March 30, 2011

Australian cricket

Ponting: A cricketer's cricketer

Akhila Ranganna

Ricky Ponting, in his column in the Australian writes that while his journey as captain has changed his life, he is looking forward to the next chapter of his playing career where he expects to adapt quickly to not being captain.

I still don't have a finish line in mind and all I am focused on is being the best player I can be, a great teammate, an experienced leader around the group and a guy that my new captain can rely upon to give him something special.

While Ponting led his side on the field, he was confident in the knowledge that he alone had the power to shape the course of the match writes Andrew Stevenson in the Sydney Morning Herald. But Michael Clarke is not cut from the same cloth. As a batsman he's been a helper rather than a leader, a player able to add to the cause rather than change the course of a match.

When all hope appears lost would you get down on your knees and pray for Clarke to bat for your life or the country's honour? While his career figures are sound he has rarely been able to impose himself on an opposition or a series; the pressure on him will become only more relentless with the captain's responsibilities added to his kitbag.

In the same newspaper, Richard Hinds writes that though Ricky Ponting's decison to stay on as batsman is contentious, rather than being embittered, Ponting will be refreshed at an age when most are burnt out. And it is very likely that when Clarke taps Ponting on the shoulder, he will lower his form guide, greet his skipper with a smile and share his vast experience freely.

In The Telegraph Sarah Crompton writes that while Ponting in his pomp was one of the best captains, there is no denying that his recent failures and frustration communicated themselves to all around him. It will be interesting to see whether his successor can bring a sense of pleasure back to the way they play.

In this sense, the character of the captain is crucial. A captain has to lead to victory, to want to win, but also to be gracious both in triumph and disaster, because sport needs its heroes to be models for the way we want to live.

Stephen Brenkley in the Independent writes that while it became the height of fashion to deride Ricky Ponting as a captaincy numbskull, there is no denying that he was the sort of captain that every cricketer wanted to play for.

The great Australian cricket machine is cracking and creaking at the edges, writes Kevin Mitchell in the Guardian and if Michael Clarke is to survive those torments, he will need a dressing room of uncommon unity in a time of flux and will have to find his inner mongrel.

Back to the Sydney Morning Herald, where Peter Roebuck writes that of all the Australian captains of the past 25 years, Ricky Ponting is the hardest to assess. At once he was an unselfish and unswerving leader whose devotion to the team and to the pursuit of victory cannot be questioned.

Ponting's achievements as captain are substantial. If anything he has been given too little credit. A certain coldness kept the world at arm's length, prevented watchers warming to him as they did to Allan Border and Steve Waugh. He never heard their cheers, never touched people as they did. He has found that success and affection don't hold hands. Maybe it's not too late.

Ponting's attributes are probably better appreciated by close-up peers than distant observers, writes Gideon Haigh in the Australian. He has always been, and remains, very much a cricketer's cricketer

It could not be said of every holder of his office, but Ponting has always seemed like the kind of bloke with whom it would be good to play cricket, no matter the level.

In the same newspaper Malcolm Conn writes that with tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa before all-powerful India arrives in Australia, Clarke will need all the hard-headed support he can muster. There is no harder head than Ponting.

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Akhila Ranganna is assistant editor (Audio) at ESPNcricinfo

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