Australia news March 31, 2011

Ponting must stay at number three - Mickey Arthur

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No one is saying he is after the job, but if Mickey Arthur were coach of Australia he would keep Ricky Ponting at No. 3 in the Test batting line-up. Arthur, who has been informally sought by Cricket Australia as a potential consultant at the Centre of Excellence in addition to his coaching job with Western Australia, is adamant that Ponting should be left in his customary batting position after handing over the captaincy to Michael Clarke.

"I'm of the opinion he should stay at No. 3," Arthur told ESPNCricinfo. "I still think he's the best in that position, we saw that in the World Cup game [against India], but it will be interesting to see where he ends up. If I was coaching I'd want him at three."

Ponting and Michael Hussey will travel to Bangladesh with the Australia squad on Monday despite their advancing years, and Arthur argued it was vital they both be retained in the Test team for the unenviable task of back-to-back Test tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa later this year. According to Arthur, Ponting will be unburdened by the absence of a leadership role.

"I think it [not being captain] will free him up now. Australia still needs him to bat, they need Ponting and Hussey with a good crop of young players now," Arthur said. "The time is right to look at those young players and to build a team for 2013 [the Ashes] and the next World Cup. Michael Clarke's got an opportunity now to put his stamp on the team and he needs to do that.

"But he can only do that with guys like Ricky and Michael [Hussey] giving the younger players some experience. Touring Sri Lanka and South Africa are two of the toughest tours you can have. That [back-to-back tours] is a very, very tough gig."

The long road towards Ponting's abdication arguably began when the South Africa team coached by Arthur and captained by Graeme Smith toppled Australia in 2008-09, the first time Australia had lost any series at home since 1993. Smith regarded Ponting as his role model, something that became ever more apparent, Arthur said, the longer he led his country.

"They were very similar in the way they went about it. Both always liked leading from the front, and I know Graeme towards the back-end of his tenure took a lot of inspiration from Ricky. Even though their battles were very fierce I know Graeme respected him highly and always regarded him as almost the ultimate.

"I think Ricky will go down as one of the best ever. He had a fantastic time and was a fantastic leader, and I certainly know in the South Africa dressing room, he had a huge amount of respect. I think he's done it well, the time was right for him and he's gone out on his own terms."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on April 3, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    @popcorn - I think Punter needs to accept that the lightening fast reflexes of his youth are that minute bit slower now. He needs to have a look at how Border adjusted his game by dropping down the order & he needs to look to Sachin to see he needs to shelve the pull/hook shot until he is well set. I believe he has heaps to give the Test team AND to Pup, but he is best dropping down the order & we find someone to fill #3. Watson is the best choice but that would mean tinkering with a player who is doing well. Khawaja is the obvious current choice. I think Oz may need to consider playing 3 openers in the top 3, - it may mean Khawaja may have to come in lower down the order.

  • popcorn on April 1, 2011, 9:52 GMT

    Till the time Ricky Ponting plays Test Cricket, I agree that he should play at No.3. He is the best batsman in the world at that position.When he retires, Usman Khawaja hould bat at No.3. He has shown excellent temperament when he batted at No.3 in his debut Test match against the Poms in the SCG Test. More importantly I think Michael Clarke should go back to his No.5 position where he has scored the most runs.It is not mandatory that the Captain should bat at No.3 - Mark Taylor opened the innings,Steve Waugh batted at No.5.Callum Ferguson at No.4 or 6,Mike Hussey at No.6 or 4,Haddin at No.7,Johnson at No.8.Then the tail - a mix of fast bowlers and spinners.

  • MinusZero on April 1, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    They can't keep delaying the inevitable. They are losing games already so what does it matter if they blood some new players? If they lose, we wont notice

  • cricmatters on April 1, 2011, 3:36 GMT

    Captainship is not about tossing a coin, setting fields and changing bowlers. It is about being the heart and soul of the team. It is about caring for your teammates whether they are doing well or not. It is about protecting your players from the harsh comments of the media and supporting them when they are not doing so well. It is about putting the team ahead of your personal likes and disklikes. It is about bonding with each player to bring out the best in them. It is about dealing with pressure and not letting it get to you or the team. It is about thinking one step ahead of the game and be fully aware of the game situation at all times. It is about thinking out of the box and taking risks if required to win the match. Ponting did none of that. He was a brilliant player who had to opportunity to lead some of the best cricketers of the era but a brilliant captain he was not. Stats don't tell you the whole story. They should have removed him from captaincy long time back.

  • Meety on April 1, 2011, 0:10 GMT

    @Sanj747 - 1 agree with you re: Huss & MJ, but not about your reasons. MJ is a genuine match winner & if he can get his groove back will Oz matches AND series. I wouldn't of taken Huss to Bangladesh - probably wouldn't play him in ODIs anymore, but I think he may be very important in Sth Africa & at home against India. I don't rate Siddle at all as a Short Form bowler. Siddle is a Test bowler, he is not particularly skilful, but he gives 101% ALL day, no matter what the score is. That counts for something. Personally I think Copeland will exceed Siddle easily & should tour SL in the starting XI! @Winsome - I agree 100% in terms of a tour to Bangladesh - why bring Huss & Punter? In tests I think the bringing of new players into the side needs to be more steady. @Rahul_78 - its ODIs not Tests!!!!!

  • bobagorof on March 31, 2011, 23:24 GMT

    2 point: First, I thought it was the Captain, not the coach, who decided the batting order. At least, that's what Ponting indicated in his press conference; Second, who are these 'younger guys' that need mentoring from Ponting and Hussey? Clarke, Watson and Haddin are all 30 and have been playing for 8-10 years (domestically and internationally). There are a couple of 21-22 year olds in the Test side but the rest of the batting order has been playing for long enough that they don't need 3 (count them, three!) 35+ year olds. And neither Ponting nor Hussey are in a position to help out the bowlers.

  • on March 31, 2011, 22:35 GMT

    Aust test team should be in batting order: Katich, Hughes, Watson, Ponting, Clarke, M Hussey and Hadden. Then the bowlers Hilfenhaus (but only just), Johnson (In Perth anyway and selectors seem to love him), Copeland and then probably Pick a spinner, any spinner Lets go for........Doherty (Would love to see him bowl on a spin friendly track, not Brisbane and WACA where he bowled without luck and a flat bed Adelaide track). Then Bollinger and Khawaja in the mix for 12th man.

  • on March 31, 2011, 22:31 GMT

    To all you guys saying we have to sack the older players so the younger players can be groomed....... what happens when they're finally groomed? They're old enough to drop for the next generation! Sure, we've got to be slotting in the next generation of players, but it has to be a dynamic thing, where they have the experienced older players to learn from. And older players who have proved their immense worth are exactly the ones we want to keep around for this purpose. Get rid of Ponting and Hussey, and where will the young guys learn about grit? Clarkey?

  • Sanj747 on March 31, 2011, 19:48 GMT

    An opportunity has been missed. Agree with leaving Ponting in the team. I would have left Hussey out and look to start the re-building. I would also have left Mitchell Johnson out. Johnson simply does not deserve his place. Peter Siddle should be in his place. We can't start re-building until we re-build the selectors.

  • rahulkmc on March 31, 2011, 17:47 GMT

    What decides no 3 position? Someone who is not afraid to face the new ball, can cope with pressure and try and help the team out of a difficult position. For a youngster coming into the side, that would be added pressure. I for one believe that youngsters should be slotted in when the pressure isn't that high(first wicket down after 100+ run). Ponting has been there for donkey years to do this role perfectly. He can guide youngsters from that position, especially if new openers are being tried too. Think according to the situation, no3 or no4 should be treated similarly whilst grooming youngsters.

  • Meety on April 3, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    @popcorn - I think Punter needs to accept that the lightening fast reflexes of his youth are that minute bit slower now. He needs to have a look at how Border adjusted his game by dropping down the order & he needs to look to Sachin to see he needs to shelve the pull/hook shot until he is well set. I believe he has heaps to give the Test team AND to Pup, but he is best dropping down the order & we find someone to fill #3. Watson is the best choice but that would mean tinkering with a player who is doing well. Khawaja is the obvious current choice. I think Oz may need to consider playing 3 openers in the top 3, - it may mean Khawaja may have to come in lower down the order.

  • popcorn on April 1, 2011, 9:52 GMT

    Till the time Ricky Ponting plays Test Cricket, I agree that he should play at No.3. He is the best batsman in the world at that position.When he retires, Usman Khawaja hould bat at No.3. He has shown excellent temperament when he batted at No.3 in his debut Test match against the Poms in the SCG Test. More importantly I think Michael Clarke should go back to his No.5 position where he has scored the most runs.It is not mandatory that the Captain should bat at No.3 - Mark Taylor opened the innings,Steve Waugh batted at No.5.Callum Ferguson at No.4 or 6,Mike Hussey at No.6 or 4,Haddin at No.7,Johnson at No.8.Then the tail - a mix of fast bowlers and spinners.

  • MinusZero on April 1, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    They can't keep delaying the inevitable. They are losing games already so what does it matter if they blood some new players? If they lose, we wont notice

  • cricmatters on April 1, 2011, 3:36 GMT

    Captainship is not about tossing a coin, setting fields and changing bowlers. It is about being the heart and soul of the team. It is about caring for your teammates whether they are doing well or not. It is about protecting your players from the harsh comments of the media and supporting them when they are not doing so well. It is about putting the team ahead of your personal likes and disklikes. It is about bonding with each player to bring out the best in them. It is about dealing with pressure and not letting it get to you or the team. It is about thinking one step ahead of the game and be fully aware of the game situation at all times. It is about thinking out of the box and taking risks if required to win the match. Ponting did none of that. He was a brilliant player who had to opportunity to lead some of the best cricketers of the era but a brilliant captain he was not. Stats don't tell you the whole story. They should have removed him from captaincy long time back.

  • Meety on April 1, 2011, 0:10 GMT

    @Sanj747 - 1 agree with you re: Huss & MJ, but not about your reasons. MJ is a genuine match winner & if he can get his groove back will Oz matches AND series. I wouldn't of taken Huss to Bangladesh - probably wouldn't play him in ODIs anymore, but I think he may be very important in Sth Africa & at home against India. I don't rate Siddle at all as a Short Form bowler. Siddle is a Test bowler, he is not particularly skilful, but he gives 101% ALL day, no matter what the score is. That counts for something. Personally I think Copeland will exceed Siddle easily & should tour SL in the starting XI! @Winsome - I agree 100% in terms of a tour to Bangladesh - why bring Huss & Punter? In tests I think the bringing of new players into the side needs to be more steady. @Rahul_78 - its ODIs not Tests!!!!!

  • bobagorof on March 31, 2011, 23:24 GMT

    2 point: First, I thought it was the Captain, not the coach, who decided the batting order. At least, that's what Ponting indicated in his press conference; Second, who are these 'younger guys' that need mentoring from Ponting and Hussey? Clarke, Watson and Haddin are all 30 and have been playing for 8-10 years (domestically and internationally). There are a couple of 21-22 year olds in the Test side but the rest of the batting order has been playing for long enough that they don't need 3 (count them, three!) 35+ year olds. And neither Ponting nor Hussey are in a position to help out the bowlers.

  • on March 31, 2011, 22:35 GMT

    Aust test team should be in batting order: Katich, Hughes, Watson, Ponting, Clarke, M Hussey and Hadden. Then the bowlers Hilfenhaus (but only just), Johnson (In Perth anyway and selectors seem to love him), Copeland and then probably Pick a spinner, any spinner Lets go for........Doherty (Would love to see him bowl on a spin friendly track, not Brisbane and WACA where he bowled without luck and a flat bed Adelaide track). Then Bollinger and Khawaja in the mix for 12th man.

  • on March 31, 2011, 22:31 GMT

    To all you guys saying we have to sack the older players so the younger players can be groomed....... what happens when they're finally groomed? They're old enough to drop for the next generation! Sure, we've got to be slotting in the next generation of players, but it has to be a dynamic thing, where they have the experienced older players to learn from. And older players who have proved their immense worth are exactly the ones we want to keep around for this purpose. Get rid of Ponting and Hussey, and where will the young guys learn about grit? Clarkey?

  • Sanj747 on March 31, 2011, 19:48 GMT

    An opportunity has been missed. Agree with leaving Ponting in the team. I would have left Hussey out and look to start the re-building. I would also have left Mitchell Johnson out. Johnson simply does not deserve his place. Peter Siddle should be in his place. We can't start re-building until we re-build the selectors.

  • rahulkmc on March 31, 2011, 17:47 GMT

    What decides no 3 position? Someone who is not afraid to face the new ball, can cope with pressure and try and help the team out of a difficult position. For a youngster coming into the side, that would be added pressure. I for one believe that youngsters should be slotted in when the pressure isn't that high(first wicket down after 100+ run). Ponting has been there for donkey years to do this role perfectly. He can guide youngsters from that position, especially if new openers are being tried too. Think according to the situation, no3 or no4 should be treated similarly whilst grooming youngsters.

  • swervin on March 31, 2011, 15:41 GMT

    ponting should drop down the order obviously - a) best they don't rely on him because he might not be around for long, though they still need him b) if clarke is supposedly so good he should be the one put under the most pressure, or put someone else there c) ponting will stiffen the terrible middle order (scratchy hussey aside) d) whatever you say about watson, he's stepped up to open, clarke's the one that has to step up and take responsibility now instead of the cheap runs he normally gets, maybe being captain will make him a better batson

  • FinchAtticus on March 31, 2011, 13:58 GMT

    Agree with Tomek's analysis. Keeping Ponting at 3?? suddently CA is thinking like BCCI. 3 belongs to khawaja. Hopefully, he does nt fail on the sub-continent pitches and lose that spot for good.

  • couchpundit on March 31, 2011, 13:54 GMT

    Ponting is a Run Machine, but its about time the younger guys are groomed...if he is the man who he and many thinks him to be...then he can make runs anywhere... Groom a younger player at No.3 play him 4 or 5. Its nothing new, If he takes inspiration from sachin in prolonging his career he should also take cue from where sachin plays. But anyways its the New captain who should decide on that.

  • on March 31, 2011, 12:25 GMT

    As much as I think Ponting is a great batsmen, but he has LOST his pull shot against the really quick bowlers. He seems to be struggling with this. He needs to drop to 5 or 6 in tests. Put Usman in at 3, Clarke4 and Hiussey and Pointing can swithc at 5 or 6. As for Watson, still not convicend, as he tends to push to hard at the 30-40 old over ball. As a result his front foot tends to get him into a lot of bother especially after he has scored his 50-70 runs. To open you must be able to bat 1.5 days (8-9 hours), and get your 150-200.

  • valvolux on March 31, 2011, 12:06 GMT

    the fact is you have to rebuild around our senior men, or you'll be in the abyss for ages. id like to see ponting milk runs down the order like sachin - but the fact is we don't have a ready made number 3 who can fill his shoes. but perhaps it's time to let khwalia (or however you spell it!) to shine. give them a fair crack and stop the musical chair selection policy chappel seems keen to continue. like him or hate him, he's still our best batsman. take the pressure away and im sure he will go well - but its yet to be seen if he can keep his cool with someone junior calling the shots. i have a sneaking suspicion he can't, but fingers crossed. he was unstoppable in that period just before he was made captain, so we can only hope. genuine champ, and to be fair has always been so in the media...on the field perhaps not so much, but he has time to correct his legacy and should be remembered for the guy who lifted 2 world cups, 2 champions trophies...and notched almost 70 tonnes.

  • Winsome on March 31, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    The whole point is that if you keep Punter and Hussey, where are the younger guys going to fit in? You'll have one younger bloke and everybody else around 30 or older. As Watson, Haddin and Clarke have so much international experience now what is the point in clinging on to the older guys?

    You can't build for the future and clutter half the line-up with pensioners. You can't do both.

  • Rahul_78 on March 31, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    I guess mickey is buttering up to OZ media, public and board for the prestigious job. No 3 is the most important position in test line up and OZ need to groom a youngster for the tough job under ricky and hussey's guidance. How are you going to achieve that if ponting is still going to bat at that position? And what better opportunity for someone like Khwaja then to play couple of tests against bangladesh at no 3?

  • ajayrcs on March 31, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    Punter removed as captain, But why not Tim Nelson been sacked.

  • Tomek on March 31, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    Sorry, I usually like what Mickey has to say but what a load of twaddle, firstly anyone who respected Ponting's captaincy was missing out on what a captain can really bring to a game. Ponting's captaincy 'style' was show up, let 7 superstars of world cricket do the job, and hope he didn't have to try anything out of the ordinary. Great captains are made from lacklustre teams, Border was a great modern captain, instilling guts and drive. Fleming was a great captain trying anything and everything. Smith and Ganguly were very good captains, bringing together all quarters. As for Ponting at 3, seriously? Let Khawaja learn his trade where he will ply it, at 3. Two young openers and Usman, then Clarke at 4. Australia could become a force again with a young and capable top order, followed by the two old pros, two seriously GREAT batsmen in Ponting and Hussey at 5-6. Follow that with what will always be a strong tail with Australian teams, Johnson, Paine (hopefully), Siddle. 400+ line-up.

  • Something_Witty on March 31, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    I think Punter should stay at three for the moment. Give him a few tests and if he's back to his old run-machine self, leave him there. If he doesn't drop him down to 5 or 6 where he can provide much needed grit to the lower-middle order.

  • VivGilchrist on March 31, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    I thought Arthur was smarter than this. He wants both Ponting and Hussey retained but also says the Aussies should be building for the 2013 Ashes now. Add to the team Clarke, Watson, and Katich and you only leave one spot in the top 6 for a younger player. Surely Ponting and Hussey will not be there in 2013 (nor Katich). As for the bowling, Johnson should only play in games at the WACA. Hilf looks like a nice fellow but doesn't take enough wickets, and Sid tries but has little variety. Harris a would love to see stay fit as he is a good bowler. Copeland has to be given a go as his record is brilliant. Dougy should be retained but should cut back on the pies. And finally, the spinner, drum roll please....... OKeefe. Not Beer, Not Xavier, Not any othr guy that averages 50+ at Shield level. In a comp where spinners play a minimal role OKeefe av @ 23, maybe Mr Hilditch he may be a good bowler.

  • pauld on March 31, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    He should probably stay at 3 in the ODI setup, but for the test team he MUST drop down to 5 or 6, Khawaja needs his time in the sun at 3!

  • on March 31, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    Batting at no.3/4/5 is not a big issue. Generally the one who is in great form should bat at no.3. I don't understand why this should be an issue for discussion. It only reflects conservative thinking of Aussie cricketers.

  • andrew.henshaw on March 31, 2011, 4:49 GMT

    I must disagree. Surely in Tests, Usman Khawaja should play at 3, given he'll probably play that position for 10 years

  • Manush on March 31, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    The Australian invincibility and its exaggerated strength in bowling and batting had been a myth for quite sometime thanks to the media and the so called experts. England during Ashes series and India and South Africa in their homeland and now in the one day games put them in their right place. After a crop of great players leaving together, the Cricket arena, on delusion that they have good bench strength experimented with average players and burdened Ricky to lead them. It is unfortunate that this leaders contribution as a player especially in adversity, his skilful handling as a successful Captain in International Cricket for such a long period are all forgotten and the very same pundits are calling for his head !! Shame. In the current World Cup they badly missed Symonds who was axed for non cricketing reasons.Ricky has to continue for sometime, if Australia wants to come up again. Except Ricky Mike Hussey and Lee rest are all ordinary stuff

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  • Manush on March 31, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    The Australian invincibility and its exaggerated strength in bowling and batting had been a myth for quite sometime thanks to the media and the so called experts. England during Ashes series and India and South Africa in their homeland and now in the one day games put them in their right place. After a crop of great players leaving together, the Cricket arena, on delusion that they have good bench strength experimented with average players and burdened Ricky to lead them. It is unfortunate that this leaders contribution as a player especially in adversity, his skilful handling as a successful Captain in International Cricket for such a long period are all forgotten and the very same pundits are calling for his head !! Shame. In the current World Cup they badly missed Symonds who was axed for non cricketing reasons.Ricky has to continue for sometime, if Australia wants to come up again. Except Ricky Mike Hussey and Lee rest are all ordinary stuff

  • andrew.henshaw on March 31, 2011, 4:49 GMT

    I must disagree. Surely in Tests, Usman Khawaja should play at 3, given he'll probably play that position for 10 years

  • on March 31, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    Batting at no.3/4/5 is not a big issue. Generally the one who is in great form should bat at no.3. I don't understand why this should be an issue for discussion. It only reflects conservative thinking of Aussie cricketers.

  • pauld on March 31, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    He should probably stay at 3 in the ODI setup, but for the test team he MUST drop down to 5 or 6, Khawaja needs his time in the sun at 3!

  • VivGilchrist on March 31, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    I thought Arthur was smarter than this. He wants both Ponting and Hussey retained but also says the Aussies should be building for the 2013 Ashes now. Add to the team Clarke, Watson, and Katich and you only leave one spot in the top 6 for a younger player. Surely Ponting and Hussey will not be there in 2013 (nor Katich). As for the bowling, Johnson should only play in games at the WACA. Hilf looks like a nice fellow but doesn't take enough wickets, and Sid tries but has little variety. Harris a would love to see stay fit as he is a good bowler. Copeland has to be given a go as his record is brilliant. Dougy should be retained but should cut back on the pies. And finally, the spinner, drum roll please....... OKeefe. Not Beer, Not Xavier, Not any othr guy that averages 50+ at Shield level. In a comp where spinners play a minimal role OKeefe av @ 23, maybe Mr Hilditch he may be a good bowler.

  • Something_Witty on March 31, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    I think Punter should stay at three for the moment. Give him a few tests and if he's back to his old run-machine self, leave him there. If he doesn't drop him down to 5 or 6 where he can provide much needed grit to the lower-middle order.

  • Tomek on March 31, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    Sorry, I usually like what Mickey has to say but what a load of twaddle, firstly anyone who respected Ponting's captaincy was missing out on what a captain can really bring to a game. Ponting's captaincy 'style' was show up, let 7 superstars of world cricket do the job, and hope he didn't have to try anything out of the ordinary. Great captains are made from lacklustre teams, Border was a great modern captain, instilling guts and drive. Fleming was a great captain trying anything and everything. Smith and Ganguly were very good captains, bringing together all quarters. As for Ponting at 3, seriously? Let Khawaja learn his trade where he will ply it, at 3. Two young openers and Usman, then Clarke at 4. Australia could become a force again with a young and capable top order, followed by the two old pros, two seriously GREAT batsmen in Ponting and Hussey at 5-6. Follow that with what will always be a strong tail with Australian teams, Johnson, Paine (hopefully), Siddle. 400+ line-up.

  • ajayrcs on March 31, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    Punter removed as captain, But why not Tim Nelson been sacked.

  • Rahul_78 on March 31, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    I guess mickey is buttering up to OZ media, public and board for the prestigious job. No 3 is the most important position in test line up and OZ need to groom a youngster for the tough job under ricky and hussey's guidance. How are you going to achieve that if ponting is still going to bat at that position? And what better opportunity for someone like Khwaja then to play couple of tests against bangladesh at no 3?

  • Winsome on March 31, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    The whole point is that if you keep Punter and Hussey, where are the younger guys going to fit in? You'll have one younger bloke and everybody else around 30 or older. As Watson, Haddin and Clarke have so much international experience now what is the point in clinging on to the older guys?

    You can't build for the future and clutter half the line-up with pensioners. You can't do both.