Ricky Ponting eyes Australia T20 job
As he prepares to be feted for an outstanding playing career, Ricky Ponting has his eyes firmly on a future role as Australia's Twenty20 coach, a part of the move towards separate coaches for the game's three formats that grows inevitable with each passing series.
While he has assisted the current all-format coach Darren Lehmann in the current triangular series, Ponting is eager to be head coach in the shortest form, having used much of his past five years since retirement immersing himself in T20, whether as coach of Mumbai Indians or commentating on the Big Bash League. He is set to mentor Delhi Daredevils in this year's IPL, and it is Australia's turn to host the World T20 in 2020 - the only ICC tournament the country has never won.
Discussions between Ponting and Cricket Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard are ongoing as to how to make the role work after Lehmann's contract expires following the 2019 World Cup and Ashes double in England, with the schedule and the national teams competing for priorities among the issues still being thrashed out. Ponting pointed to the way that Australia won a home Ashes series they had prepared rigorously for then fell away badly in the ODI series that followed - against a largely recast England ODI team - as a sign of things to come.
"I know Cricket Australia are looking down that path ... I've been talking to CA for a little while about succession planning with coaching in the shorter forms of the game," Ponting said after being named one of three inductions to the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, to be formalised at the Allan Border Medal presentation on Monday night in Melbourne. "I'm on record saying I'm interested in doing the Twenty20 job for Australia if it came up and I can make it fit in and work. There's a few things I just want to get ticked off from CA first as far as how my thoughts are on how we can become a better, more explosive, consistent team.
"It'll be interesting to see how coaching does go, it's hard work on the players as we know, and CA have done a great job making sure Darren's had a series off here and there just to keep him fresh. The hard thing, you look at what's just happened in the last one day series, put all the eggs in one basket and get prepared for an Ashes series for so long and nail that, and then before you know it the one-dayers are upon you and we're taking a similar group of players into that, that are probably a little bit tired and jaded and just having achieved something pretty special. England go the other way with a fresh group and a whole new lot of bowlers and a different team and they achieve the result they achieved.
"The planning side of it as well is one thing that has to be given the right amount of time to make sure you've got the players and the planning done for each series as well as you can, and even having been around this group the last couple of weeks, how busy Darren and the coaches are is quite amazing, and that's only around the one form, not thinking about anything else. There are challenges there for players and there'll always be challenges there for coaches but it's probably inevitable that there will be different white ball coaches to red ball coaches as this game keeps developing."
Of all Ponting's achievements as a batsman and a captain, none are more precious to him than the fact he won 219 of the 323 matches in which he captained Australia. He remains the only player to have participated in more than 100 Test match wins over his career, and said that consistent excellence was the hardest thing to achieve in the international game, due to cricket's relentless schedule as much as anything else.
"I'm sure they [CA] are doing everything in their power now to remain consistently the best team in the world in all three forms. We've never reached that in the T20 side of things, we're the reigning World Cup 50-over champions and have just won the Ashes," he said, with Australia currently ranked No. 3 in Tests, No. 5 in ODIs and No. 4 in T20s. "There's always challenges there about maintaining high levels of performance, and having just been around this group for the last couple of weeks I know how hard they work and I know all the right things are said and done, it's just up to the players to accept the challenge day in, day out.
"That's the thing, in international cricket it's not an easy sport. To get yourself up for every single minute of every single day's play through the year is not an easy thing to do. But that's what you have to do if you want to be a part of the best teams in the world, you have to find a way to improve day in, day out and be the best you can be and drag some other blokes along who might not be reaching the heights you think they can. That's all I've tried to do this week, let everyone know how good I think they are and work with them closely on their games, speak openly and honestly with them and have some fun along the way.
"What I've tried to do and the way things have worked out the last five years is just be around the T20 game. One thing I know where the tournaments are six or eight weeks maximum, I want to have as much family time as I can as well, that's really important for me not to be on the road as much as when I was playing, I've got three children now under the age of 10. I'll have some challenges there making it all work, as I have the last couple of weeks, my wife's starting to feel the pinch again, having me on the road a bit. But that's what I want to do and I really enjoy every moment of it."
Still as in love with the game as at any stage of his career, Ponting said he tried to remind younger players how quickly their playing days would go. "I had a good understanding of the way my career was going right through my career," he said. "Not so much how many runs I'd made or hundreds I'd made but just how many winning games I was a part of and my longevity in the game and the amount of wins I was associated with is the thing I'm most proud of, 200-odd wins out of 320-odd games, that's two out of every three you play.
"That's what the game was all about for me, trying to win games for my team and trying to empower others along the way to make sure they were doing their best to win games as well. Looking back now it's five years since I retired and it's gone pretty quickly, and here I am back in Australian colours again.
"One thing us older guys now always ram home to the young guys coming in, just how privileged you are to be playing and make the most of every moment. I was only saying to Alex Carey in the game down in Hobart the other night that I played for 20-odd years and it felt like 20-odd minutes, so that's how quickly it goes. I was lucky to play in a great era of a lot of successful teams and a lot of great players, so some special memories for sure."
Ponting's induction will take place alongside those of Karen Rolton, the former Australia captain who retired as her nation's leading women's Test run-scorer and second in ODI matches, and Norm O'Neill, the attractive batsman who formed a key part of the Test team in the 1960s, making his highest score in the first innings of the memorable tied Test against the West Indies in Brisbane in 1960.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig