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Play best batsman at No. 3 - Ponting

Daniel Brettig

October 25, 2013

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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: "Michael has clearly been the best batsman in Australian cricket for probably the last three years, but he was coming in too late" © Getty Images

As a young player on the fringes of Australia's top six in 1999, Ricky Ponting felt strongly that the team's best batsman and captain Steve Waugh should be walking to the wicket at No. 3. Fourteen years later, on the eve of a home Ashes summer, Ponting believes the incumbent captain Michael Clarke should be doing the same.

During a frank and detailed interview with ESPNcricinfo following the release of his autobiography At the Close of Play, Ponting stated that a team's most accomplished batsman should always bat at first wicket down, not only to accept the greatest batting challenge ahead of less talented team-mates but also to present the most positive front to the opposition. When asked about his earlier wish that Waugh had taken up the post rather than his usual No. 5 berth, Ponting said the same applied to Clarke.

"I still have the same thoughts now. The best batsman should be at three - I said it during the last Ashes series as well," Ponting said. "The times where we were 3 or 4 for 30, if your best batsman had been in earlier then maybe we'd have been only 1 or 2 for 30 or 40. You're the best batsman in the team because you've got the most skill. You've got more skill and can handle situations better than others.

"Michael has clearly been the best batsman in Australian cricket for probably the last three years, but he was almost coming in too late when the damage had already been done. I just think it sends a great statement as well, 'I'm coming in now', it puts pressure back on the bowlers, and just the way I feel it should be. That's why I said it about Steve, he was clearly the best batsman in our team and ranked the best batsman in the world. I don't think you can ask less skilled or less experienced guys to handle the hardest positions, it should always be up to you."

Ponting also opened up about how the challenges of batting had changed for him over time. For so many years a fearless, aggressive batsman, perfectly suited to Australia's era of dominance, Ponting said the challenge that ultimately overwhelmed him was a mounting fear of getting out, rather than simply focusing on making runs.

"I was more worried about getting out at the end than scoring runs. That was my downfall - I was more worried about survival than hitting the first ball I saw for four," Ponting said. "When I was batting at my best it didn't matter when it arrived, if it was a half-volley or a short one then I was going to hit it for four. Towards the end it was more getting myself in through the initial period, building an innings, that sort of thing.

"No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't release the handbrake the way I needed to. So the pressure of it got me as much as anything and I don't mind saying that. That was one thing that changed."

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

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Posted by Viswasam on (October 30, 2013, 1:05 GMT)

I agree with Milhouse79 - I don't think Ponting was the brightest captain. In fact, if you really slice up his captaincy record you will see that he was most successful when he had all the "greats" performing under him. To be honest, Barack Obama could have captained that team. As the team began to transition and they lost the greats what was Pontings record - mostly one of disbelief - as in "how could this happen" - it happened because Pontings captaincy did not change and we began to realize how not so great a captain he really was. I have great respect for him as a batsman but really none as an individual. He is the most pompous self aggrandizing cricketer of this generation and it is no surprise that he takes pot shots at other cricketers not because they are fallible but by doing so he strives to raise himself as being above the "rest". Utterly distasteful!

Posted by OneEyedAussie on (October 28, 2013, 2:59 GMT)

Different things work for different teams. Dravid worked at three for India even though Tendulkar was probably a better player most times. Trott is also not the best batsmen in the English line-up but is probably the best suited to #3. Ponting is assuming that what worked him and his team is universal, which evidentially is not true.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (October 27, 2013, 22:54 GMT)

Its a team game and you set your batting line up to make the most runs for the team. If Clarke can average well over 50 at 5 (closer to 70-80 in the last couple of years) then I cant see why you would want to change it. Watson got the most runs of the Ashes series batting at 3 - so why would you change that. Ponting was a batsman that just wanted to get in, but you cant belittle the achievements of Border, S Waugh, Tendulkar, Lara, Maindad, J Kallis who have spent very little time at number 3. Im not sure about his logic either, using that you want your best batsman to set the tone well then why wouldn't your best batsman open?

Posted by   on (October 27, 2013, 11:39 GMT)

my Pic for ashes

1.Shaun Marsh 2.Ed cowan 3.Watson 4.Clarke 5.Bailey 6.Silk 7.Haddin 8.Pattinson 9.Starc 10.Harris 11. Hautriz

Posted by Macker60 on (October 27, 2013, 10:19 GMT)

If I can ask Pointing one Question, When was the Last time apart from Pointing that Australia Best Batsman Did bat at 3, Think you have to go back to Ian Chapel for that one.There were a few that Opened and a Few batting at 4, But not to many of our noted batsmen did bat at 3. History does not support his arguement

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (October 27, 2013, 5:25 GMT)

I remember saying Clarke "hides" down the order about 3 years ago. Old story.

Posted by riahcmra on (October 26, 2013, 22:52 GMT)

think what he's really trying to say is the senior players should take more responsibility and bat high up the order and the new younger players get blooded down the order. I totally agree - we have been sending young guys in as cannon fodder while the old guard sat back in the middle order, and we wonder why our young bats struggle. And yes I agree Steve Waugh started it all .... he should have learnt to play the hook shot and bat higher

Posted by   on (October 26, 2013, 12:23 GMT)

Steve Waugh wasn't the best batman in that team, he wasn't even the best batsman in his family, he was simply the most determined to win. By 1999, the Australian team were World Cup champions and had a mortgage on the Ashes; there was no need for Waugh at 3 while Blewett et al were doing a job. Waugh reinvented himself as the man that could save an innings / game through doggedness, a 'win at all costs' attitude that inspired the rest of the team. Ponting is a thoughftull analyst, but he has placed himself first in this scenario.

Posted by Tumbarumbar on (October 26, 2013, 11:19 GMT)

@Joseph Langford you have won the gold medal for the comment ''one day people will understand this is a team sport' when referring to an argument made by Ricky Ponting. This is Ricky Ponting former Australian captain, not Ricky Ponting the golfer. As for your comment about Clarke 'loving number 5' isn't that the opposite of being a team player? Even when Hussey was in the team only one of them could afford to bat so far down the order and with Hussey gone the one truly great batsman in the team can't indulge his individual preferences. Gary Sobers was often criticized for the same thing late in his career but at least Clarke isn't bowling first change then bowling either orthodox or chinamen for umpteen overs

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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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