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

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