell, the former Australia captain, has backed captain Ricky Ponting to stay on as the leader despite being the only second Australian captain to lose two Ashes. "Obviously with Australia losing the series and Ponting losing the Ashes in England for the second time, there will be some queries about his captaincy, there will be some sniping about his captaincy," Chappell said. "Overall I thought he did a pretty fair job as a captain. And when you consider the turnover of very good players that he has had under his captaincy - no other Australian captain has had to cope with that. And I think he has done remarkably well to keep Australia afloat in a situation where they are still a team in transition." Ricky Ponting has done just that. He has managed to keep his team afloat and living in the pale shadow of the invincible team of yesterday.
"Now is not the right time to sack Ponting as captain," Chappell said. "For starters if you sack him you will probably lose your best batsman because I don't think he would want to continue if he was sacked as captain.But the most important thing is I don't believe that he deserves to be sacked as captain, he's still the best man for the job." A world class batsman, a brilliant fielder and an outstanding captain is not something Australia would want to lose now, especially in this transition period.
Also I feel that Ricky Ponting's heir, Micheal Clarke is still not ready to lead a side. He may have come of age in the recent Ashes series, but still he remains behind as a young member of the team despite his experience. 'Pup' may have graduated into the 'Aussie top dog', but are his young shoulders ready to carry the responsibility and burden of captaincy?
This Ashes showed the world that Ricky Ponting too is human. How it must have hurt to know that the prestigious prize was so near yet so far away, and that he had done everything and contributed his all, and yet destroy everything to reach the urn. Surely, this was the first time anyone experienced such a mixed bag of this proportion.
This is the saga where a captain strives, yet fails.........