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Ponting reveals Clarke doubts

Daniel Brettig

October 13, 2013

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Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting discuss field placements, India v Australia, 2nd Test, 2nd day, Mohali, October 18, 2008
Ricky Ponting and his vice-captain Michael Clarke in 2008 © AFP
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Ricky Ponting has revealed the doubts he harboured about Michael Clarke before his ascension to the Australian captaincy, saying his deputy did not contribute as much as desired and that for some time senior players "wondered if he'd lost a little of his sense of team".

In an extract from his forthcoming autobiography At The Close Of Play, Ponting frames his relationship with Clarke against his own decision to give up the captaincy following Australia's defeat to India in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final in Ahmedabad. He is frank in describing how Clarke took a back seat to proceedings as vice-captain, despite being asked numerous times to take on more responsibility by Ponting and the former coach Tim Nielsen.

"It wasn't that he was disruptive or treacherous, and publicly he said all the right things, but he had never been one to get too involved in planning sessions or debriefs at the end of a day's play, or to volunteer to take on any of the captain's workload," Ponting wrote in the extract published by News Ltd. "More than once, Tim Nielsen and I had encouraged him to take on more of a leadership role within the group, but when Pup was down on form or if he had a problem away from cricket, he'd go into his shell."

At the time of Australia's 2006-07 Ashes victory over England, Ponting said Clarke had emerged from a run of poor form to grow in maturity and presence, and had begun looking like a potential captaincy successor. But over the following two years Ponting described Clarke as moving "in a different world to the rest of us".

"It never worried me if a bloke didn't want a drink in the dressing room, but I did wonder about blokes who didn't see the value in sticking around for a chat and a laugh and a post-mortem on the day's play," Ponting wrote. "This was the time when we could revel in our success, pick up the blokes who were struggling, and acknowledge the guys who were at the peak of their powers.

"Pup hardly bought into this tradition for a couple of years and the team noticed. At times, he reminded me of a team-mate from earlier in my career, who'd be chirpy and bubbly if he was going well, but appear a bit grim if things weren't working for him. The best team-mates are the ones who can keep their moods in check for the sake of the group."

Tension over Clarke's contribution to the team bubbled over following the January 2009 Test win over South Africa at the SCG, during an infamous confrontation with Simon Katich. Ponting states that Katich's anger about Clarke's desire to get away from the dressing room after a victory summed up the feelings of more than one member of the team at the time.

"We wondered if he'd lost a little of his sense of team," Ponting wrote. "It was our first significant Test win in exactly a year, almost certainly Matt Hayden's last Test, yet Pup wanted to get away. I didn't actually witness what went on, but as I understand it he asked if we could do the anthem sooner rather than later, Mike Hussey said he'd have to wait, the point was pushed, Kato suggested Pup be patient, and when Pup continued to complain Kato grabbed him and again told him to be patient.

"Okay, it might have been a bit spicier than that, but that was the gist of it. Michael left immediately after the confrontation, while we just shrugged our shoulders and said, 'That's Pup'."

Following the incident, Clarke's standing within the team was gradually repaired, helped by a staunch performance during the 2009 Ashes series in England and his success in New Zealand in 2010 having flown home to put an end to his engagement with Lara Bingle. Ponting wrote that the pair grew closer again over this time.

"I wouldn't say we were tight after that, but we were better. His official reign as Australian captain started on a high, with ODI wins in Bangladesh and ODI and Test wins in Sri Lanka, and he quickly took his batting to a new level, to the point that it seemed he could almost score big hundreds at will.

"He was training hard when we were together and obviously doing a lot of extracurricular work on his fitness and his game as well, which was inspirational. He now seemed happy to take on the planning, media and administrative duties that he'd veered away from when he was vice-captain and the mood in the Aussie dressing room was positive. Perhaps I'd been wrong to be so concerned for so long."

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

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Posted by   on (October 19, 2013, 20:11 GMT)

Ughh I disagree with that R_U_For_Real_Nick. Your choice of words are over the top. Ponting concludes the excerpt by saying that Clarke matured into a great leader and that Ponting perhaps misjudged him all along. How is that airing bad laundry?

As for Warne, Warne is just super passionate and frustrated with CA right now like most Australians are. He played in a side that was consistently ranked no.1 for 15 years. Upon he, McGrath, Langer and Hayden retiring - we turned to shit. Very frustrating for an ex player

Posted by CherryWood_Champion on (October 17, 2013, 17:45 GMT)

Exactly just what the doctor ordered ... and that too right when the players are beginning to gel as a team ... should be out of his mind to reveal it now at this stage.

Posted by tarun1.raman on (October 15, 2013, 6:29 GMT)

What Mussey and Ponting are doing right now are undermining whatever handwork's been done by them to orchestrate this undisciplined Australian team in at least standing in a straight line. While both were contrasting in styles, they at least made sure their respect was not to be taken granted for. Washing the dirty linen after retiring(or being forced to retire by CA), is not the right thing to do before marquee series against India and England. What they need is some hard, basic level stuff right from scratch to try and come somewhere close to a selector.What Australia have is a pool of talent, what they don't have is a selection criteria as Hodge, Dussey, Bailey are not finding themselves a spot in the playing XI, whereas they are exceptionally talented and experienced.

Posted by   on (October 15, 2013, 5:40 GMT)

Ponting is one of the greatest batsmen and captains of his generation and his words do carry some worth. Clarke always wants to steal the show and we all know how many players have been mishandled because of him. Hussey, Watson, Katich , Johnson etc. He was in such a great form and hence there was less scrutiny and now when his form fades away, he ll be under pressure. He has to understand he cant do everything all the time, alone.

Posted by Selassie-I on (October 14, 2013, 14:52 GMT)

Funny thing is that everyone seems to praise clarke for his aggressive and innovative field placements, they seem of little help when he doesn't have the team on side. I'll take man management any day over fancy fields from a skipper.

And yes, Punter did have an inifnatley superior team at his disposal, but he always had the commitment of the side, something it would appear that Clarke doesn't.

Posted by cricket-india on (October 14, 2013, 14:35 GMT)

sums up pretty much everything that has been feared is wrong with Clarke; the guy has managed to antagonize some of the best players (symonds, katich, hussy, watson etc) and it's a grave mistake on CA's part to have made him captain just on the basis of batting performances. someone like George bailey would have been a far better choice to be groomed from the beginning and given the responsibilities to lead. no, don't tell me bailey is only a short-form player; look at this attitude and spirit and tell me it's better than Clarke.

Posted by   on (October 14, 2013, 12:53 GMT)

I can't see how Ponting's personal feelings are of any help to the current Australian cricket team. Discretion would have been the better part of valour if Ponting had left his comments when Clarke had finished with the captaincy or when making the case for Clarke's departure as captain. I am sure this has already damaged the team, certainly wounded Clarke.

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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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