India v Australia, 4th Test, Nagpur November 11, 2008

Nielsen explains Ponting's tactics

Cricinfo staff

Tim Nielsen has thrown his full support behind Ricky Ponting © Getty Images

Tim Nielsen, Australia's coach, has launched a lengthy defence of the fourth-day tactics that have landed Ricky Ponting in the firing line from a wide range of commentators and former players. At stumps on Sunday, before much of the criticism had occurred, Nielsen said he did not for a moment believe Ponting had failed to push hard to win the match.

Nielsen has had more than two days to reflect on Australia's decision to use part-time slow bowlers after tea on Sunday, at a time when a quick end to India's innings could have given Australia a gettable chase. In his blog on Cricket Australia's website, Nielsen wrote on Tuesday that he felt compelled to defend Ponting.

"Ricky had to take a number of things into consideration and having the prospect of a suspension for slow over rate hanging over his head was only part of it," Nielsen wrote. "It's all well and good to now say that he should have kept bowling the quicks at any cost but the question I ask is what sort of leadership is that as a captain of Australia? Is it all right to break the rules as long as you win without worrying about the consequences?"

Some of the harshest comments on Sunday came from Allan Border, the former captain and a current Cricket Australia director, who said on air: "I'm glad Ricky can't read my mind right now because he's not going to like it." Nielsen said he was particularly disappointed that much of the criticism had come from inside Australian cricket's "family".

"Whether it be commentators, past Test captains or board members that make those comments, they help shape popular opinion and it really does make it hard for the bloke who is out there trying to make decisions on the run." Nielsen was keen to point out that Ponting had stuck with his most successful bowler, the offspinner Jason Krejza, and the plan was to let Krejza attack while tying down the runs at the other end.

"Unfortunately it's not like our fast bowlers had taken wickets on call throughout the series," Nielsen said. "When Jason is bowling, and his figures suggest he is giving up four, five, six runs an over at different times, it's really hard to keep the game from getting away when you're giving up runs from both ends.

"We bowled our first selected spinner for the tour in Cameron White, who had done a good job of restricting the run-rate during the first three Tests while taking very timely wickets (dismissing Sachin Tendulkar twice). Unfortunately, this time it wasn't successful, but if it had been I think those in the media would be singing Ricky's praises."