Ashes 2010: Ricky Ponting – Great Batter but Dodgy Captain

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In my opinion, there is no question that Ricky Ponting will go down as one of the all time greatest batsmen. Himself, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara are without question the finest 3 batsmen of their generation (for my money the Little Master  is the best of the 3). But whilst punters status in the batting pantheon is unquestionable, his ability as a captain can be scrutinized. Such kinds of scrutiny are epitomized in India’s run chase in the opening test at Mohali. 

With India finding themselves 8 wickets down for 124 chasing a seemingly impossible target of 216 for victory, some of the tactics employed by the Australian captain were strange to say the least. The game should have surely been out of India’s reach. Yet VVS Laxman guided them to victory with help from Ishant Sharma, a dubious lbw decision and 4 overthrows. Before deconstructing the captaincy in the latter stages, it’ worthwhile to note just how great test cricket can be. This was a cracking match that for 3 days failed to inspire. The final 2 days ebbed and flowed and the final session of cricket was some of the most enthralling you’ll ever see. But what it also demonstrated was the fine margins involved in test cricket…

Play by Play of the Fine Margins of Test Cricket

India find themselves 9 down still requiring 11 runs for victory after a poor lbw decision given by Ian Gould. To the naked eye it looked like it was going down the leg side and Hawkeye proved the case. No referrals in this test.

India move to within 6 runs of victory.

Johnson to Ojha – Johnson raps him on the pads and Australia in its entirety go up for lbw. It’s plumb (And Australia win!) but given not out. The ball squirts out on the off side towards gully. Meanwhile Ojha does the old “where did it go, lets take a walk down the track” dance. Michael Clarke shys at the wickets and it misses by a whisker (Australia so close again). It goes for 4 overthrows and India are 2 shy of a famous victory.

Johnson to Ojha – 2 leg byes. Johnson slips it down the legside and India scramble 2 leg byes. The crowd goes wild and India win a nail biting test.

You can watch the India vs Australia 1st Test Day 5 Highlights here. Including the play by play.

It was incredible cricket but should India have been allowed to win or even get that close?

With 30 still to chase who do you turn to?

If your name is Ricky Ponting apparently the answer to that question is part time off spinner Marcus “innocuous” North. Each over North was brought on for another crack the aussies in the pub would hurl abuse at Punter. And more to the point Ishant Sharma – for the most part – would play him with consummate ease. In a situation where a runs chase goes down to the wire, you need to attack from both ends. Meanwhile at one stage Ponting decided to give Shane Watson a two over burst and actually not attack from either end (Watson had hardly bowled in the game previous with < 10 overs). With 20 runs required for victory, this was a cardinal sin. The equation should be simple at this stage – attack from both ends with your most potent bowlers: Mitchell Johnson (5 for in the 1st innings) and Ben Hilfenhaus (3 wickets in the innings so far and bowling with great rhythm).

These course of events add further evidence to the notion that whilst Ponting is a great batsmen, his captaincy does not reach anywhere near the same heights. And that’s despite the World Cups and dominance of the Australia side. We can even think back to The Ashes in 2009. For all Australia’s statistical dominance in the series, it was England who emerged victorious. They won vital sessions and Strauss’s captaincy for the most part drew plaudits.

Is Ricky Ponting a dodgy captain or am I being extremely harsh to Punter?

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  1. Allan R says

    No, your not being harsh enough. Punter is the worst australian captian in living memeory (my memory begins with border). Unfortunately I was unable to watch the test due to my lack of foxtell but I did watch every highlight real available to me including the ones posted here. His fields are riduculous, no 3rd slip to Laxman = you lose, no 3rd man to the quicks = 7000 runs scored down there, be they legitimate shots or edges. But you keep that deep point out there a bowler might bowl a poor ball and the batsman might hit a good shot for 4. Make sure your straight men are always back for your (cough) “spinners” so the batsman can work the single every time to get out of jail. If it were pakistan, ther’d be match fixing allegations being thrown about willy nilly. Now I don’t think punter tried to lose, he just doesn’t know what he’s doing and I have never seen his captaincy win a match yet, always good performances from individuals. The importance of 3rd man is underestimated in cricket today, but to underline my thought on it, I play an 8 a side 20 20 cricket bash and slog competition at the moment. I’m skipper and I have 3rd man to every quick. Oppositions teams don’t seem to do so but I can assure you half my runs off their bowlers are to that reigion. I apply what I would do as a batsman to my fields and vary from there as required, You tell me that punter would feel threatened if he was facing and saw some of the fields he employes set against him, I don’t think so, he’d laugh all the way to 250 not out if he faced those fields.

  2. says

    This result isn’t parcitularly unexpected. Only one player in the current team, Ponting, would make any of the test teams that represented Australia from about 1993 through till 2005, and even then, not on his current batting form. The problems go right through the team. Take the bowling. It is easy to point out the importance of losing players like McGrath and Warne. But even Gillespie and Lee, when fit and in form, were better bowlers than any of the current crop. Australia is about to go through, or is in the midst of, another rebuilding episode like the period from 1984 to 1988. The team will be average for quite some time.With that in mind, I think Ponting is getting a harsher rap on the captaincy front than he should. A captain influences the mindset of the players but doesn’t control it, and cannot turn chumps into champs. And while he influences selection policy, he doesn’t control it. He isn’t a great tactician and I don’t like his on-field attitude, but I do wonder how both Waugh and Taylor would go with the current batch of players (a point that was alluded to earlier).

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