November 30, 2012

Ponting already had an extended international career


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
 (Pakistan News & Features Services)

Ricky Ponting’s decision to quit, finally, should not have come as a surprise. The former Australian captain made the announcement on November 29 with the third and final Test against South Africa, having started at the WACA in Perth on November 30. 

The journey which had begun at the same ground in December 1995 is now coming to a close at the same ground after 17 years. By the Australian standards it has been too long a career. 

Ponting’s illustrious contemporaries like the Waugh twins, Steve and Mark, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Mathew Hayden, had left the scene at a time when they still looked good for a few more seasons if not more. 

The case of Ponting was different, however. He was allowed an extended career despite undergoing a lean patch for considerable length of time.

The Australian cricket authorities had never been so lenient in the past but they seemed to have let the former captain stay on because there were not too many consistent batsmen around who could be his worthy replacement. 

Ponting’s form had declined quite a few seasons ago. He was not the same flamboyant self who used to dictate terms against the bowlers. 

He had lost his ability to dominate the bowling but he was hanging on. He looked a shadow on his own self during the last few years of his career. 

Gone were the days he pulled and cut the fast bowlers whenever they pitched short. Neither did he appear assured enough while driving the ball when the bowlers dared attacking him with full-pitched stuff. 

An odd innings or two not withstanding, he was at sea against the quality bowlers in the recent past. He couldn’t reproduce his top form even after handing over the captaincy to Michael Clarke. 

Ponting was given numerous chances, despite his ordinary performances, but he couldn’t make them count. His most recent failures against South Africa very clearly reflected that he was encountering problems of all kinds in the middle. 

He has made the right decision to hang his boots. Not that he was blocking the entry of any talented youngster but more because he was finding it increasingly difficult to put runs against his name. 

With the retirement of Ponting there will be greater pressure on skipper Clarke and Michael Hussey to continue their awesome form. They remain the only two reliable batsmen in the Australian line-up which used to have far too many in the past. 

The Australians have been producing fast bowlers who have pace and swing but their cupboard of quality batsmen has gone bare. That’s one reason they may find it difficult to be the top side of the world. 

They ruled the world, under Ponting, for a number of years because they were blessed with an extraordinarily gifted side. They had world-class batsmen from number one to seven which made their bowling even more lethal. 

It’s a different ball game now. The Australian speedsters do have the firepower to rout any side but their own batsmen don’t have the capability to score heavily in all conditions.


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