Tasmania v Queensland, Sheffield Shield Final, Hobart March 21, 2013

Ponting favours tough batting school

  shares 20

Ricky Ponting likes the tough school. Whether it be his Mowbray upbringing, his teenaged elevation to the cricket academy and then first-class ranks, a Test debut at 20 or his return this season to a Sheffield Shield competition now dominated by pace bowlers, Ponting's appetite for challenges is undimmed.

Though he admits the circumstances of his increased availability were less than ideal - a retirement from internationals pressed by a poor series against South Africa - Ponting has delighted in playing near enough to a full season for Tasmania. It has resulted in his most prolific at Shield level in 20 years, the competition's player of the year award, and the Australian Cricketers Association garland as player of the month for February.

The last summer in which Ponting did not have his state appearances curtailed by the national selectors was 1993-94. Back then, Australian batting was blooming into the sort of period oft-described as a "golden age". No fewer than six players - Michael Bevan, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Darren Lehmann, Dene Hills and Greg Blewett - topped 1000 first-class runs for the summer. Another five, Ponting included, reached 900.

Hayden's effort was most astounding, tallying 1136 runs in six matches for Queensland, and coshing seven hundreds. All this by a batsman still seven years away from becoming a regular at Test level. Ponting's 896 Shield runs that summer helped his state into their first final, and impressed all observers with their poise and power. Two decades on, and Ponting may yet surpass that tally in this year's decider, but in a competition now far more difficult for batting.

There has been debate over the past several years about whether or not surfaces more conducive to seam and swing have detracted from the development of Australian batting. Arguments have been raised about how representative such pitches are when mos Test strips are considerably flatter and drier - none more so than those currently undoing Michael Clarke's team in India. However Ponting is adamant that the redressed balance between bat and ball will be beneficial.

"There's no doubt that pitches these days are more bowler friendly and that trend has been building over the last four or five seasons," Ponting told ESPNcricnfo. "I think the overall standard is still particularly strong and as you can see from this year, the competition is very competitive.

"I don't think it's hindering development at all. In fact, it's a positive thing for batters who have to work harder in tougher conditions to consistently score runs. The only thing is that the selectors have to appreciate that there is a trend for lower scores because of these conditions."

These lower scores are reflected in the recent records of younger batsmen coming through in each state. Where once an average of at least 50 was required to push a case, now 40 seems closer to the norm. Ponting, though, has shown that it is possible to score heavily in this climate. For that he offered generous praise to the coaching and culture of the Tigers.

"There's such a great culture here and so much of the credit for that has to go to Tim Coyle and his staff," Ponting said. "They have always been able to blend experience with talented younger players coming through the ranks. If you look at this season, that's exactly what we have.

"Senior players like George Bailey, Ben Hilfenhaus, Tim Paine, Xavier Doherty, Alex Doolan and Luke Butterworth have been working so well with the next generation of young players like James Faulkner, Jonathan Wells and Jordan Silk.

"Doing the whole pre-season with the boys was just fantastic and so was playing the games at the start of the season. But then to come back at the pointy end of the season and make the Shield final like we did has just about capped off a wonderful year for Tasmanian cricket. Hopefully we can finish it off with a trophy next week."

Personal possession of the Shield trophy is the one thing that has eluded Ponting over his career. Tasmania's two wins took place in his absence, and last year's final was narrowly lost. Given how strongly he has performed this summer, it would be bold to doubt that the time has come.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY ygkd on | March 22, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    My mistake, it wasn't Tassie I was watching, but the edited highlights of Chris Tavare, that is all the balls he never attempted to score off. I think?

  • POSTED BY ygkd on | March 22, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    @Meety - Tassie's certainly batting long on the first day of the final. So long in fact, something should be done about it. Funny i'n' it, how a pace-bowler's delight during the season dies as soon as the final comes along?

  • POSTED BY Meety on | March 22, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    @HatsforBats on (March 21, 2013, 12:36 GMT) - if it translates to Tests - I am okay with it. Otherwise it does us out of batsmen & spinners!

  • POSTED BY Meety on | March 22, 2013, 0:11 GMT

    I think what would benefit the batsmen more, is more variety in the pitches. I understand that the weather certainly has hampered some preparation here, I couldn't believe they had prepped a pitch for the last shield match at the Gabba as the sun hadn't poked its head thru the rain for a fortnight prior. There needs to be the odd "nude" pitch the curator version of a Brazillian (just wanted to type the word). This would give the batsmen a chance to face spinners & maybe some good conditions to score plenty of runs at the front end of the match. I don't think it can be good having sides constantly 4/50 in every innings. It also (I think), means bowlers may not be fully prepared for the Test environment. Batsmen need to be ABLE to bat long - not fearful of facing 2 or 3 unplayable deliveries an over (in some matches).

  • POSTED BY heathrf1974 on | March 21, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    That's what I've been saying for years, (a couple of times on this website). The biggest influence on Australia's test cricket development has been the wickets prepared for Sheffield Shield. They are too green, so as to get a result inside 4 days. They should prepare test standard wickets and change the rules to promote aggressive captaincy to get results inside 4 days. It is too difficult for spinners and is flattering quicks.

  • POSTED BY HatsforBats on | March 21, 2013, 12:54 GMT

    @Mitty2, I'm not so sure, maybe the quicks don't have to bend the back as much but they still have to be smart and consistent with their line & length to get wickets. It will also encourage them to pitch it up as the norm. To me it's more favourable than having them pound it in back of a length on flat tracks for a few days trying to limit the run feast. I agree completely about how the ideal pitches should play, though the wetter summers we've been having plus the desire for result pitches is making it hard (I would say some pitches may have gone to far toward producing the result). I disagree though about the primary function of the state competition. State cricket is a prestigious comp in it's own right with a long and rich history, it should not be used as a nursery but rather as a testing ground for our best players to stand up, from which the national team is then selected.

  • POSTED BY HatsforBats on | March 21, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    @Meety, look at the positives, now we have a bunch of quicks averaging 20 for the season!

  • POSTED BY on | March 21, 2013, 12:11 GMT

    People talking about young batsmen, Alex Doolan and Mark Cosgrove are only 28, with a good decade of batting ahead of them.

  • POSTED BY Simoc on | March 21, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    Inconsistency seems to be the problem. I also disagree with Ponting. The batters like himself get super confident and aren't afraid to take on the bowlers and the bowlers response is to be worried about being hit out of the attack. At this stage we only have Clarke as a world class batsman and Watson also has that ability.Warner is on track. It's about confidence at the crease and lots of runs gives you that confidence. A coach as a selector just doesn't work for batsmen.

  • POSTED BY hycIass on | March 21, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    We have some good young batsman in Hughes, Khawaja and Burns, Hughes has struggled against spin but he is good. Khawaja is also a very good test prospect but just needs his chance. Burns will come through next season.

  • POSTED BY ygkd on | March 22, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    My mistake, it wasn't Tassie I was watching, but the edited highlights of Chris Tavare, that is all the balls he never attempted to score off. I think?

  • POSTED BY ygkd on | March 22, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    @Meety - Tassie's certainly batting long on the first day of the final. So long in fact, something should be done about it. Funny i'n' it, how a pace-bowler's delight during the season dies as soon as the final comes along?

  • POSTED BY Meety on | March 22, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    @HatsforBats on (March 21, 2013, 12:36 GMT) - if it translates to Tests - I am okay with it. Otherwise it does us out of batsmen & spinners!

  • POSTED BY Meety on | March 22, 2013, 0:11 GMT

    I think what would benefit the batsmen more, is more variety in the pitches. I understand that the weather certainly has hampered some preparation here, I couldn't believe they had prepped a pitch for the last shield match at the Gabba as the sun hadn't poked its head thru the rain for a fortnight prior. There needs to be the odd "nude" pitch the curator version of a Brazillian (just wanted to type the word). This would give the batsmen a chance to face spinners & maybe some good conditions to score plenty of runs at the front end of the match. I don't think it can be good having sides constantly 4/50 in every innings. It also (I think), means bowlers may not be fully prepared for the Test environment. Batsmen need to be ABLE to bat long - not fearful of facing 2 or 3 unplayable deliveries an over (in some matches).

  • POSTED BY heathrf1974 on | March 21, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    That's what I've been saying for years, (a couple of times on this website). The biggest influence on Australia's test cricket development has been the wickets prepared for Sheffield Shield. They are too green, so as to get a result inside 4 days. They should prepare test standard wickets and change the rules to promote aggressive captaincy to get results inside 4 days. It is too difficult for spinners and is flattering quicks.

  • POSTED BY HatsforBats on | March 21, 2013, 12:54 GMT

    @Mitty2, I'm not so sure, maybe the quicks don't have to bend the back as much but they still have to be smart and consistent with their line & length to get wickets. It will also encourage them to pitch it up as the norm. To me it's more favourable than having them pound it in back of a length on flat tracks for a few days trying to limit the run feast. I agree completely about how the ideal pitches should play, though the wetter summers we've been having plus the desire for result pitches is making it hard (I would say some pitches may have gone to far toward producing the result). I disagree though about the primary function of the state competition. State cricket is a prestigious comp in it's own right with a long and rich history, it should not be used as a nursery but rather as a testing ground for our best players to stand up, from which the national team is then selected.

  • POSTED BY HatsforBats on | March 21, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    @Meety, look at the positives, now we have a bunch of quicks averaging 20 for the season!

  • POSTED BY on | March 21, 2013, 12:11 GMT

    People talking about young batsmen, Alex Doolan and Mark Cosgrove are only 28, with a good decade of batting ahead of them.

  • POSTED BY Simoc on | March 21, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    Inconsistency seems to be the problem. I also disagree with Ponting. The batters like himself get super confident and aren't afraid to take on the bowlers and the bowlers response is to be worried about being hit out of the attack. At this stage we only have Clarke as a world class batsman and Watson also has that ability.Warner is on track. It's about confidence at the crease and lots of runs gives you that confidence. A coach as a selector just doesn't work for batsmen.

  • POSTED BY hycIass on | March 21, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    We have some good young batsman in Hughes, Khawaja and Burns, Hughes has struggled against spin but he is good. Khawaja is also a very good test prospect but just needs his chance. Burns will come through next season.

  • POSTED BY Barnesy4444 on | March 21, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    The cream rises to the top. Of the young batsman this year Phil Hughes was by far the best averaging about 56, Khawaja next averaging 39. The down side is a mentality developing that a score of 80 is good enough, when it isn't. What we do need is a flat, turning pitch somewhere in the country so we aren't embarrassed so badly when we tour the subcontinent.

  • POSTED BY RaadQ on | March 21, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    From the looks of the recent Aus vs SA and SL series, the pitches are becoming a lot more suited to batting, and there a need for good swing bowling with the new ball and poor batting to take wickets.

  • POSTED BY Beertjie on | March 21, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    Time to pick a new coach in Sept after we lose again! It's got to be Boof whether the Bulls win or not. From the outset I said Arthur would be a disaster. He's a yes man who won't challenge anyone's thinking. I don't mind the captain being a selector but when the coach is Arthur it can only lead to trouble.

  • POSTED BY OneEyedAussie on | March 21, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    I disagree with Ponting - the contest between fast bowler and batsman in the domestic 4-day competition is clearly unbalanced. This is harming the development of our batsman and spinners, and possible developing sloppy work ethics in our quicks.

  • POSTED BY PrasPunter on | March 21, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    Punter, if at all the current crop is at-least 50% as good as you are when it comes to work-ethic, professionalism and you-name-it, we will be in a far better shape than we currently are. Man, please come back, this time as our batting coach !! Please !!!

  • POSTED BY Big-Dog on | March 21, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    A win to Tasmania would be a fitting tribute to both Ponting & Tim Coyle. Ponting has indicated he will play on next season but we can only hope Coyle is not lost to cricket. He is clearly the best coach in Australia.

  • POSTED BY Mitty2 on | March 21, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    I'm going to agree and disagree with punter here. Sure, it can teach the batsmen to handle very touch conditions against the plethora of quality quicks; but as these pitches are doctored for a result, it's going to be harder to unearth new talented batsmen. Especially when these new batsmen are introduced to a huge step of facing the likes of bird, butterworth, cutting, coulter-nile, faulkner, Sayers etc.. Another side to the story is the fact that the quicks don't really need to work tirelessly or graft for their wickets because of the helpful conditions. This would be helpful for bowling in the subcontinent; only harris has proved himself on such roads. Frankly, id much prefer pitches which are more evenly balanced, ( pitches that turn later on, get early seam movement and flatten out in days 2-3) getting results aren't exactly necessary as the primary function of the state system is to provide talent/individuals for the Australian team. Still, silk, doolan and burns look the best.

  • POSTED BY ygkd on | March 21, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    Having a tough batting school in the SS is fine, but the ACB still has to relearn how to give them jobs when they graduate. Right now they're picking them out of fifth grade.

  • POSTED BY AlwaysTasmania on | March 21, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    I sincerely hope Ponting continues with Sheffield Shield next season as a Tiger. If he is going to play a few seasons in the IPL as well as the Carabean and England he can use the Sheffield Shield to keep his skills honed. I'd be devastated if he leaves us and plays for Victoria.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | March 21, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    I'm going for QLD, but would love Punter to win, (although if Punter wins I hope that won't mean he'd retire!). Seems like a life time ago that we had 6 x 1,000+ runs tallies in the one Shield Season!

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  • POSTED BY Meety on | March 21, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    I'm going for QLD, but would love Punter to win, (although if Punter wins I hope that won't mean he'd retire!). Seems like a life time ago that we had 6 x 1,000+ runs tallies in the one Shield Season!

  • POSTED BY AlwaysTasmania on | March 21, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    I sincerely hope Ponting continues with Sheffield Shield next season as a Tiger. If he is going to play a few seasons in the IPL as well as the Carabean and England he can use the Sheffield Shield to keep his skills honed. I'd be devastated if he leaves us and plays for Victoria.

  • POSTED BY ygkd on | March 21, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    Having a tough batting school in the SS is fine, but the ACB still has to relearn how to give them jobs when they graduate. Right now they're picking them out of fifth grade.

  • POSTED BY Mitty2 on | March 21, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    I'm going to agree and disagree with punter here. Sure, it can teach the batsmen to handle very touch conditions against the plethora of quality quicks; but as these pitches are doctored for a result, it's going to be harder to unearth new talented batsmen. Especially when these new batsmen are introduced to a huge step of facing the likes of bird, butterworth, cutting, coulter-nile, faulkner, Sayers etc.. Another side to the story is the fact that the quicks don't really need to work tirelessly or graft for their wickets because of the helpful conditions. This would be helpful for bowling in the subcontinent; only harris has proved himself on such roads. Frankly, id much prefer pitches which are more evenly balanced, ( pitches that turn later on, get early seam movement and flatten out in days 2-3) getting results aren't exactly necessary as the primary function of the state system is to provide talent/individuals for the Australian team. Still, silk, doolan and burns look the best.

  • POSTED BY Big-Dog on | March 21, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    A win to Tasmania would be a fitting tribute to both Ponting & Tim Coyle. Ponting has indicated he will play on next season but we can only hope Coyle is not lost to cricket. He is clearly the best coach in Australia.

  • POSTED BY PrasPunter on | March 21, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    Punter, if at all the current crop is at-least 50% as good as you are when it comes to work-ethic, professionalism and you-name-it, we will be in a far better shape than we currently are. Man, please come back, this time as our batting coach !! Please !!!

  • POSTED BY OneEyedAussie on | March 21, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    I disagree with Ponting - the contest between fast bowler and batsman in the domestic 4-day competition is clearly unbalanced. This is harming the development of our batsman and spinners, and possible developing sloppy work ethics in our quicks.

  • POSTED BY Beertjie on | March 21, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    Time to pick a new coach in Sept after we lose again! It's got to be Boof whether the Bulls win or not. From the outset I said Arthur would be a disaster. He's a yes man who won't challenge anyone's thinking. I don't mind the captain being a selector but when the coach is Arthur it can only lead to trouble.

  • POSTED BY RaadQ on | March 21, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    From the looks of the recent Aus vs SA and SL series, the pitches are becoming a lot more suited to batting, and there a need for good swing bowling with the new ball and poor batting to take wickets.

  • POSTED BY Barnesy4444 on | March 21, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    The cream rises to the top. Of the young batsman this year Phil Hughes was by far the best averaging about 56, Khawaja next averaging 39. The down side is a mentality developing that a score of 80 is good enough, when it isn't. What we do need is a flat, turning pitch somewhere in the country so we aren't embarrassed so badly when we tour the subcontinent.