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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ponting's time running out

By on 9:15 PM

Punter's end is near.
Ricky Ponting is without a doubt one of the greats of modern day cricket, and a legendary figure in Australian cricket, but recent performances or rather the non-performances have put a question mark over his name, and one cannot help but wonder if Ponting well past his prime is a liability to the Australian test team now.

Ponting so far in the South Africa series has scores of 0, 4 and 16 next to his name and the calls for his head is just getting louder with every failure. He had a poor series in West Indies earlier this year where he scored a lone half century in his 6 innings in the series. He averaged a low 24.33 which compared to his career average of 52.21 is an abomination.

Ponting is a great warrior but even great warriors age. Their reflexes slow (he's been bowled twice - though one was from an absolute jaffa from Kallis - in the series which generally is a reflective of that), and no matter how much they try to bring back the glory days of their youth, it simply doesn't happen. What once used to be a fight for supremacy now turns into a fight for basic survival and we see Ponting do exactly that. However it's not a simple open and shut case with Ponting as mentioned above. Going into the series against South Africa, Ponting was one of the leading run-getters in the Australian domestic circuit with 353 runs from just four first class matches at an impressive average of 117.67. This consisted of 2 fifties and one grand century - an undefeated knock of 162 against Victoria. In the Ryobi one day cup, the numbers don't exactly reflect the same form as he managed just 86 runs from 3 matches, but nevertheless one can safely assume that Ponting was in relatively good form leading to the South Africa series and this fact only makes the situation more complex.

In the last 12 months (not counting the Adelaide test), Ponting has averaged 47.58 with 809 runs from 11 matches, which is quite good. However of those 809 runs, 544 came in the 4 match series against India where he scored 3 fifties, a century, and a double century, suggesting that Ponting of the past had returned. However the second wind was soon knocked out of him in the West Indies. Taking away the Indian series, where Ponting scored so much runs, he has struggled. If we omit that series, his average drops all the way down to 20.38.

Whatever the case, the reason for Ponting's inclusion in the team is becoming less reasonable. It's only a matter of time before the selectors and even captain Michael Clarke (who has time and time again stated that his mentor - Ponting's place in the side is not under any doubt) find themselves with no alternative but to show the former Australian captain the exit. Ponting has stated that he wants to have one last go and play in the Ashes starting July 2013, but by the look of things, if his inconsistencies remain, then he might not be given that opportunity.

Ponting's contribution to the team as Clarke says goes much beyond just his batting. His role as a senior figure in the team, makes him a mentor for the new, young blood in the team, but that role won't be enough to justify his selection. Runs, and runs on a consistent basis is the only thing that will do that, and Ponting needs to set that right.

Ponting understands the pressure on him to perform with the gun on his head. He fully realizes it, and before the Adelaide test said,
"I don't mind it, I don't shy away from it. I've been around enough and played in enough high-pressure situations, whether it's a big game or a game where you're under pressure because you haven't scored runs yourself. Most players who've played international cricket have found themselves in that position at least once in their career. It's not always plain sailing; it's the way cricket's supposed to be." 
Ponting's legacy as a great Australian captain and a player is also taking a hit. The general perception is that he is desperately hanging on, denying a place on the team for a youngster, for a shot at his old glory days. While that might seem a little harsh considering his huge contribution to the team for over a decade now, the truth is that unless he scores runs, his place will be gone. His reputation and past performance will not buy him many more opportunities and his rope is running out.

I always believed that a player as big as Ponting should be given enough time, because even though he might not be in his prime, he nevertheless is still a very big player. However what happens when the player eventually starts becoming a liability to the team? There's no choice then but to axe them. Has Ponting reached that stage? People might argue for both sides and the verdict is split. I still think Ponting has some more cricket left in him, and it's still not over. However that matters little as he needs to convince the public, and the selectors that and the only way to do it is score runs.

In India, there's another legend who is going through the same thing Ponting is. With every failure, doubts over Sachin Tendulkar's future arise in the media and like Ponting, the only way for him to reverse it all his by scoring runs. This is professional sports and there's no room for sentiments and emotions. It's either perform or perish and time is running out for both.

For Ponting, this South Africa series is pivotal in determining the future of his career. It's always sad to see an ageing lion being torn apart by the hyenas in the media, and the public. It's an unfortunate thing. Ponting the lion still has sharp teeth and the ability to score runs off his blade, and as he walks into what perhaps could be his last few days, month or perhaps a year of International cricket, here's hoping that the lion can roar once more and walk into the sunset on a high with runs. And perhaps with even the Ashes in his hand. Now wouldn't that be a fairy-tale ending to the career of a stellar batsman!


  1. Some teams are replete with choices for captains, some teams simply are not. Sachin Tendulkar or Harbajan Singh have had their go and Rohit Sharma seems to have finally cleared the cobwebs from his head and is batting well for the Mumbai Indians. If the IPL is about aggression and setting an example on the field, Ricky Ponting certainly has those qualities. He hasn’t had a good start, that is true. It is, however, a painfully long season and Ponting has to be given time to cross a bump. At the
    risk of sounding nostalgic, let me ‘punt’ that that IPL needs some greatness and heart as much as it needs commerce, and boundaries. Ricky Ponting gives it that.


Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted but to weigh and consider.
- Francis Bacon