June 21, 2013

An irrevocable loss to Australian cricket

Ricky Ponting's retirement deprives Australian cricket of an invaluable, intangible resource: 21 years of experience at state level
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Forget all the waffle about an Ashes comeback, for Ricky Ponting was done with international cricket the moment he cut Robin Peterson to slip in last summer's Perth Test. No, the announcement of his full retirement this week has not robbed Australia of an Ashes saviour. It has, however, deprived Australian cricket of an invaluable, intangible resource: 21 years of experience at state level. One of the final links to a golden age of domestic batting is gone.

Of course, more than any other modern Australian cricketer, Ponting has earned the right to some family time, having been on the road more or less permanently since he was 17. Nobody can begrudge him the desire to spend his days at home with his wife and two young daughters. And having finished last summer with a Sheffield Shield title, the first piece of domestic team silverware he has ever won, Ponting has ended his state career on a high.

But boy will he be missed by a domestic cricket scene crying out for exemplars. Michael Hussey is undecided on his Western Australia future but if he goes too, it will truly be the end of an era: only Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin, Marcus North and Michael Clarke will remain active of players who began their state careers in the 1990s.

Last November, Hussey spoke of his alarm at the state of modern Sheffield Shield pitches. The green seamers, he argued, meant that young batsmen did not learn how to build a long innings, and that an 800-run season nowadays was equivalent to a 1000-run summer in the mid-1990s. That may be true. But even so, the only batsman to hit 800 Shield runs in 2012-13 was Ponting, a 38-year-old who in the first half of the summer was made to look second-rate by the South African attack.

Where were the young batsmen piling up the runs as Ponting and Hussey had in their youth? Had they been ruined by Twenty20 and the tempo associated with it? Had they been softened by youth pathways that told them they were better than they really were? Where was the tenacity that possessed men like Stuart Law, Matthew Hayden, Darren Lehmann, Jamie Siddons, Brad Hodge and Martin Love? And importantly, who will they learn it from if not the likes of Ponting and Hussey?

Notably, the best-performed of what might be called the next generation of batsmen last season was Alex Doolan. Notably, that is, because he spent much of his summer batting with Ponting. Doolan is 27, not young by cricketing standards, but those close to the Tasmania team have said it took until this season for Doolan to truly believe in his own ability. Keeping pace with Ponting in a few big partnerships certainly helped in that regard.

Ponting's insatiable appetite for runs, and the high price he placed on his wicket, were on display when he made an unbeaten 200 against New South Wales at Bellerive Oval in February. It was the highest score of the Shield season. One of his opponents in that match was Nic Maddinson, a 21-year-old batsman of immense talent who was yet to really cash in. Having seen the way Ponting compiled his innings, Maddinson went out and accumulated a career-best 154 in nearly five and a half hours.

Of course, it's not as if Ponting's presence magically made other batsmen better. Tasmania captain George Bailey admitted he became complacent coming in after the strong platforms laid by Ponting, Doolan and Mark Cosgrove last summer. But Ponting did provide a prototype, an example for young batsmen to follow, both in his impeccable preparation and his match savvy.

In Ponting's first Shield summer, Geoff Marsh made five tons, Siddons and Damien Martyn scored four, Michael Slater, Dene Hills, Paul Nobes and Ponting himself each made three. In Ponting's 21st Shield campaign, he and fellow veteran Rogers topped the century tally with three each. The pitches might be more challenging than they were in the 1990s, but runs are still there for batsmen with talent and tenacity. How many of those remain, though?

There are some promising younger batsmen coming through - Doolan, Maddinson, Joe Burns, Jordan Silk, to name a few. If Hussey follows Ponting into retirement, it will be up to them to start piling up the runs, and they'll have to learn from other thirty-somethings like Rogers and Haddin while they still can. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: there will be no more learning from Ponting. Australian cricket will be poorer for it.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • couchpundit on June 25, 2013, 15:10 GMT

    @popcorn--- Ponting is no Director material .....he is not an honest cricketer in his playing days...you might argue not..but facts or facts.....if you want somone from golden age...it has to be Mark Taylor,Steve Waugh or Mattehw Hayden and ofcourse gilly and mike hussey...rest of the lot are gifted players and does not know about hardwork to have come up from groundup. One always need to put men who worked had with little/no talent to make it big in International arena in key posts rather than immensely talented cricketers who can not understnad the tough times one goes through formative years.

  • popcorn on June 24, 2013, 4:10 GMT

    NOT A SINGLE ONE of the current cricketers has the work ethic that Ricky Ponting had, barring Michel Clarke.NOT A SINGLE CRICKETER PUT A PRICE ON HIS WICKET LIKE RICKY PONTING DID.I wish he becomes the Director of the centre of Excellence at Brisbane.I wish he becomes the Director of Club Cricket to teach the youngsters at grassroots level.I wish gets on the circuit for talk shows to show the fierce pride he had playing for Australia, and what the Baggy Green Cap should mean to a cricketer who is awarded.

  • popcorn on June 24, 2013, 4:00 GMT

    NOT A SINGLE ONE of the current cricketers has the work ethic that Ricky Ponting had, barring Michel Clarke.NOT A SINGLE CRICKETER PUT A PRICE ON HIS WICKET LIKE RICKY PONTING DID.I wish he becomes the Director of the centre of Excellence at Brisbane.I wish he becomes the Director of Club Cricket to teach the youngsters at grassroots level.I wish gets on the circuit for talk shows to show the fierce pride he had playing for Australia, and what the Baggy Green Cap should mean to a cricketer who is awarded.

  • Zubeir09 on June 23, 2013, 20:16 GMT

    I will miss You Punter. Definitely he has every right to spend some time with his family. But Aus. team is also his family and need him evenly as Rianna and their daughhters do. I hope Ricky will be soon into the management of Aus cricket team. He should be made Cheif selector as soon as John steps down.

  • Lara213 on June 23, 2013, 10:56 GMT

    Thanks for your reply. I would argue since the 2010/11 Australia's fall has almost been a freefall arguably worse than the Windies. Apart from the disastrous '98 tour to SA, the Windies remained a potent force until 2000, pushing Australia harder than anyone in 96/97 and might even have won back the Frank Worrel from Aus in 98/99 drawing narrowly 2-2 in a series that those with a less anglocentric view believe to be one of the greatest of all time, even better than the 2005 Ashes. Their steep decline really began after 2000 with the retirement of Ambrose/Walsh.

  • android_user on June 23, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    ricky was the last one amongst the greatest cricketers in australia so far who retired and its indeed an irrcoverable loss to the aussie cricket...and it has been quite evident from the recent australian perfromance in iccct .

  • dummy4fb on June 23, 2013, 5:33 GMT

    really, punter definitely cricket will miss you. definitely u r the best captain of any era. i miss u alongwith sachin in one day cricket

  • ScottyMuller on June 22, 2013, 23:43 GMT

    Lara213's comments are interesting and which I partially agree with. Ponting is the best australian batsman I have been lucky enough to watch. We are looking at his history through rose coloured glasses though ... he was an ordinary, unimaginative captain. Who could forget him putting over rates ahead of pushing for an unlikely win in India in 2008? Aust should-could have won the ashes in 2005-09 ... but couldn't close the deal, we also should have beat India in India in 2010 but lost by 1 wicket. I think the Aust and WI experiences are different however. Ponting was a major part of the Aussie domination whereas Lara was only there for the last hurrah in the early 90s. Lara only (badly) captained them intermittently. Lastly, most importantly, australian cricket has not crash dived as lara213 put it. The WI were the worst test team in world cricket within 4 years of the Aussies knocking off their crown ... Australia are not there ... yet. ome decent batsman would be nice

  • Gavin1957 on June 22, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    Hi Brydon

    Loved your article! Michael Klinger (currently captain against Australia A in their tour match) debuted for Victoria in 1998 and is still playing for South Australia, so you can add him to your small list of active state players from the 1990s.

    Gav

  • dummy4fb on June 22, 2013, 20:20 GMT

    Top players are an asset for any side so long they last and useful. But over stayed their welcome, they prevent new talent to flurish. This happening in number of cases for personal interest. Said that,This batter was one amonst the all times. If to add, he never got his footwork in place for hook/pull shot. Discovered this weakness at latter stage when reflexes are gone weak,it is a basket case for many - and it happend with him.

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