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August 5, 2009

Samir Chopra

Ricky don't lose that aggression

Samir Chopra



Question: What do a snowball in hell and an Indian fan of Ricky Ponting have in common?

Answer: They are both non-existent entities.

Yes, that is an exaggeration. But such hyperbole captures one uncomfortable fact about the Australian captain: he is not popular among many, many cricket fans all over the world. Given that Indian fans make up a majority of the world's cricket fans, it's a fair call to say he isn't a very popular man in the world of cricket. So as a corrective, I'd like to offer a tribute to Ricky Ponting on the occasion of his having surpassed Allan Border's run aggregate in Tests. And I do not for a second think that I'm alone, even amongst Indians, in holding these opinions of Ponting.

The truth of the matter is that Ponting is one of Test cricket's best batsmen of all time, has been one of its most entertaining, dynamic and attacking batsmen for the last 14 years, and is a superb fielder to boot. He has been a classically Australian cricketer: an aggressive, purposeful batsman who loves, besides all the fierce cuts and drives in his repertoire, two quintessentially Australian shots: the hook and the pull, and is a great slip catcher and a quality patroller of any part of the cricket field he happens to be placed in. I have never seen a boring innings by him (yes, I'm including the ones where he has struggled against spin), for Ponting is attacking down to the core of his being when he has a bat in his hand.

One innings that always stands out in my mind's eye was the first one I saw him play in a Test match. It was a little gem of 88, played at Brisbane in the first test of the 1996-97 series against the West Indies. Matthew Elliott had gone early for a duck and Ponting strode out to face Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop for the first time in a Test (it was the fifth of Ponting's career). Taylor and Ponting added 126 runs for the second wicket; Taylor's contribution was 39. Ponting's innings was full of his flashing pulls, hooks and squaredrives; but he had to work for it. There were edges through slips aplenty and some evasion as well. It was a classic, hard-fought session of test cricket which continued after lunch.

The West Indian quicks pressed for another breakthrough but to no avail. I watched it utterly spellbound; Ambrose and company could have broken through that morning and wrested the initiative early in the series but a youngster had resisted and counterattacked.

There was a buzz while Ponting was at the crease. Part of it had to do with his restless, shuffling, body language, one that suggests early vulnerability in his innings (especially when he appears to fall over as he plays across), but which later, is more indicative of a coiled energy waiting to strike. Once he left, Australia buckled to be 5 for 196 before the old firm of Waugh and Healy bailed them out again.

Over the years, Ponting has lived up to his early promise (Ian Chappell was one of those talking up this new Tasmanian Bradman in his debutant days). While small weaknesses have been found by opponents over the years, such as against high-quality swing (but really, who doesn't have a weakness against this?) and offspin, he still remains a quality batsman, one to be feared, whose wicket is prized over any other by the opposition when they play Australia.

He has hit purple patches (like those double tons against India in the 2004 series), he has hit lows (like those off-spinning blues in the 2001 series against India), and as Australia struggles in the post-McGrath-Warne-Langer-Waugh-Hayden era, he has struggled too.

Still, whatever his problems as a captain, and a communicator, and he has quite a few in that regard, I have nothing but admiration for him as a batsman and fielder. I like watching him when he steps on to the field; he is, as he might like to hear, "very good value."

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Vaibhav on (August 24, 2009, 19:33 GMT)

and that too in a World cup match

Pressure is when your team is stuck at 60/3 or 80/4 and you know there's no one else to accompany you to take the total to 300+ and you do that "single handedly" (N.b.: I am against this term "single handedly" but here...)

Pressure is when your team has had problems defeating minnow Zimbabwe (WC 2003) and has lost against Aus, and your country has erupted against you and your families home, and you send a message to keep calm and lead from the front...

Pressure is when every time you come out to bat you know there are a billion people who expect you to score a hundred...

Pressure is when you get out cheaply once and the same billion start yelling that you are finished and you should retire

Posted by Vaibhav on (August 24, 2009, 19:23 GMT)

As far as I remember, one quality that distinguishes Sachin from others is the way he targets selected few. What I mean is "revenge" with the bat... 1) Warne story is world famous 2) Olonga's story is famous too! 3) Remember Akram, Akhtar and Waqar getting thrashed in WC 2003 4) I remember Sachin (and Azhar) spanking Donald and Co in SA when India were 80/5 or something... 5) I dont remember Sachin hitting Murali, Vaas and Co but Sachin has surely amassed a lot of runs against them 6) Against WI, if I remember correctly, Sachin has done the restoration of innings job after India lost early wickets a lot of times 7) English bowlers were no different (Remember that giant six off Caddick outta the ground in WC 2003 after Caddick publicly annocunced that he wouldnt let Sachin play for long...) and regarding pressure... pressure is not just when you are chasing a a difficult but probable target... pressure is when you are up against arch rivals Pak, chasing 270 odd and lost Sehwag early.

Posted by Vaibhav on (August 24, 2009, 19:10 GMT)

Those who say Sachin failed in WC 2003 final forget that he played 10 innings before that and amassed 650+ runs. Moreover, indirectly is has been agreed that, had Sachin clicked in that final, India would have got the cup.... I think that ends all arguments :)

Posted by batman on (August 14, 2009, 22:22 GMT)

As u ve pointed urself,d ICC rankings show how consistent sachin has been for 20 yrs. n finally - "what the Indians would have made of Ponting had he been an Indian! - ah, the joke of d year. After Sachin broke Lara's record last year -Atherton,an Englishman wrote this "The archives recall not one single incriminating incident, not one drunken escapade, not one reported affair, not one spat with a team-mate or reporter ... As Matthew Parris wondered of Barack Obama in these pages recently, is he human? MikeAtherton ponders the sinless Sachin Tendulkar in the Times Do u think we wud need a guy who had a serious drinking problem, thrown out of a bar,finger pointed to a 65 yr old man to give d trophy n pushed him out on a world stage,uses abusive language in public against opponents coaches n fans, sweared @a reporter who asked y he claimed a false catch and who needs a strict course in public behavin ,when we ve d Kohinoor of rolemodel sportsmen among us?? Gud luck 2 u then

Posted by batman on (August 14, 2009, 21:56 GMT)

And if facing major opposition is a major criterion, succeeding in alien conditions is an equally major criterion. So how are u going to mask Ponting's tailenderesque average of 20.12 on Indian pitches throughout his entire career.For the all use of ur mediocre word for Sachin record against SA and Pak ,he averages 42.42 against Pak ( n pls note 4 matches of those were played in his debut series wen he was 16 against Wasim Waqar n Imran and still played 2 match saving innings) which as usual have been selectively masked and 40.41 on bouncy SA pitches where he has 3 100s. And so by the same token, is Warney not as gr8 because 50% of his wickets have come against the champion Poms and SA players- mediocre players of spins and his abysymal record against the best players of Spin - The indians.Just to tell one fact - Ponting scored 101 n 99 in the melbourne test last year against SA and yet OZ were hammered by 10 wickets. That has been the conundrom Sachin had to face throughout

Posted by batman on (August 14, 2009, 21:18 GMT)

2. 2003 world cup - Sachin scored 673@62.81 - Ponting 415@51.87. And Sachin was the man of the tournament. After the league match loss against Oz, the passionate fans who tend to take losses to heart indulged in reactions which everyone knows and the little master himself came out to pacify them and guaranteed them a fight back and was simply unstoppable until the finals. Btw , the reactions and the expectations of 1 billion fans is something no stat can tell u which the little big man has been carrying throughout his career. Mark Waugh once wrote ' Sachin , like GOd, can never fail'. n except the final and match against SL, Ponting had nuthin to show in the tournament and they were taken to the finals by Symonds, Bevan and Andy Bichel.

3. 2007- Everone knows who won them this - Haydos n that 67 ball blistering of SA and Gilly and the squash ball stories n well , who was the man of the series - Glenn McGrath.

Posted by batman on (August 14, 2009, 21:17 GMT)

:). It is very amusing to see how sorcerer counters his own arguments with facts of cricket and tells others not to say them. Cricket has always been and always will be a team game.

1. Again i thought we were discussing test stats. Still he has unwittingly admitted what we have been saying all along - luxury of playing in a world beating side that the Oz were throughout his career.First the 3 world cup wins, 1999 - The stars of this show were one Stephen Rodger Waugh and one Shane Warne and contributions from Micheal Bevan and Adam Gilcrist. Note that is 4 all time gr8s already. Ponting scored 354@39.99. Sachin came back 2 days after his father's death putting country over family n every Indian knows how emotionally attached he is to his dad and yet scored 253@42.24

2. 2003 world cup - Sachin scored 673@62.81 - Ponting 415@51.87. And Sachin was the man of the tournament. After the league match loss against Oz, the passionate fans who tend to take losses to heart indulged

Posted by Sorcerer on (August 14, 2009, 17:50 GMT)

Another indicator towards Punter's superiority however controversial the domain maybe though....

It's a damning indictment of the Tendulkar hype and ringing endorsement to his lopsided stats against different countries and in match situations that throughout his twenty years in the international scene, he has been unable to break through the magical 900-point mark in ICC ratings ever. He has never thus peaked so spectacularly and effectively to catapult him into the 900+ bracket.

Yes, his longevity and very good overall record is there, but a perceptive inspection reveals craters as well as considerable weaknesses as listed before, which all collectively have meant that he has never been able to join the very elite club of ICC Ratings performers.

Ponting, on the other hand, has flown high and mighty and even been in the 900+ zone for considerable time, even reaching 935 points.

Mind boggles what the Indians would have made of Ricky Ponting had he been an Indian!

Posted by batman on (August 14, 2009, 16:35 GMT)

hen the team toured in 90s the openers read like V.Rathore, W V Raman,Gandhi,Ramesh and bowling like Abey Kuruvilla,Dodda Ganesh,David Johnson apart from Srinath n Prasad who were good but no comparison in front of Mcgrath n Warney n laxman, dravid, Saurav were all just average till 00-01 . Compare Ponting colleagues - Taylor, Slater, Waughs, Langer, Martyn ,Healy, Gilly,Warney,Mcgrath,Dizzy. Which team wud u be in? Ponting's s not a balanced career -just vastly exaggerated by the world beating team that he played in as shown in the averages and runs then and now.

Posted by batman on (August 14, 2009, 16:34 GMT)

Ponting's numbers are grossly exaggerated by the fact that he always played in a world beating side. I have already posted how his numbers dip after the retirement of the gr8s

TO reiterate Ponting in matches after retirement of Warne,Mcgrath,Gilly,Langer,Martyn- 1903@44.25 ( note haydos,Clarke,Hussey still played in many of the matches)

Sachin before Ganguly took captaincy in 00-01 ( Any cricket lover would know that was when Rahul, Laxman, Sehwag, Ganguly all came to the party and note the bowling support was at best was very good but never as gr8 as Warney, Mcgrath n co) - 5789@58.00 with 22 hundreds ( virtually a one man show) - Any team would have said - get Sachin out - get India out - Infact it was labelled as a 'One man army' in the 90s.

When the team toured in 90s the openers read like V.Rathore, W V Raman,Gandhi,Ramesh and bowling like Kuruvilla,Ganesh,David Johnson apart from Srinath n Prasad who were good but no comparison in front of Warney n Mcgrath

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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