ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
India v Australia, 2nd quarter-final, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad
Ponting creates a template
It is no shame for a veteran to strip things back, and at 36, Ricky Ponting should consider his hook-less, pared-back knock against India as an example of the way he should play in his cricketing twilight
March 24, 2011
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Players/Officials: Ricky Ponting
Matches: India v Australia at Ahmedabad
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
The day before Australia's quarter-final, Ricky Ponting said he was planning to watch the footage of the 2003 World Cup decider. He wanted to revisit his brilliant 140 in the triumph over India, and draw whatever inspiration he could from the memory. He won't want to see many replays of this loss, but he should keep the video all the same.
He can use his fighting 104 as a template for how to bat in the next phase of his career, given that he and the selectors want him to play on. It is not easy for a batsman of such immense talent to resist his natural urges, and there were hints of Ponting's flair during his first international century for 13 months. But mostly, it was a pared-back innings that relied on the fundamentals.
In his later years, the country singer Johnny Cash released a series of albums with a stripped-back production, all unnecessary instruments and distractions removed. What listeners heard was simply a man and his voice, and the world was reminded of his raw talent. It is no crime for a veteran to go back to basics. In fact, it can be a refreshing change.
In the early stages of Ponting's innings, there was little that was flashy. Singles were knocked around, gaps found and his eyes adjusted to the conditions and the bowling. When he did take a risk, it was calculated, and came against the part-timer Yuvraj Singh, who was clipped over midwicket for a boundary and then swept forward of square leg for four more.
It helped that Ponting hardly had to negotiate a bouncer. Zaheer Khan was the only member of India's attack with genuine pace, and he preferred to bowl full than dig it in short. That meant Ponting didn't have to make the decision on whether to play the hook, the shot that was once a great strength but over the past couple of years has become an Achilles heel.
Against Canada last week, Henry Osinde hurried Ponting in to lobbing a catch from an attempted hook, and with due respect to Osinde, he is no Shaun Tait. During Sachin Tendulkar's lean times, when the cover-drive was proving a weakness, he shelved the stroke and found his runs in other ways. Perhaps Ponting can look at a hook-less innings like this and follow suit.
At Motera, the failures of Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey and Cameron White, and the inability of Brad Haddin to capitalise on another strong start, forced Ponting to be Australia's anchor in the biggest one-day match they have played in years. Far from dragging the ship down, he kept it steady. He turned the strike over with 47 singles, and chose the right balls to go after.
In his prime, it would have been a point of honour for Ponting to go after the best opposition bowlers, show them who's boss. Here, he displayed the utmost respect for Harbhajan Singh, who has dismissed him more times in international cricket than anyone else, and attacked weaker links like Munaf Patel.
And as impressively as Yuvraj has bowled in this tournament, Ponting knew he too was a man who could occasionally be dispatched. His drive over cover for six off Yuvraj was all class. When he eventually did try something new and perilous, an uncharacteristic reverse sweep, he perished.
That came soon after Ponting reached his century, his first international hundred in any format since February 2010. There was no outpouring of emotion. He raised his bat, but didn't remove his helmet. Truth be told, he barely cracked a smile. There was a job still to be done. He believes there still is.
At 36, Ponting is in his cricketing twilight, although he has no desire to take his final bow any time soon. The one thing that might have forced the hand of the selection panel was a continued lack of runs. Australia are at the end of a World Cup cycle and he should move on from one-day cricket. But in whatever formats he plays from now until retirement day, this innings should serve as his template.
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