South Africa in Australia, 2012-13 November 6, 2012

Ponting puts 'lowlight' behind him

73

In South Africa this time last year, Ricky Ponting's days as a Test batsman appeared to be rapidly dwindling. At 36, he was enduring the leanest patch of his long career, having not scored a Test century for nearly two years. Such slumps are usually terminal for batsmen in their late thirties. The chances of him making it all the way through the 2011-12 Australian summer appeared slim. The chances of him being part of the side for this year's home series against Graeme Smith's men seemed to be almost non-existent.

Fast forward 12 months and Ponting is not only part of the team, he is its form batsman. David Warner and Michael Hussey have had scant first-class preparation. Michael Clarke has had some starts for New South Wales without going on. Ed Cowan hasn't reached 50 in his four Sheffield Shield games this summer. Meanwhile, Ponting has piled up the runs for Tasmania and is on top of the Shield run tally with 355 at 118.33.

Most importantly, he has fixed a technical flaw that was undermining his entire game. On Melbourne Cup day last year, Ponting shuffled across his stumps in Potchefstroom and was lbw to Vernon Philander for 2. He went on to be dismissed cheaply in the same way in three of the four Test innings that followed, once by Philander and twice by Dale Steyn. It was a trigger movement that was threatening to end his career.

"It was technical. You don't go from playing the way I was playing to getting hit on the pad as often as I was without something being wrong," Ponting said in Brisbane on Tuesday. "The frustrating thing for me through that period was that I identified it really early in the series and I was training really hard and trying to rectify it and still getting out the same way. It just took a long time to break the habit that I was in and the cycle I was in.

"I'm doing things a little bit differently at training now, with the way that I train and prepare. Some of the drills that I'm working on have made me feel a lot better balanced at the crease and certainly not getting hit on the pad as much as I was 12 months ago. My pre-ball movements were a little bit earlier than what they normally were. I was trying to move early to give myself a little bit more time but it was actually having a detrimental effect. I was actually moving too early and locking off and not being able to move again after that."

Gradually, he worked out how to address the problem and the runs piled up during the home series against India in December and January, when he made 62, 60, 134, 7, 221 and 60 not out. He made more runs in that series than he had in his previous four series combined. Ponting has tried not to look back at that South African tour too often since then, but he concedes that things couldn't have gotten much worse.

"There's no doubt it was a lowlight," he said. "I was training really hard and not getting the results I was after. At that stage where I was batting we needed to be getting results if the team was going to win games. Whenever you fail it's not just about you, it's about feeling like you've let your team-mates and your mates down. It was a low moment.

"I batted my way back in the second innings of that last Test match over there and then started the series well here against New Zealand and things turned around in the summer. Pretty much from the end of that series in South Africa until now I've been a pretty consistent run scorer in all the games I've played. Some of the things I'm working on are starting to pay dividends."

Now, Ponting finds himself preparing to take on Steyn, Philander and Morne Morkel once again, this time at the Gabba, a venue that fast bowlers always enjoy. Steyn is the ICC's No.1-ranked Test bowler and Philander, who debuted in Cape Town during last year's series against Australia, has rocketed to No.2, while Morkel sits at No.9. Ponting said despite the class of South Africa's attack, Australia's experience at the Gabba would hold them in good stead.

"We know the ball swings around a little bit up here. All of our batsmen have played enough here to know how to combat it," he said. "They're all good bowlers and their records speak for themselves, especially over the last couple of years. Philander burst onto the scene last year.

"We've played a lot against Morkel over the years and had a reasonable record against him, us as a team, and Steyn is one of the best bowlers of the last four or five years. The thing about their attack is they're all different bowlers. They're all slightly different and that makes a good attack. There's not much opportunity for our batsmen to relax but that's what Test cricket is all about."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on November 8, 2012, 10:28 GMT

    @200ondebut on (November 07 2012, 07:58 AM GMT) - "... would have had better stats than the Don if they had played in the same era..." - load of garbage fella! Sachin doesn't even have the best stats in his own team (i.e Dravid) - let alone the world. I am a SRT fan - but you are living in a fools paradise if you think anything other than Sachin is only in the running for SECOND best batsmen of all time! Sachin the batsmen in the era of uncovered pitches, bodyline, light bats that aren't sprung like the monsters of today - would be lucky to average in the 40s. There is a reason why ALL knowledgeable followers of the game accept Bradman as the greatest - because he was. The gap between him & the next best of his era - would be like (in todays terms) Sachin averaging 65 & Kallis/Punter & Dravid averaging 40. I think Sachin is a champ - but buddy you are dreaming!

  • dummy4fb on November 7, 2012, 10:01 GMT

    I would not write off a player of Pontings calibre. He has proven himself over a long period. Hopefully we get him out cheaply and win the series.

    Why do Indians always want to force Tendulkar's invinsibility down our throat. We all see his batting and form at the moment and he is hurting his average every game. I say retire while on top. We were privilaged to see players like tendulkar, ponting, kallis, lara, Viv Richards play this game we love.

    And yes I don't think Tendulkar is the greatest batsman who walked this planet. There are others who played less games and averaged more and some did not even get a chance to further their international game.

  • stone-mason on November 7, 2012, 9:37 GMT

    Ladies & Gents, we are all lovers of the great game and ardent supporters of what is normally produced through diligent, perservering and focussed effort of talent and planning all culminating from hours of laboured training and practice session, let alone the commitment and dedication. If cricket is summised by all the adjectives I mentioned and you possibly agree, then why are we sledging the preference of one player to the next. I'm a Saffa and would appreciate a Punter failing, but to be honest, I wont be surprised if he's a major contributor to the result of the series because he is indeed a GREAT Player. Yes, maybe not as fearsome as in the past but still GREAT. This test series I think most would agree is finely balanced, meaning players of equal or close to equal measure. Sachin is not part of this one lads, let it be with ST being better then RP? As for the shouts of patriotism from my base - Go Boys - play your hearts out and enjoy every min of testing dual - God's Fav& Bless

  • Pappu_bhai on November 7, 2012, 8:41 GMT

    Thumpin Win:Even with current form Sachin is above Ponting.Its not because Ponting is bad but he is the worst among any batters currently.With his current batting form he cant even find a place in minnow SL team.Whereas Sachin can find place in any team even now.So in short Sachin is always better than Ponting who is just a liablity.Hope you understand the above details and act sensibly further.

  • 200ondebut on November 7, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    Tendulkar was a better player than Ponting (and would have had better stats than the Don if they had played in the same era) - all the stats point to that (and of course Ponting didn't have to play against two of the greatest bowlers of all time - Warne and McGrath - or one of the most dominant sides) . They are both though past their best and should consider retiring gracefully - leaving at the top of their games - rather than being remembered for a series of poor performances and then being dropped.

  • ThumpingWin on November 7, 2012, 6:55 GMT

    To all the guys chirping about ponting's poor form, telling him to retire, Can't face dale morkel veron, sachin is greatest and specially indian fans.. Firstly poor form hits everyone that includes dravid kallis and other greats.. Secondly now u are saying he cant face dale and co he has played better bowlers on tesing pitches and scored runs.. Sachin fans please grow up check sachin out he is a BURDEN to his team right now he should retire enuf of talking about his records then check his current form nw he can hardly score.. Indian fans u need to learn against india ponting has scored most of his runs so u all please better shut out.. CHEERS Ponting u are a true legend u always have played for ur team first not like sachin playing for records...You will always be a hero always.. Best of luck PUNTER hope u score plenty :):):)

  • vj_gooner on November 7, 2012, 5:02 GMT

    The key is the first innings of the first test, if Punter can get a decent 50+ score then I'm sure "The Punter" can end the series on a high!

  • anver777 on November 7, 2012, 3:55 GMT

    If Sachin is the god of Ind......... then Ponting is the legend of Aus who will be remembered for ever by all !!!!!

  • Mary_786 on November 7, 2012, 0:04 GMT

    Guys this article is not about who is better between Punter and Sachin, both are greats of the game and we should leave it at that.

  • Alexk400 on November 6, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    He will get out same way to philander. Its not techhnical issue at all. It is his body is weaker by age. It can not be hidden or corrected. He will get into same spot he gets out. Some batsman are bunnies to some bowlers. You can not over analyse things . For aussies there is no cure as young blood eager to prove their mettle. I am not sure ponting is finished. He is a fighter but no one can defeat age slowing you down. The reason sachin last longer because he saves his energy and grind and gather runs than score. Ponting score runs and he attacks that takes lots of energy and he consumes so much pressure too. He probably best batsman in the world when he is in form above laura and ponting both played for their own stats and ponting played to win.

  • No featured comments at the moment.