January 2, 2011

Ponting's captaincy is over, Australia's turmoil isn't

Ricky Ponting was often a good captain, sometimes one who tried too hard. He can still play on as a batsman, though

The SCG was always going to be the right time and place for Ricky Ponting to relinquish the Test captaincy. Like a politician intoxicated by power, Ponting has talked about extending his leadership maybe as far as the 2013 Ashes series. This is unrealistic, as captains have a use-by-date. Their power to inspire wanes as personnel change and new ideas are required. A fresh side requires a younger captain; it needs to be his team.

Also, the future captain needs to be installed at a time that's right for his career, rather than at the whim of the incumbent. Unfortunately for Ponting, as this roller-coaster Ashes series evolved it became obvious his exit wasn't going to be the glamorous type a player of his calibre deserves. In the end his untimely injury made it a forgettable departure.

There'll be a tendency to blame Ricky Ponting for the chaos that surrounds Australian cricket. It's certainly a mess but it's far from all Ponting's making. In fact it was only Ponting's prodigious skill with the bat that kept the great Australian slide at bay for so long. Following the retirement of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, the Australian bowling regressed from difficult to overcome to beatable. It was Ponting's ability to make decisive runs that helped Australia amass substantial totals, which in turn enabled the weakened bowling attack to still win matches. When Ponting's bat failed him the awful truth was exposed. The Australian batting was fragile without him dominating at three, and the bowling was extremely inconsistent. In the end, the team-mates he'd protected weren't able to cover his back when he needed their help.

For a long time he was a good captain. In his debut series at the helm, Australia trailed on the first innings in all three Tests and yet on each occasion they fought back to defeat Sri Lanka on their own turf. This sort of feat can only be achieved with a talented team, but it also requires a captain with great resolve. When Ponting had Warne and McGrath in the attack, his team won at a superior rate to Steve Waugh's highly acclaimed side.

However, there were signs the brutal honesty that served him so well earlier in his career - when he publicly declared he had a drinking problem - and following the 2005 Ashes loss, wasn't as conspicuous in his hour of need.

When Ponting's bat failed him the awful truth was exposed. The Australian batting was fragile without him dominating at three, and the bowling was extremely inconsistent

His preference for players appeared to veer more towards like and dislike rather than realistic cricket appraisal. His captaincy style developed into one of rapid-fire field changes, designed perhaps to indicate a man of action but which made him look like a captain who was trying too hard and confusing his bowlers.

The defiant streak that fuelled his batting but got him into hot water as a young player occasionally surfaced. When he felt umpires were in the wrong it quickly turned into a siege situation, where he imagined his team was always on the wrong end of debatable decisions. The prolonged haranguing of the two umpires at the MCG was an indication he'd reached the end of his reign.

Ponting's exit from the captaincy was a sad one but that's the reality of sport; no one writes a script. He has been a top-class batsman and often a good captain, and at other times one who has floundered. He deserves the opportunity to defend Australia's World Cup title as captain, and if he decides to play on it should only be as a batsman.

The replacement captain for the SCG is Michael Clarke. He probably felt he was saying the right thing by indicating he wouldn't want to captain Ponting in Test matches. However, in the same way as Ponting doesn't dictate how long he captains, players don't get to choose who they serve under.

If Clarke is the future Test captain he has a difficult road ahead: an inexperienced and fragile side, his own form to be resurrected, and a controversial public image to overcome. He probably doesn't also need the presence of a past captain shadowing his every move.

Nevertheless, if Ponting does decide to play on there's every chance his form will warrant Test selection. This summer has been one of turmoil for Australian cricket and there's every indication that unlike Ponting's Test captaincy, the chaos isn't over.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2011, 10:14 GMT

    Tejas is right. Any team with any sort of captain can win if u have all time gr8 pplayers like warne,macgreth,gilchrist,hayden,lee,symonds or damien martyn. The key is cricket is not a captain's game but a compile effort of all the individual 11 players. Ponting is the same man which he use to be in his success days may be due to age factor not the same dominating batsman as before, but still u have 10 players in ur control then y don't u show the same killing insticnt as u had shown to the world when u were no. 1. Sir cricket is all about a team game and captain can do nothing if u don't have quality players on your side.

  • Lee on January 5, 2011, 4:21 GMT

    nikhilbengeri - I don't think the debate here is whether Chappell was a better captain than Ponting. Trust me, I have no real fondness for Chappell the man, but have a hell of a lot of respect for Chappell as a cricket judge. And he's right on the money here again, though I suspect he's being too nice. Clarke's form is screaming for him to be dropped, how could he realistically succeed as captain? Steve Waugh was dropped and came back stronger, Clarke needs the same treatment. As for Ponting, well, with all due respect I'd rather be experimenting with an eye to the future right now (eg. Khawaja, Feguson, Lynn, Maddinson - take your pick) than waiting for a rising 36yo to find some form. Australia needs to resign itself to the fact that there's a period of adjustment needed for the next 2-3 years until we strike a winning combination.

  • Steve on January 4, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    @PROTEAFAN Absolutely right.How can Watson who is an opener in one dayers come on as opener in test matches and still being continued, is out of my head?And of course the selection bloopers are just laughable to say the least.How come Hilfenhaus is still retained even after taking just 1 wicket way back in the 1st over of the 1st test?Hughes has great talent and was wrongly dropped in Ashes 2009 and that has dented his confidence badly.All the problems for Aussies start from the top of the order where both the openers are non regular openers, Katich and Watson.Ponting should go down to No.4 and Clarke should go back to Lara Bingle.Since their breakup Clarke has been in horrible form.Hussey is a genius and is the only one who retains his place.Johnson should have been dropped way back in 2009.I think young players like Shaun Marsh,Mitch Starc, Tony Copeland, Pattinson,Ben Cutting etc. should be given chances and players like Watson should be dropped as he has forgotten his bowling.

  • Arun on January 4, 2011, 18:12 GMT

    A wise sage once said, "Border built the house brick by brick, Taylor adorned the house with furniture and fittings, Waugh simply moved in".. and now you can add "Clarke is putting the finishing touches on the dismantling that Ponting started".. when the next rebuilding cycle starts, who's going to take on Border's role?

  • Mudasir on January 4, 2011, 15:39 GMT

    Australia One Day world cup squad .This team has fire power to do well in world cup Shaun Marsh David Warner Ricky pointing Shane Watson Micheal Clarke Micheal Hussey Cameeron White Brad Haddin Mitchell Johnson Shaun Tait Nathan Hauritz Douggie Bolliger Steve Smith Peter siddle ..

  • Mudasir on January 4, 2011, 15:31 GMT

    When u loose players like ..in decade ..then u have prob like windies Mattew Hayden Adam Glicrist Steve Waugh Mark waugh Justin Langer Shane Warne Damein Fleming Stuart Magill Glenn magrath Jason Gillispie Brad hogg Andrew symonds Damein Martyn Brett Lee Micheal kasporav Stuart clark Darren Lehman

  • Nikhil on January 4, 2011, 11:07 GMT

    Absolutely right jameswayne: Let us remind Mr. Chappel that your own average in tests was just 42.42 and Punters avg. is 53.51 which is way beyond yours.. So just check your facts before writing on such issues. He has been a great captain since Steve Waugh. And more over your captainancy record is 50 %. (For JUST 30 Matches). So before commenting on Ricky's captainancy, better check your own shoes. Ricky has the capacity to lead any side on a given day and see to it that he triumphs,.. Its just he is not getting the right deputy, and players to support him.. bad time prevailed even with you.. So its just a matter of time before Ponting strikes again..

  • Wayne on January 4, 2011, 6:06 GMT

    Mr.Chappell should be reminded that ponting is already a legend irrespective of the 3 Ashes losses.All forget that Ponting was the heaviest scorer than any batsman in test matches from 2003 till 2009.That's a hell of a time at the top. Wonder if any present cricketer comes even close to Ponting's record in a triple role as captain,batsman and fielder.One critical area that should be examined, is the World Cup. Here, where the pressure really counts, Ponting blows every other captain away in the history of the game. He has captained 22 matches and won 22 matches. That is incredible and impossible. No player will ever break the record of Ponting as captain at the world cup.He has won the Champions trophy twice in succession which is the second best tournament.Other than that, Ponting has also equaled the world record of 16 consecutive test match wins as captain.And we all know what Ian Chappell(Botham hammer on his cheek)and his brother Greg(Underarm controversy)have achieved in cricket.

  • Ivan on January 4, 2011, 2:06 GMT

    Ponting was a very good captain and a fine batsman, one of the best in his time. But there is always a time when you come to your end. believe this is the time. When you are missing your favourite shot and getting hit in the process is a sure sigh of losing it. What he should have done is take himself out of slips and the NO 3 position before this series and this presumed sight problems may not have surfaces and his tenure as captain might have been prolonged. I which him all the best but sad to say his time is near the end.

  • Anbunirai on January 4, 2011, 0:56 GMT

    I have been reading and watching Ian Chappel's comments over the years and I find that he tends to be mighty negative. Well, i think if Ponting reinvents himself (which he is very capable of doing) he can get out of the slump he is in. and if he does that he sure has a few more years as a good player and captain.

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