January 8, 2008

Open your eyes, Ricky

Australia's captain needs greater awareness of his team's actions

Ricky Ponting is not a popular man in India © AFP

Somebody, probably a preschool teacher, needs to explain simply to Ricky Ponting about the damage that has been caused by his team during the Sydney Test. While India burns and fumes over issues ranging from race to umpiring and sportsmanship, Ponting continues to believe his team has done nothing wrong.

It is extraordinary that he doesn't understand the significance of India's threat to boycott the tour or Australia's direct and indirect roles in the lead-up to it. He is as temporarily blind as some of the officials were at the SCG.

On a day when there was a call for Ponting, Australia's most successful captain, to be sacked, his only concession was that he would sit down with Anil Kumble and talk about the situation "if Anil thinks that is necessary". "But I'd be really surprised if he thought it was."

If it's necessary? At the time Ponting was speaking to the Australian the entire tour was in doubt. A day earlier Kumble had accused Australia of not playing in the spirit of the game, an insult that should be even more damaging than "monkey" or "bastard" to any self-respecting cricketer. Obviously it's not to Ponting, who remains convinced the match was played hard, fairly and properly.

He still does not realise how bad the situation has become, which is where the expert at dealing with children comes in. "Yes, Ricky, I know you won the Test, and it was very, very exciting. Yes, you were a very good boy for giving Michael Clarke a bowl right at the end. But, and this is the hard part, sometimes cricket is not all about winning. Your team was very naughty and now India are very, very upset."

Ponting does not believe it. "I don't think there is much, if any, animosity between the players on both teams," he said, showing his lack of grasp on the issue. "Sure, there was a lot of emotion flying around from our side and the Indian side at the end of the match. I'm more than willing to sit down and talk to Anil."

"Yes, Ricky, I know you won the Test, and it was very, very exciting. Yes, you were a very good boy for giving Michael Clarke a bowl right at the end. But, and this is the hard part, sometimes cricket is not all about winning. Your team was very naughty and now India are very, very upset"

In his column in the same paper titled "I did the right thing by the game", Ponting said everyone in the Australian team knows how important the spirit of cricket is to the way they play. Not on the evidence of the Sydney Test, with the contentious catching rulings, sledging, poor sportsmanship, persistent appeals on flagging umpires, and ungracious celebrations.

The Indian players would laugh at Ponting's suggestion over his team's attitude and his view on "running to the umpires". Ponting passed on the information about Harbhajan Singh's racist comment to Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor, which eventually led to Harbhajan getting a three-Test ban and the tourists considering going home.

"Anyone who knows me and the way I play will be aware I do not make a point of running to umpires and making complaints," Ponting wrote. After his aggressive exchange with an Indian journalist at the end of the Test, where he said anyone who doubted his integrity over catches should not be in the room, Ponting is losing credibility by the day. The only problem is it's only those outside the team who can see it.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anthony on January 9, 2008, 9:05 GMT

    Ricky Ponting and the Australian team having done nothing wrong whatsoever.

    The Australian team are a target, because they are at the top of the cricket ladder and have been for a very long time. They hold just about every record and trophy. Simply they are awesome. They play hard, and they play fair. Bottom line.

    Perhaps if other teams toughened up, played as hard, and got on with the game, then perhaps the Australian team would be tested and stretched and possibly given a sniff of competition!

    Why suddenly is poor Harbhajan Singh and the Indian team being seen as the victim, by all and sundry. I didn't realise racial abuse was "in the spirit of the game". They are sore losers and acting disgracefully!

  • Ryan on January 9, 2008, 4:28 GMT

    The Aussies definitely have nurtured an uncompromising killer instinct and this has moved the game away from most peoples acceptance. Clearly this needs to be fixed, but lets not get too carried away with that for the moment. At issue is a racial slur by a player who has done it before using the same phrase as the crowd at Mumbai. Not a playful name as some have suggested but one that is directed at nobody else but the only black player in the team. Mike Proctor, who has seen the worst of racism, recognised that it wasn't some kind of misunderstanding. Sledging is a worldwide phenomenon and all the counties have very different cultures. Who decides where the line in the sand might lie? Taunts about a blokes wife who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer crossed all the lines. Picking out the black man and calling him a monkey is right up there too. Some of the Aussies need a good shake but so too some of the Indians. It draws a long bow to suggest that the Aussies are alone.

  • Narayanan on January 9, 2008, 4:22 GMT

    Alright there were too many decisions which were wrong, too many debatable, too many result-altering. But, honestly, is it the first time that this kind of situation has ever happened ? Why were neutral umpires introduced, if not for contentious decisions from umpires which caused everyone to doubt if they were partial. So, neutral or not, umpires have always made mistakes and how much ever technology is used there is always going to be mistakes, albeit to a lesser degree. Next, in regard to the "spirit of the game", whenever India said that "we will meet aggression with aggression" it is quite clear that they intend to "sledge if Aussies do". Now sledging for whatever reason even by provocation - is it ok ? Only if two hands clap, noise is produced. That does not mean to take whatever is thrown at you but to channel the reaction in the right way. I dont have many words left to mention about the "racism" controversy. All I want to say is this is just a sport and play it as one.MOVE ON!

  • Bradley on January 9, 2008, 3:49 GMT

    Wow this is a poor and one sided article. Let's look at the reasons Ponting is being berated: 1) He claimed a catch which he 'grassed'. He had the ball completely under control before he or it hit the ground. That's why he's claiming he caught it. Whether that's a correct interpretation of a 'catch' is a matter for some discussion, but I would certainly claim that as a catch if I had complete control before I landed. 2) His players didn't walk. Well, neither did Indian players in the recent ODI series. What goes around, comes around. 3) He raised his finger for the Clarke catch. That was exactly what was decided on at the beginning of the test series, according to Ponting. 4) Persistent appealing. The Indians being upset at this is like an Aussie cricket fan complaining that Roger Federer wins all the time. 5) He celebrated winning a test match. This is just laughable, after the way H.Singh celebrated the wicket of Ponting...

  • Matthew on January 9, 2008, 3:43 GMT

    You are a disgrace Peter English. Do you really expect a professional sportsman (of the highest calibre at that) to posses a desirte to win and not celebrate a win after such a tight fought contest? Prefessionalism always brings a stronger desire to win, just take a look at the diving and simulation in professional football, the protests in sailing, and the drugs in cycling and athletics. Appealing to an umpire, waiting for an umpire to make a decision and forgetting to shake the opponents hands after a win are not in the same league as these examples I have given above. Ricky has done nothing wrong. If India had of won the game from a similar position they would have celebrated in the same manner. But they didn't and they cannot get over it. As for the racism issue, Harbajan and the Indian public have a history with this exact phrase so he should know better, Ricky was simply following the rules he was playing under. They got caught, they should suffer.

  • Prince on January 9, 2008, 3:21 GMT

    I live in Canada and play cricket here at a high level. we were always taught by our coaches to always play with dignity and pride...ricky ponting does not play with any of those qualities, which makes him one of the most most unrespected players in the game and definately should never be known as a legend or one of the greats of cricket.

  • Simon on January 9, 2008, 3:16 GMT

    I have never seen such a big whinge since I was 12 and playing in the backyard at home. Every person who has ever played cricket understands that you win some, you lose, calls go can go both ways. The Indian team and supporters need to stop crying like their mother just pulled them off the teet and either accept it or go home. They have a choice. Ricky and the Australian team can be proud of their efforts on and off the field.If someone questions your integrity, especially some minute reporter, of course your going to let them know that they are in the wrong.It's intersting all these people with their opinions that Ponting should be dropped.Absolute load of rubbish! Until your playing at the highest level and have the ability that these players have, leave your ideals to the backyard bbq where you can have your cheese with your whines.I'd like to see the current Indian team go home and send a second rate team over. At least they might play with some HEART Go the Mighty Aussies. 4-0

  • Augi on January 8, 2008, 10:07 GMT

    Ponting and his cohorts need a lesson on humility. I feel cricket australia should enlist people like Sachin and Federer to teach them how to play with dignity and still remain world champions. Months back Gavaskar mentioned the chances of the australian team getting banged up if they were not to put their acts together. The way things seem to proceed, you dont need much commonsense to extrapolate such a situation in future. When Ponting says "We play our cricket hard and fair", I can only visualise a see-saw: HARD high up the sky and FAIR low down to earth! An honest-aussie woulod soon be an oxymoron!

  • azad on January 8, 2008, 10:04 GMT

    Ricky as a Player and Captain has done what's right, appealed for the catch, he may or may not have grassed it. That's why there are two umpires, they should make the decisions and let them do it !!!

    Well well, India lost the match badly, as usual Harbajan thinks he's the greatest spinner when India has lost the match. Don't be sore losers, take it in the right spirit and play the game, the players play the game and the others will attend to what needs to be done. I guess the Indians have to make a big fuss since, if they are drubbed 4 nil, they cannot go home, their fans will burn their houses down, they need to find excuses !!!!

  • AZHAR on January 8, 2008, 10:04 GMT

    Why everybody is rallying behind the Indian team, is out of common sense. Things do happen on the field and sometimes they become ugly but is it necessary to blame any player for the faults of officials? Ponting is right as a captain,he would love to win a test match like any other team. I'm surprised by Kumble's complain of so called team spirit. Why did he keep quiet when his team got Inzimam out in one of the one dayers when they toured Pakistan. That time everything was within the law, if that was then I don't see any problem with Ricky Ponting or Clarke claiming a catch. It's the duty of the umpire to upheld or turn down. Now ICC has taken a pretty idiotic decision by removing Bucknor for the next test. From where I see it Mark Benson committed more mistakes than Bucknor, why the Indians are not going for his blood? beyond me. And for racism I hold BCCI responsible for not shunning the matter when it took place in the last series. Just forget it and it's time to move on.

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