Ponting rejects 'lazy' tag
Ricky Ponting has strongly rejected perceptions of the Australian team as overpaid and lazy, and wants to see more of the detail of the Argus review after absorbing its damning indictments of the team's culture and skill under his watch as Test captain.
The review summary devotes significant time to what it describes as "the lack of a strong culture" within the Australian side, in addition to detailed depictions of the skill and application deficits evident as the team slid from No. 1 in the world in 2008 to its present fifth.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo in his first interview since the review's release, Ponting said he wanted to delve further into the evidence that pointed to the decline in the team's culture, and disagreed with popular perceptions of the Australian team as overpaid and lazy.
"It is quite frank with the way guys [speaking to the review] have explained things," Ponting said. "So I am keen to learn a bit more about what the perception is about the team or the culture within the team and find out what a lot of the facts are from the findings, talking specifically about the culture. The cold, hard facts are that we went from No. 1 to No. 5 and the Test series we've lost have been to the teams that were the No. 1 ranked teams in the world over the last three years.
"But it's probably been more the way that we've lost, especially the last Ashes series; the way we lost some of those games was probably what was most disappointing to me. Because most of the other series we've played we were ultra-competitive other than a session here and there, but as you saw during the Ashes series there was a big gap between us and the way England played their cricket. As we've seen in the last couple of weeks as well there's a big gap between the way England play their cricket compared to the way India are playing as well."
Ponting tackled the way many perceive the Australian team, and argued that of all the sides he had been a part of since his Test debut in 1995, this one worked the hardest. He said that also reflected the drop in collective standards and talent across the country, meaning it had become that much harder for the national team to succeed.
"I've been involved in a lot of teams and been involved in the Australian cricket team for a long time," Ponting said. "My feeling on the culture thing is that the current group of players we've got, I think the perception is that they probably don't work hard and they're probably overpaid and all that sort of stuff. But I think this current group is probably the fittest bunch of athletes, and probably work harder than any other of the teams I've been a part of.
"The cold, hard facts are we haven't won the games the other teams have won, and if we had I don't think a lot of the negativity would have been around. But in saying that we've got to work out the reason why we lost games and why we've got players who probably aren't as skilled as they need to be to become very good international cricketers, and that's where the review will be very helpful for Australian cricket."
Ahead of the review, Ponting's own concerns had been largely to do with the bedrock of Australian domestic cricket, and how it was that cricketers with mediocre first-class records could suddenly be either in or on the fringes of the national team when a decade ago they would not have been close. He now believes those problems can be adequately addressed - but it will take time.
"From what we've received there's about 50 items that are going to be looked at pretty closely, of which I think the majority of it is really positive," Ponting said. "Some positive outcomes I think and what will potentially be some positive outcomes. The thing with all of it though is we're not going to see any of the outcomes or benefits for quite a period of time.
"The sooner the better obviously but it's just a work in progress, and it seems that Cricket Australia as a result of the findings of the review are doing everything in their power to restructure things and get more of a high performance feel around cricket in Australia, which has got to be a positive for everyone involved in the game.
"I think where our team is different from state teams we've already got a lot of those structures in place as it is, but what they're trying to do is match everything up and make sure that what we're doing around this team is replicated at state level.
"We've sort of been trying to do over the years but probably never really got there for the fact that the states probably can't spend as much money around their set-ups and teams as what we can around the Australian team. I think once a lot of those things are addressed and a bit more money goes into coaching and finding the right people for certain roles within coaching and within administration around the country, then I think in time things will get back on the right track again."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo