India v Australia, 2nd Test, Bangalore October 8, 2010

Ponting searches for elusive Indian success

In what could possibly be his last Test in India, the Australia captain has a chance to set things right in his team's most successful venue in the country

When India went to New Zealand last year, John Wright made a trip to the Bert Sutcliffe Oval, half an hour's drive from Christchurch, where the Indian team was training. He had short chats with some of his old wards. A visibly emotional Wright then said he missed India. "Once India gets under your skin, it's hard to get it out."

Of course Wright had a different sort of relationship with India, but Ricky Ponting wouldn't be too far off the mark if he feels the same on the eve of what could be his last Test in the country he has "never mastered". Except India hasn't quite got under Ponting's skin in the positive way: he averages 22.30 here, has scored just one century in 13 Tests, and hasn't won a Test here as captain.

"I feel like I have been coming to India all my cricketing life and in truth I have," he wrote in his column in the Australian. Having travelled here six times just for Tests since 1996, he actually has. Twelve years ago, on his second tour to India, he had to be shown out of a Kolkata night club against his will. He was the Tasmanian George Best in those years, as Malcolm Knox wrote of him.

Over his Test trips to India, we have seen Ponting grow as a cricketer, as a leader, and as a human being. He has grown immensely in stature as a batsman, perhaps second only to Don Bradman in Australia. He might not be the best tactician going around, but as a leader he has not shied away from responsibility. He has taken over a team that doesn't win nearly as often as what seemed like Ponting's birth right until 2006-07. He is risking becoming the first captain to lose the Ashes thrice. But he is there for the team that needs him and looks up to him.

The task that Ponting faces now is immense. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy is already gone, and the way it went doesn't make it easy for a team to bounce back. It will take plenty of character to achieve that

India remains one of those unsuccessful battles. Ponting has toured India with a great team that fell at the last hurdle, and with a team that conquered the Final Frontier without him. He has had Harbhajan Singh torture him for entire tours. Equally, he has had a random man at a sponsor function try to kiss him. He has started his two previous tours looking like he would finally "master" the place, but the box remains unticked.

Like with captaincy of late, Ponting retains the enthusiasm for India. "I have always enjoyed playing cricket here, although I haven't had the success here that I have had in other countries," he said. "It's always been a great place to play Test cricket as far as I am concerned. The Australian team has always enjoyed every contest we have had here, and we always enjoy our team around the country outside of the cricket venues."

As far as hurt goes, Ponting rates the defeat in Mohali last week more painful than what happened in Kolkata in 2000-01. Perhaps more so than what happened in Kolkata in 1998. Soon after that Kolkata mishap, Ponting came to Bangalore, and was part of a winning team. This year, with a team he wants to shape as his legacy, Ponting returns to Bangalore, hoping for a similar result to ease the pain of a devastating defeat. Bangalore, in fact, has been Australia's most favoured venue in India: they are yet to lose a Test here. Ponting's only century in India has come here. An oasis in the middle of the desert that India has been for Ponting.

The task that Ponting faces now is immense. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy is already gone, and the way it went doesn't make it easy for a team to bounce back. It will take plenty of character to achieve that. "This just goes to show unless you are ready to play cricket very, very well for five days sometimes you don't achieve the result you are after," Ponting said. It might take four very, very good days of good cricket to get back to a similar position.

It will apply to the captain too. A pretty 71 might not be good enough, he will know. At least he is not putting pressure on himself thinking this could be his last Test here. "I haven't thought about that if this is going to be my last Test or not," he said. "Hopefully this is not my last tour, as it turns out we are in India almost every year. I still believe I have got a few more years of international cricket ahead of me and hopefully that means I will be back to India for another Test tour."

That said, there are no guarantees either. At least for now, Australia are not playing Tests here next year. If he doesn't come back, though, it will be a shame if India doesn't get to see one of the best batsmen of this era at his best.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajaram on October 9, 2010, 6:33 GMT

    Ricky Ponting won the Mohali Test - it was there for the WHOLE WORLD TO SEE - except Billy Bowden, who did not give Pragyan Ojha out, when he was clearly lbw. Billy Bowden made a crucial mistake at Edgbaston too in The Ashes 2005, when he declared Kasperowicz out caught behind, whereas replays showed he was not out. So the Kiwi Billy Bowden is responsible for two of Australian losses - doesn't that add a "flavour" to the Trans - Tasman rivaly?

  • Earthy on October 9, 2010, 4:03 GMT

    I love this article. Its true Ponting never succeeded but he is too good a player to face all these wraths. :) I believe he is the best competitor that world had produced. He may not have his arsenal right but he knows the weak doors of opponents. I would love to see him play. Actualy he bats with the ease of laxman and Skill of Lara. Its pleasure ..complete Pleasure.. but that does not deny that i Love India so i want India to win, matches against him. :)

  • sreekanth on October 9, 2010, 3:44 GMT

    Over the years Ponting has grown as a human being and he seems to respect the game more now.Always enjoyed his batting except against India.Ponting makes immense contribution towards the india-aus rivalry as many people here seems to have been disliking him(Warne and Lee are the most popular).Will be gong to Bangalore Test on sunday and if he scores a 100,i will be the first man to give him a standing ovation.Thanks

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2010, 3:18 GMT

    Ponting has grown on me. I didn't like him initially since he seemed so brash but I really respect him for persevering and coming to India again and again.When he talks he seems so mature and balanced now. Also he didn't complain one bit after the loss.Just took it on the chin and said the team had to improve. He has won a lot but now is helping build a new Australian team and just shows up and battles hard day in and day out. He is one of the all time greats and has also got a test century in India. He has 3 World Cup wins of which two came as Captain!!So nothing really for him to prove so when he goes out to bat in Bangalore it is not judgment time for him. I hope he gets ducks in both innings but if he scores a hundred I will stand up and applaud.

  • NoneOf on October 9, 2010, 3:14 GMT

    I agree with the author as. Ponting to me is one of the best batsman in world cricket for over a decade. But more than that I think he is one of the best leaders of the game. His grit and determination is what made his cricket career soar as a player - A truly mentally strong character because of his hard upbringing.A kind of person who stares death in the face and pushes it back to where it came from. Amazing leadership quality.

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2010, 1:54 GMT

    Ponting will have just have to be content that he'll never win a series in India! enough said..

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2010, 1:44 GMT

    @ross: its simple dude that here no one is talking about NZ or Bdesh... its an article on "India vs Australia" ongoing test series.

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2010, 1:14 GMT

    Ponting is not alone. We mastered Lara and other great players of our times too. Murali and Warne - the two best bowlers of all time were made to look like puppies when bowling in India. How about Steve Waugh's infamous handling the ball? When you come here expecting to carry on your success from elsewhere you are in for loads of surprise.

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2010, 23:00 GMT

    I am preety sure that Ponting will score a big score against India in bangalore.And yes he is d best captain Australia have ever produced.Nd i wish him all d best for his next match against India.

  • Neil on October 8, 2010, 22:53 GMT

    To the writer and all who have so far responded to this piece, thankyou. It is so nice to read something about Ponting written by an Indian and some responses from Indian readers that don't tear Ponting to shreds, although as I write there have been only 20 responses. The day is yet young. There is even some grudging respect, although not a lot of outright praise. No-one has even mentioned the Sydney test yet. Ooops, that'll get the ball rolling for sure. I know that Ponting has not always reserved his best behaviour for Indian watchers but the fact is, he is probably the most combative personality to have played cricket for Australia in the last 30 years, and India have been his undoing. They seem to reserve their best and worst for him and the pressure under which he operates (from the Indian players, fans and media) is immense. Zaheer's little effort the other day summed the situation up nicely. Nice innings from Ponting. All of a sudden he's waving his bat around like a madman.

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