ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Australia v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo

A hard call on Ponting's one-day future

Ricky Ponting wants to continue in one-day cricket after the World Cup, but there is little to be gained from him playing on

Brydon Coverdale at the R Premadasa Stadium

March 19, 2011

Comments: 79 | Text size: A | A

Kamran Akmal took a sharp catch to remove Ricky Ponting, Australia v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 19, 2011
Ricky Ponting had only made 19 when he edged one behind to Kamran Akmal at the Premadasa © AFP

"I'm going. I have to keep playing. I've missed enough cricket the last couple of years." Those were the words of Ricky Ponting earlier this week, when asked if he would be part of Australia's one-day tour of Bangladesh immediately after the World Cup.

Three days later, the chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, had this to say: "Some players get to go on their own terms at the right times and some don't. I suppose if you're determined to play forever then at some stage a selector is going to make the hard call."

Hilditch went on to praise Ponting's energy and fitness, and said that if any man was capable of playing for a long time, it was the Australia captain. There was no hint that his panel would be making a "hard call" any time soon. But there is nothing to be gained from Ponting, who is now 36, extending his one-day career beyond this World Cup.

If he can guide the Australians to a fourth consecutive title, it would be his greatest captaincy achievement. It would also be the perfect time to fold away the coloured clothing for good. If not - and they have much work to do after their 34-match streak without a World Cup loss ended against Pakistan in Colombo - it would still be the right time to start thinking about the next era of Australia's one-day team.

Michael Clarke has proven himself a thoughtful and adventurous captain, and handing him control of the one-day team would be a positive move. It would also create space to give more exposure to young batsmen like Callum Ferguson and Aaron Finch, who could be important parts of Australia's one-day future. And what else can Ponting, a potentially four-time World Cup winner, hope to achieve in one-day cricket?

Maybe he will go on in Tests; the temptation of another challenging summer against India on the horizon, and visions of one final Ashes tour in 2013 still flickering in his mind. However, by the time the 2015 World Cup comes around, he'll be 40, and will be on the golf course working on his formidable handicap.

Of course, Ponting has been a giant of limited-overs cricket - a tally of 13,184 runs speaks for itself, and his unbeaten 140 in the 2003 World Cup final victory over India is one of the great one-day innings. But right now, he is stuck in the leanest patch of his international career, which continued on Saturday, when he edged behind as he tried to cut against the spin of Mohammad Hafeez.

Since he started at the Academy as a 16-year-old, batting has never appeared difficult for Ponting. It certainly seems to be getting harder. On Saturday at the Premadasa, he hustled to the crease with purpose, rehearsing the swing of his bat as he walked, like a boxer punching the air.

He was careful, and took eight balls to get off the mark. But he was also on the front foot, as is his style when he wishes to make a statement, and when he tried his first hook he was beaten by the bounce of Wahab Riaz, and the top edge flew high over the wicketkeeper's head to the boundary.

The shot that was once Ponting's trademark has become one of his major weaknesses, his judgment not what it was in his youth. In Bangalore on Wednesday, he was surprised by the pace of Canada's Henry Osinde, and lobbed a catch when he tried to pull.

Across all formats, Ponting has played 37 innings since he last made a hundred, against West Indies in an ODI in February last year. The only time he has gone longer without an international triple-figure score was a 43-innings stretch, starting in December 2003.

But even then, during his barren period he still found ways to contribute, and averaged 40.20 across all formats. Now, since his last century, he has averaged 28.27. It is possible to return stronger from such a drought as a young man, but as an ageing player it is much more challenging.

"I'm trying as hard as ever and I feel like I'm seeing the ball as good as ever," Ponting said after making 19 against Pakistan. "If I keep doing the right things, hopefully that big score will come for me. It's been a few games now and I certainly haven't scored the runs I would have liked to have scored in the World Cup so far, but the big games are coming up and hopefully I get some in the quarter-final."

If Ponting wishes to play on after the finals, he would be better off narrowing his focus to Test cricket, and sliding down to No. 5 or 6. It is not a dishonourable move for a captain. Allan Border ended his career down the order, and nobody thought less of him. Steve Waugh hardly ever batted above No. 5.

But Australia don't play any more Tests until August, so that is a debate for another day. For now, it's Ponting's one-day future that needs to be considered. And if he is planning to continue after the World Cup, the selectors might need to make that hard call.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 79 
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Posted by Shivakumar on (March 21, 2011, 14:01 GMT)

Punter has been part of an era of Australian cricket which did not know the meaning of the word defeat. He has been part of a golden era in Australian Cricket, where you could cap a donkey with the "baggy green" and the donkey would play a crucial part in winning that match. Absolutely, no offence meant to anyone for the donkey comment, all the players who represented were of real quality and were very worthy. I am just trying to point out the depth the Australians had in terms of managing their man power.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 21, 2011, 13:20 GMT)

Ponting had got the best team to lead till three years ago as they had most powerful batting lineup with plenty of depth as well as most feared bowling line up ever so he dont have kind of pressure which he is facing today.Hence his batting looks vulnerable and hais captaincy record also tumbled.Hence Captain can be as better as his team now his biggest challenge his to defend the title with this team as he has done succesful in 2003 and 2007 with his multi talented sides

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 21, 2011, 13:08 GMT)

I don't think that only Pontin's ODI future that is in jeopardy - it is his whole career as a batsman. I think he has always had serious technical problems as a batsman, and was very fortunate to score so many runs. I think one of the reasons for his fortune in the past was the fact that he got the better of lots of close umpiring decisions in his time. But with the introduction of the UDRS system, he will not be that lucky anymore, as the technology would not allow him to be. I predict that he will not score a next ODI or Test century for the rest of his career, once the UDRS system is in use in any match that he plays.

Posted by Abhimanyu on (March 21, 2011, 12:22 GMT)

Tendulakar like long careers are rare. Punter is a rare player too. Punter can try out some games at number 5 to 7 before calling it a day even in ODIs. Aussies do need a mix of experience and youth - all successful teams need that. Ponting like players deserve respect and understanding.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 21, 2011, 8:51 GMT)

Ricky is an all time great batsman. Now in poor form. He should have kept out of IPL and T20 and discilined like Sachin another great of this era. I think he should himself retire gracefully.He does not deserve to be dropped.

No one can forget his pulls, hooks against top quality fast bowling (Donald etc).

Posted by Subba on (March 21, 2011, 6:00 GMT)

He is not going to leave on his own. The selectors will have to take the call, maybe at a stage when some embarassingly stark and absolute damage is being done to the formation of a strong team. Australia is a very strong team but for him in the middle order.

Posted by Rakesh on (March 21, 2011, 4:39 GMT)

Every player cant be Mr Sachin Tendulkar to score many runs at this age or coming in form after injury or lack of form.... SO i think Pointing should end his career after this world cup from ODIs and should continue playing in Test as he is great batsmen...

Posted by adeel on (March 20, 2011, 23:58 GMT)

i'd be happy to see ponting go. its right time clarke takes up the reigns. clarke is much more thoughtful and knows how to handle the team better. aust team needs an image improvment badly and clarke is the right man to do it.

Posted by Shobhit on (March 20, 2011, 17:52 GMT)

A true legend 3 world cups(2 as captain),2 champion trophies as captain,159 wins as odi captain,49 wins as test captain.......he will prove himself in the world cup final.....bring on the challenge.....punter is not made for small matches.........

Posted by Abhijeet Anand on (March 20, 2011, 17:35 GMT)

india vs austalia in quarters quite a tough one ,, A final before the Final ,, Hoping he will not come good .. so that india can have a easy passage

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.

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