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'Michael as captain has been very high quality'

Ricky Ponting offers a generous assessment of Michael Clarke as captain, and looks at the future for Australian cricket

Daniel Brettig

October 19, 2012

Comments: 48 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting's put on an unbroken stand of 251, Australia v India, 4th Test, Adelaide, 1st day, January 24, 2012
Ricky Ponting on Michael Clarke: "As players and captains you're always judged on records, and what Michael has done as a captain and a player so far has been of a very high quality" © Getty Images
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Ricky Ponting laughs when asked whether or not he was a better captain of Australia than Michael Clarke. Eighteen months into the job, Clarke's leadership has helped push the national team to a point where they can glimpse the world No. 1 ranking, a summit that will be achieved if they can defeat South Africa at home in November.

When he gave up the captaincy, Ponting had said he hoped to give Clarke the best chance of putting his stamp on a new team, something the younger man has done. Irrespective of their relative merits as tacticians, Ponting and Clarke both need each other still, especially if Ponting can bat with the authority he showed against India last summer. While a little envious of the support network Clarke has around him as a result of the Argus review, Ponting is generous in his praise.

"The thing I know about him, and it was similar to when I took over the captaincy as well, I think Michael's been able to elevate his game to a different level," Ponting said. "I think the way he played over the summer last year was very impressive, both one-day cricket and Test cricket. And when I took over the captaincy it was a bit of the same with me as well.

"Certain players respond to that responsibility a little bit better and make everybody feel and look very comfortable. As players and captains you're always judged on records, and what Michael has done as a captain and a player so far has been of a very high quality."

Clarke's role as a formal selector as well as a captain is a dual post Ponting coveted during his time as a leader, and he had little doubt that the system brought in following Argus' frank critique of the state of the national team had made a major difference to the team's fortunes. Having slipped to as low as fifth in the world following the 2010-11 Ashes drubbing, Australia pushed back up to third with series wins over Sri Lanka, India and West Indies, plus two 1-1 results against South Africa and New Zealand.

"If you're looking to lead an organisation or a team well, you want to have total responsibility for what's going on," Ponting said. "I never had that, but that's something I'd always asked for and it's good to see that's the direction the game's going because I think it's the direction it had to go.

"I think there's a lot of positive things that have happened around Australian cricket in the last 12 months. The way the selection thing is structured now with [the team performance manager] Pat Howard being involved, some really good and smart decisions are being made around giving players in our team the best chance possible."

Following the all change approach taken last summer, this one should bring a greater measure of stability, and Ponting said the team needed to consolidate its gains. There will be few excuses in terms of staff, structure or schedule, either for Ponting or the Test team as a whole, if they do not keep up their winning ways.

"Absolutely, we don't want to be taking any steps backwards," Ponting said. "CA are going to give us everything we want and everything we need to be the best team we can be, and as players now we have to, one, understand that, and two, win games of cricket. We're international players being paid good money to win games of cricket, and that's what we have to do.

"I couldn't ask for anything better really than my lead-in, having a couple of months off after the Caribbean, then getting back in the gym and training hard for a couple of months before the Tassie pre-season stuff started. A couple of games under my belt now and Tassie's got off to a pretty good start. I've a couple more Shield games to play yet and another couple of one-dayers, so there'll be no excuses as far as I'm concerned about where my game will be by the time November comes around."

The winter brought an unfamiliar sense of peace and quiet for Ponting, as he returned home from the West Indies to enjoy the longest break of his international career. Now exclusively concerned with Test matches, Ponting said the winter's experience had been foreign, but refreshing.

"You're definitely fresher but whether that means you're better off cricket-wise is another thing. Something so foreign to me is not playing cricket continually," he said. "One thing I do know is I've now got Test cricket only and only a few one-day games for Tassie through the course of the year, so I've had a pretty clear picture of what my career looks like. That can't hurt. Also having a good break and some sort of pre-season for the first time in 20 years is a little bit foreign as well, but it's been very enjoyable."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Meety on (October 22, 2012, 23:59 GMT)

@Moppa on (October 22 2012, 10:20 AM GMT) - no doubting his debut ton was a classic & he had some good bowling figures too in that series! I think that at the time though there were a few other more credentialled batsmen around that missed out - don't get me wrong I was 100% happy with him getting the nod when he did! @pat_one_back on (October 22 2012, 09:16 AM GMT) - I get your point although MJ did play v SL & Saffas over Lyons first 4 or 5 tests. The pace bowling is disciplined. Too early to tell exactly, but I do suspect that Pup's captaincy is a prime reason for Lyon's success.

Posted by ygkd on (October 22, 2012, 20:48 GMT)

I don't understand why Clarke engendered such animosity as he did towards his captaincy at the start. Australia hasn't gotten as much right recently as it probably thinks it has, but the captaincy is one bit that's working and not just for the short-term.

Posted by Moppa on (October 22, 2012, 10:20 GMT)

@Meety, if Clarke got his baggy green too soon, I'm just wondering where we can find another batsman to make 151 on debut!!! If he's out there, he should play at the Gabba! ;-)

Posted by pat_one_back on (October 22, 2012, 9:16 GMT)

@Meety, also notable that Lyon has not had MJ's pressure relieving bowling to contend with. Aussie fast bowling has been a lot more disciplined and I think Lyon has had opportunities to attack that Hauritz, Krezja & X were denied. Full credit to Clarke throwing him the ball in this opportunities. Seemed to me Punter just decided in his head that MJ was McGrath and any spinner picked was Warne and the old plans he'd followed and borrowed would eventually just work.

Posted by Meety on (October 22, 2012, 2:32 GMT)

Always been a fan of Clarke's & often wondered why he cops the negativity he gets, (I do concede he probably got his Baggy Green a bit sooner than he should of). That said I have from the moment I saw him captaining the T20 sides in Punter's absence - knew he'd be a good captain (strategically at least). I have said a few times now, that Pup will be the closest glimpse we will ever get to seeing what Warney would of been like as a Test captain. Early days yet - but I am now wondering if Lyon's recent lack of success (albeit relatively short) is coincidental to him NOT playing under Pup? Statistically, Lyon is a way better bowler under Pup than anyone else given he has performed better in the Test arena than in FC cricket. I acknowledge, time may say that Lyon has over performed in Tests to this point, but at the moment there is a strong indicator - that Pup is strategically very good at getting the best out of Lyon!

Posted by Meety on (October 21, 2012, 23:49 GMT)

@NickKnightIsMyBunny on (October 21 2012, 15:18 PM GMT) - whilst the rant you note was an unfortunate blot on Punter's record, the fact is, Punter did try & get agreement whereby both sides would not bend the replacement rule. England declined & were ultimately contrary to the Gentleman's rules that have applied to cricket whereby the 12th man replaces a player taking leave off the firels. England replaced cumbersome bowlers like Harmison & replaced him with their best fielder in the country (who wasn't in the squad), several times thru out the series. So given that context, ANY batsmen in the world, would be a little put out when a series is on the line! So to pass judgement in that fashion is IMO, is being pious!

Posted by Essex_Man on (October 21, 2012, 15:18 GMT)

Like a lot of truly great players, Punter was a lousy captain. Dreadfully negative and he let it all get on top of him - as best exemplified by his infamous rant after being run out at Trent Bridge in 2005. Clarke seems to be doing a decent job but his captaincy stats and win ratio will never match Ricky's given the mediocre talent at his disposal.

Posted by   on (October 21, 2012, 15:05 GMT)

Dear Ricky, do you know how great you are? I reckon, you don't . Michael is simply copying you mate. He learnt it all from you.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (October 21, 2012, 12:02 GMT)

Clarke has a much better nouse for the direction a game is taking than Ricky and is better at adapting to it. He sets better, more attacking fields suited to our bowlers at the time to exploit a batsman's weaknesses. On field he's much better than Ricky, off field, well only the players can answer. As a batsman Clarke has a long way to go but his last summer was a very good start but will he ever be as good as Ricky? Probably not but then not many are.

Posted by OneEyedAussie on (October 21, 2012, 10:45 GMT)

Generous words from Ponting. I expected when Ponting retired as captain Australia's ODI ranking would fall, as Punter is an excellent 50-over captain. However, he struggled from 2008-10 to manage a test team in transition. The Johnson and Hauritz woes are obvious (and polarised) examples of his shortcomings as a captain. Clarke has shown more spine, for example Marsh was dropped when he failed to perform whereas players like Johnson were persisted with under Ponting.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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