By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Ricky Ponting was not the only ‘culprit’ in Australia’s shocking defeat at the hands of the struggling Pakistan outfit in the second Test at Headingley but his decision to bat first was certainly something beyond comprehension.
Winning and losing is obviously a part and parcel of the game but allowing a rival to dominate that’s in disarray itself is not expected from a side known for not giving up against the toughest of rivals.
Ponting has been the architect of many famous victories but at the moment he’s at the centre of a controversy as the cricket entuhisiasts all over the world still remain surprised why had he chosen to bat when he could have simply sealed the series by inserting the inexperienced batting line-up on the first morning.
"There's no doubt it's had a big impact on it," Ponting said of his decision to bat first after winning the toss.
"That is my responsibility to get those sort of things right. The wicket was dry and it had surface cracks. It certainly wasn't something you expected to seam all over the place, but it did that. Any decision that is made like that is obviously the captain's and when you have a loss like we've had, it's the responsibility of the captain as well. The buck stops with me," he stated.
The conditions in Headingley on the first morning were such that would have tested even the greatest batsmen on earth. Well Ponting himself faced the music after his openers were unable to weather the storm for long.
It’s not often to find Australia getting skittled for 88. They still had the potential to recover as they had done several times in the past. But nothing was to go Ponting’s way in this game as his front-line fast bowlers failed to exploit the conditions.
Obviously if Ponting had to turn to Shane Watson, Steve Smith or Marcus North for wickets it clearly meant that the men expected to do the job were not delivering and the captain was under additional pressure.
Great teams usually recover from the tightest of corners because they are not depending on just a few individuals and they have a whole lot of match-winners. So has been the case of Australia under Ponting for quite sometime now.
Ponting, to his credit, had done well, prior to the Headingley Test, to have got the best from his young side whose never-say-die abilities were admired and feared by the opponents.
It was almost unbeliavable to imagine the Australian batting as well as bowling to flop in the same game. Add to this the blunder of batting first after winning the toss and the situation was such that no team could have escaped disaster.
The misfiring pace attack of Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus let Ponting down miserably after the batters had collpased on the first morning. It was amazing to find them bowling all over the place making it very difficult to set fields for them.