Australia in India 2008-09 November 13, 2008

Sutherland backs Ponting's explanation

Cricinfo staff

After a week of strong criticism Ricky Ponting was in the company of more friendly faces, including his wife Rianna and baby daughter Emmy, at his book launch in Sydney © AFP

Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland has thrown his support behind Ricky Ponting over Australia's tactics in the fourth Test in Nagpur. Sutherland said on the fifth day of the match that he looked forward to speaking to Ponting to find out why Australia used part-time slow bowlers on the previous day when they had a chance to try and knock over India's lower order quickly.

But Sutherland, who helped launch Ponting's book Captain's Diary 2008 in Sydney on Thursday, said his comments had been slightly misconstrued. "I was asked a question in Melbourne a few days ago," Sutherland said.

"I explained that by saying that I didn't really want to be drawn on that because I hadn't had an opportunity to really understand what happened in the course of the game and I would have the opportunity hopefully in the next few days to talk to people and understand that. It wasn't me issuing a please explain or wanting to come in and interfere on cricket tactics so it's been a little bit misunderstood."

Sutherland said Ponting had provided "a very reasonable explanation" as to why he did not employ his main strike bowlers as he was trying to improve the over rate. "It's understandable that not everyone might agree with exactly what he said," Sutherland said. "But we need to accept that he's the captain of the Australian cricket team and he has that responsibility."

Ponting has come under fire from all angles during the past week. He was especially annoyed at the suggestion he had put his own interests above those of the team by speeding up the overs to avoid a potential suspension while the Test gradually slipped out of Australia's reach.

"Rick's batting record speaks for itself but given the events of this week perhaps some need reminding that he is already a cricketing great," Sutherland said. "He is a player who has always put the team first and he has never measured success by personal statistics.

"Any suggestion that he put himself first ahead of the team last week in Nagpur is completely off beam and can only come from someone who does not know him or understand him. With the state of the game today I think Ricky has the potential to end up as the most influential Australian cricketer ever, Bradman apart."

Ponting said the past week and the reactions to the Nagpur loss sat alongside the aftermath of January's controversial Sydney Test as the toughest times in his international career. "When [people] infer that I'd be putting myself ahead of my team and my team-mates and the chance of pushing for a result in the game," Ponting said, "then that's pretty hurtful."

Both men have agreed that over rates need to improve in Test cricket and Sutherland said the current penalty system of fines and suspensions was not sufficient. His comments came after the former Australia coach John Buchanan suggested a yellow card-style punishment, which would mean umpires had the ability to impose sanctions during play.

"Umpires certainly have that responsibility out on the ground, but they have a responsibility to communicate," Sutherland said. "They don't necessarily have a remedy or a stick in their hand to deal with that.

"We've been very successful here in first-class cricket by introducing penalties that are aligned to points, so, all of a sudden, no one has trouble bowling 96 overs in a day in Sheffield Shield cricket because if they don't, it will impact on their points and it will mean there will be a greater likelihood they will miss out on the Sheffield Shield final.

Now that is a big stick, and I would suggest that these fines and possible suspensions are not a big enough stick. It would appear to me that there isn't any remedy for over rates, when an umpire actually has something inside the game that they can deal with. And perhaps that's something that needs to be explored a little bit further."