December 4, 2011

There are runs in Ricky still

On the evidence of his last two Tests, the Australian batsman looks to have found some of his old touch

Ricky Ponting hit a glorious boundary off the back foot this week to bring up a second successive half-century in Test cricket. Doesn't sound like much of an achievement for a batsman who has amassed more than 12,000 runs in Test cricket, but it was confirmation that the rejuvenation of the former captain is progressing well.

The first sign that things in the Ponting world were on the improve was a pull shot he hit at the Wanderers on the way to helping Australia claim a pulsating victory over South Africa. Where Ponting had been over-committing on the front foot and playing his pull shots in the air for about 12 months, this time he transferred his weight onto the back foot and hit the ball like a rocket into the ground and to the boundary. That was a Ponting-in-his-prime pull shot.

When Ponting is a little anxious or in the mood to dictate at all costs, he often has a tendency to over-commit to the front foot. When that happens, his back-foot play is not authoritative and he's more vulnerable. Consequently, those two shots, the one at the Wanderers and then the satisfying one at the Gabba, were good signs, as he tries to prolong his successful career.

Throughout his career Ponting's honest approach has been a strong point in his development. From the time he announced publicly that he had a problem with alcohol, to calling a team meeting after the 2005 Ashes loss, he has been able to face his demons. Once again he has faced up to a lean trot with the bat and through hard work been able to rehabilitate his game.

It's doubtful if Ponting can consistently produce big innings like in his glory days, but if he's prepared to play at a slightly lower standard, he can still be a useful contributor to this young team.

The hardest thing for an ageing batsman to do is to dredge up peak concentration on a regular basis. There are days when the concentration is still strong but there are times when the mind won't do as it's told. Those are the days when batting is a real grind, and it often results in starts that aren't converted into something substantial. If Ponting is prepared to put up with those frustrations, and more importantly, the selectors' patience isn't thoroughly tested, he can still be valuable.

For some players their pride is such that it won't allow them to play at a slightly lower standard. Those players generally retire before the selectors can wield the axe. But even though Ponting has enormous pride in his performance, his desire to remain a competitor on the international stage is so strong, he's been prepared to lower his sights a little. The downside is, he could leave himself at the mercy of the selectors. As long as the selectors are prepared to "give him a wink" when they believe his time is up, he can still play a little longer and retire with his dignity intact.

Ponting is genuinely enthused about the young talent in the Australian side and he loves the role of mentor. Michael Clarke is happy with that situation and regularly refers in glowing terms to Ponting's contribution being far greater than the value of his runs.

One of those young talents to excite is the attacking offspinner Nathan Lyon. His style of bowling, with deceptive flight, good bounce and a little turn, will always test batsmen, and even if he's not taking wickets he helps the cause. Following a stagnant period after Shane Warne's retirement, where spin bowling has been in the doldrums, Lyon is a breath of fresh air.

Clarke's handling of Lyon has also been refreshing, and this is one aspect of captaincy where he's superior to Ponting. It can sometimes be a disaster when a recently retired skipper remains in the team. Often it can hamper the new captain, but the current arrangement seems to be working well. Clarke has stamped his authority on the job and Ponting remains in the background when it comes to on-field tactics.

Judging by the back-foot shots that are again flowing from Ponting's bat, he has brought about an adjustment to his use-by-date. His last two innings have pushed it back rather than brought it forward.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • natmastak on December 7, 2011, 16:58 GMT

    in last two years even bhajji scored more centuries than punter. beat that.

  • natmastak on December 7, 2011, 16:54 GMT

    to all those shouting from rooftops that Ponting is equal to Sachin,I , have never seen punter hooking Steyn or Walsh and will never dream about it coz I know the difference between two. and its better if you all also understand it .

  • sridhar on December 7, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Finally an Australian writer that has something good to say about Ricky Ponting. Strange isnt it that Australia"s most successful batsman and captain of two world cup winning teams and the captain of the best test team for a decade has been discarded and pilloried because he lost the ashes! The top three batsmen in the world Sachin, Dravid and Ponting are all at least 36 and Kallis the next is getting there. Yes Ponting has not been at his best for some time now, but the signs are all there that he will at least hold his own if not dominate in the next year or two.The last two innings have demonstrated that he has still the desire to continue and more critically has the capability to take on the best and that means Steyn. I feel he can and will make runs against India. As Australia"s most successful post war batsman, he should be given the perk of sensibly deciding when he will leave rather than be pushed out. sridhar

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2011, 13:36 GMT

    technically sachin is best with blend of attack and defence with superb technique ricky has many flaws even lara dravid technically gud but again he is not aggresive sachin and lara are best they have faced quality bowlers and scored in all countries and are rated by 1990- to 2000 bowlerslike donald pollock wasim waqar ambrose walsh todays bowlers are useless except styen zaheer vaas lee gillespie ntini only

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2011, 13:30 GMT

    ponting fan from india this is for you harbjan srinath are not in a league of warne and magra warne is greatest leg spinner okkk use your brains harbhajan joke bowler

  • brp on December 6, 2011, 13:11 GMT

    @cheeka, Ponting faced all the aussie fast bowlers in 1990s !! Now you want to bring domestic season in the mix !!! come on... Mcgrath has more wickets than any other fast bowler for a reason!!! @pontingfanfromindia-- You are comparing Srinath to McGrath? In any case, as long as anyone can score runs, they should keep playing regardless of age until that person wants to retire..

  • Srikaanth on December 6, 2011, 9:56 GMT

    Hello brp2009, u said ricky struggled against ishant, what he would have done against mcgrath, during 1990's ricky faced all the aussie fast bowlers and scored heavily against them. ur sachin, avg against SAF with donald and pollock shows 31 in test cricket and agains PAK he is only 40 (akram, waqar, akthar, ) so he is not at all good against pure fast bowlers......... Mcgrath was not threatning fast bowler. so sachin scored against him.

  • Srikaanth on December 6, 2011, 9:48 GMT

    Apoorv Pandey: first you check your cricket knowledge. Lara has not scored a century in india. Ponting has scored century in india......

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2011, 9:22 GMT

    Ponting has come down on his ego and that is why he has scored two fifties.The fact that he advised Dravid not to retire in Oct 2010 came out in the openess through his mouth in 2011 is a clear pointer to his state of mind.Ian Chappell never considered Dravid as great and today he has achieved better numbers than Ponting. Ponting can still play at the lofty standards he set for himself or might succumb. No disgrace. He has nothing to prove to anyone. Let him play and he will leave before someone pats on his shoulder. This microanalysis is not required. Even if scores @100 from now on, he will never become another Sachin. Sachin Lara first and then Dravid Ponting Kallis in the pantheon of batting greats.

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    @dms1972 Kindly tell me in which series that Tendulkar was pathetic ,Even the Disatrous series for India doesnt stop Tendulkar to fell to stamp the Authority yes last series against England where India white washed Tendulakar performed below his potential but never pathetic ,Your Ricky Ponting he was piece of Dust against our Harbhajahn in 2001 series doesnt know how to score or evenConnect his bat with Harbhajan Delivery same against Ishant Sharma in perth test and in 2008 indias home series against Australia,So please bringing Zim Bd series you dint have sachin pontings number

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