December 19, 2010

Ponting's captaincy is hurting Australia

He's trying too hard to prove he's worthy. When he quits, Haddin might be Australia's best option as a stop-gap leader

Reports of Ricky Ponting's demise have been greatly exaggerated. His Test captaincy has been prolonged by a player who himself was in danger of disappearing off the cricketing map just a few days ago.

Mitchell Johnson continued his love affair with the WACA pitch by producing another electrifying spell to rip the heart out of the England batting order. If it wasn't the work done with the Australian coaching staff that fixed the ailing Johnson, then a visit by the Fremantle Doctor provided the ideal tonic.

Nevertheless, Johnson's epic resurgence shouldn't camouflage the fact that Ponting's captaincy is starting to hurt the Australian team. In what appears to be an attempt to prove the critics wrong, Ponting has become impatient for success and his constant changes to the field placings only served to distract the bowlers from their task. He looks like a captain trying too hard to prove he's worthy, rather than a steady one with a firm grip on the levers. There's no need to be a cricketing genius at the WACA ground; if you bowl to encourage the drive, mix in the odd bouncer and keep as many catching fieldsmen behind the wicket as possible, success will generally follow.

If it hadn't been for Johnson's remarkable revival, the series could have been England's for the taking. If the pattern of the game had continued to follow that of the first day, Ponting's captaincy would now be under immediate threat. It hasn't helped that Ponting went cheaply in Perth after failures in the first two Tests. He's currently a batsman out of luck rather than out of form. In this series he's either got a good one early or he's edged to the keeper down leg side - a batsman's worst nightmare. Ponting's footwork is still intact and this generally means, for a player of his calibre, a big score is just around the corner.

While Ponting is coming to the end of his Test captaincy reign, the path to the future leadership has suddenly became a rutted road. Just a few weeks ago it appeared that Michael Clarke was certain to take over. However, the English bowlers have discovered his Achilles heel. They have made a concerted effort to unsettle him with the short stuff and it's starting to have a debilitating affect on his batting. If Clarke doesn't arrest this slide before the end of the series, the selectors will be loath to appoint him captain with such an ominous cloud hanging over his head.

Haddin has already had some success as captain of New South Wales and he's a good, aggressive cricketer with an eye for what keeps the game moving forward

If Clarke does continue to struggle, Australia could be forced to deviate from their time-honoured method of choosing a long-term captain. If they opt for a stop-gap captain, Brad Haddin would be a good choice. Haddin has already had some success as captain of New South Wales, and he's a good, aggressive cricketer with an eye for what keeps the game moving forward. He's also brutally frank about his own performance and if he adopted similar principles as Australian captain he'd be on the right track.

Former champion keeper Ian Healy dismisses worries that Haddin may feel overloaded with the captaincy. Healy believes the spin-bowling quotient is not the factor it was when Adam Gilchrist kept to Shane Warne's many quality overs for Australia.

It may not be the ideal solution but it's better to have a stop-gap captain than make a glaring error that haunts the team for a couple of series.

The other player who has advanced his credentials is allrounder Shane Watson. His cricket has improved dramatically in the last 12 months, and the adjustments have all required a lot of thought and mental courage. These are both good ingredients for a captain. However, Watson's body language in times of stress hasn't progressed at the same pace as the rest of his game. A captain can't afford to display his mood for all too see, and Watson also hasn't had any previous captaincy experience.

Johnson's resurgence was the most dramatic turnaround by a fast bowler in an Ashes series since Frank "Typhoon" Tyson in 1954-55. The Typhoon changed direction after taking 1 for 160 in the opening encounter at the Gabba, as Australia battered England. He then administered the battering in the following Test at the SCG, taking 4 for 45 and 6 for 85, and went on to claim 28 wickets in the five-Test series as England retained the Ashes. Johnson's resurgence has followed a similarly devastating path. Whether it is ongoing like Tyson's and further prolongs Ponting's career remains to be seen.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Stuart on December 22, 2010, 5:32 GMT

    By the way, I dont see why Watson wouldnt make a good captain...he is young, he is aggressive...and he is more intelligent than people give him credit for...Yes he needs to work on his reaction to adverse situations...but he can surely learn that over time...I would definitely support Watto over Pup to replace Ponting @SFay Whats his style consciousness got to do with his leading abilities? MS Dhoni is pretty savvy, Sanga too, and Imran Khan was the original Adonis...didnt stop them from making great captains, did it?

  • Stuart on December 22, 2010, 5:26 GMT

    @Dr. H.K made an interesting point about Greg Chappell...Greg was a great player no doubt, probably our greatest batsman post Bradman...but the problem with him being a selector or in fact in any position of authority is that he is very egotistical...Whoever the captain might be, I have a feeling Greg would tend to undermine him...Maybe Greg is not the way forward us...contd

  • Andrew on December 22, 2010, 1:21 GMT

    Fact is Punters form as captain is no worse then other Oz captains have gone thru & come out the other side of. Tubby Taylor went thru an abysmal run way worse then Punter & came back. Greg Chappell was out of sorts during periods of his captaincy & finished his career well. Steve Waugh had "experts" calling for his head before THAT century at the SCG v England. Punter will blitz with the bat during the Boxing Day Test.

  • Andrew on December 22, 2010, 1:13 GMT

    @dr_sachinfan_chennai - load of garbage. @mumbaiguy79 -true, I would rather a captain searching for success then one that doesn't. I generally agree with Ian C on most things but this article is hypocritical in that many times he has bagged captains for letting matches amble away from them. @ BillyCC- agreed -the amount of times he has been run out in the last 2 or 3 years is disturbing. @ tfjones1978 - that sort of thinking would of had SRT dropped 2 years ago, & Hussey 3 weeks ago... @ Beertjie - if fit & in form I would back Pup as the potential to be a great captain of Oz, however I want my captains to be indistructible like Border, Waugh & Taylor &.. Punter. Haddin would be a good stop gap captain. I agree with Ian C that Watto is too emotional for the job. @ Governor- enough of the White bandwagon, the guy is talented & could be a great captain, but his credentials are quite poor. His 1st class statistics are bloated by gorging on poor English county bowlers & is still just42

  • Kannan on December 21, 2010, 20:24 GMT

    @mharun91 & @stuartaussie: Very interesting observations! the fact that OZ once had Langer, Haydos & waugh to count on if Ponting failed really did affect his style! It was always aggresive because the others could be counted upon! It points to two things here:

    Ponting & Sachin are very different! Sachin is humility personified and can control his aggression! Ponting is instinctive and might not submit to the authority of another captain easily! Hence selectors might not want to take chances with Ponting once he loses his Captaincy!

    If Ponting does continue, he will be under tremendous pressure because 1) Chappell is at helm and that is not good for ANYONE; (not even Don would be spared)! The Oz public has been pampered with so many wins all these years and every failure will be magnified under their expectant eyes!

    It is best to give Ponting more time as he is likely to know when to go!

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2010, 3:25 GMT

    I agree with Chappell that Ponting's demise is exagerrated. He never was the great he was made out to be!! And about Johnson saving his captaincy, hasn't that always been the case? Border made the Aussies start believing they could win, Taylor brought stability and Steve Waugh took them to the dominant position in late 99. Ponting just cashed in after these guys!!

  • Ben on December 21, 2010, 2:26 GMT

    Pointing than SImon Kattich than Cameron White..

    Kattich has all the credentials for a great captain. Its worth noting for NSW Kattich is ahead of Clarke.

    You would be mad giving it to Shane Watson soon he has enough on his plate to learn to be a captain.

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2010, 1:40 GMT

    leave ponta alone,he is the best and will be for five years to come

  • Mohan on December 20, 2010, 22:35 GMT

    My own view is that this is not the right time to drop Ponting or talk about changing him. Not in the middle of an important series. The selectors have missed doing their homework before and they have to endure their folly now. If Ponting miraculously rediscovers his form, all this talk will be a tad comical. Ian is half right and much too late with his half-criticism. Ponting may himself offer to quit if he finds himself trodding mediocre path for too long.

  • Mohan on December 20, 2010, 22:23 GMT

    The summary as I see it :

    1) if you are out of form you don't make a good captain. 2) if you are great you are not out of form, you may be unlucky though. 3) if your body language is expressive then you are not great/captain material. 4) if one player gets into devastating form, ( an out of luck, non-performing ) captain may well continue for a while.

    All ridiculous conclusions; why doesn't Ian just say there is no alternative to Ponting which is what he seems to be saying and thus negating the title line ?

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