Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 3rd day December 28, 2010

The sad demise of Ponting

His team needed a huge score, but Australia's captain managed just 20 as the end of a career looms larger

Ricky Ponting cannot stir himself from his Ashes nightmare and when he wakes on Wednesday his side will be only four wickets from a defeat that ends any dreams of winning back the urn. A day after being fined 40% of his match fee for arguing with the umpires, Ponting failed to inspire his side and went quietly for 20 when he needed 200.

A cloud of depression hangs over Ponting and it seems the only way it will clear is if he walks away from the side he has been trying so hard to nurture. Stepping back is not part of his nature so he may require a push - either out of the side or down the order.

The rest of the players look to Ponting as a role model, but he is not providing them with many valuable lessons. In this game the troubles of his predicament morphed into an ugly debate over a dismissal that earned the fine and he has provided only 30 runs, taking his tally to 113 at 16.14 for the series.

It has been sad to watch such a great No.3 perform so consistently poorly at crucial times. He looks fit but fidgety, slim but a touch slow to respond to the bowlers. When Tim Bresnan forced Ponting back, he jumped awkwardly and thrust down an angled bat, which rebounded the ball on to the stumps. The shot was played by a man no longer in total control.

At 36, he is nearing the end of a wonderful career yet the only time he has been able to find his voice is when approaching officials. He was booed when stepping on to the MCG to bat, mostly by the English supporters, before the Australian fans responded with a long cheer for the hero who has steered them to so much success and a handful of key failures. Winning the Ashes is the most important responsibility for an Australian captain but Ponting has almost given them up three times.

While a drawn series is still possible, the Sydney Test will not be a celebration. Apart from a couple of days in Brisbane and Perth, Australia have been outplayed by a side that has been purring at every spot except Paul Collingwood at No.5. The hosts are wobbling in too many departments and on the same surface on which England skipped to 513, Australia scraped to 98 and 6 for 169.

Ponting was not the only local batsman to falter in both innings, with Michael Clarke, Phillip Hughes and Michael Hussey also managing less than 40 runs for the game. But he is the man that matters most to the side.

"Ricky doesn't need any encouragement because he's been there and done so much throughout his whole career," Shane Watson said in defence of his leader. "He's a very tough man mentally and he's shown that throughout his career. Everyone is - and will always be - right behind Ricky. He's been a brilliant leader for us."

Watson said Ponting was still the right man to captain Australia after the Ashes. "Of course he can," Watson said. "It's unfortunate he hasn't scored as many runs as he would've liked.

"But no-one will ever question his ability to lead the group because of the things he's be able to do throughout his career and for everyone in the Australian cricket side." The questions might not be coming from within, but they are being asked by almost everyone else who follows the team.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Muthuvel on December 31, 2010, 17:29 GMT

    Something tells me that a monstrous assault from Ponting is around the corner..but when?

  • Dummy4 on December 29, 2010, 12:23 GMT


    It's not a comparison between Sachin & Ponting where Sachin is miles ahead of Ponting. You have just supported my point. Yes, Sachin always gets the support of his team members to thrive , it could be sehwag, dravid, laxman ,dhoni whereas Lara hardly got any support. Lara played magical long knocks with minimum support. For instance his 230+ knock in Adelaide with the next highest score of 30+ runs by a teammate was a horrible team experience and Lara played majority of his knocks under those circumstances unlike Sachin. Yes you are correct, India wins and thrives as a team. Same case with Sachin, he relies and has relied hell of a lot on his team mates unlike Lara who battled all alone, but still managed to reach the pinnacle of success and hence he emerges as the best batsman of our era IMO.

  • Dummy4 on December 29, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    Ricky Ponting is a legend and he is a fighter. He knows when to step down as the captain. He is trying really Hard and everyone goes through such a phase in their career. Now for those who are comparing Sachin, Lara and Ponting. Yes, Lara has brilliance but he lacked consistency. He compiled 400* but he could have rather declared and give his bowlers a chance to win the test match (Those who say Sachin plays for records). Ponting is brilliant but he has had a world class team to support him and now he is failing under pressure. Sachin has faced tremendous pressure of expectation for the past 21 years and will for the years to come.. Maybe you can say i amk biased but the stats and facts also indicate that Sachin is better than both. The True Ambassador of Cricket.

  • Alfred on December 29, 2010, 10:25 GMT

    keep him then you kill your future But at the same time understand that the team's current form is not ONLY because of him....the youngsters failed poorly.

  • Paul on December 29, 2010, 8:23 GMT

    Hunting as a pack probably sums up Australian cricket- rather feral and mindless. We'll be better off without Ponting. At times the best fieldsman and batsman in the world though that some time ago and overall a role model we could do without.

  • Dummy4 on December 29, 2010, 6:47 GMT

    @Rajiv Nadukuru. Do no compare Sachin and Ponting. Both belong to different styles of Cricket. Tendulkar entered a team that was losing its Stalwarts to time and has been its batting mainstay for over a decade while Ponting entered a team that has stamped its dominance in world cricket owing to its batting and bowling greats. Once the greats have retired, Ponting couldn't carry the team on his own while Tendulkar did that with flair for a very long time. At an age of 37, he continues to make centuries and is still considered a danger to the opposition in every form of the game. I don't think the same can be said about Ponting. I am not saying Tendulkar is better but to compare, they should've started on level ground which isn't the case with Ponting and Tendulkar. I cannot imagine Ponting making this far if he has the same amount of pressure of expecations that is on Tendulkar.

  • Karthi on December 29, 2010, 5:21 GMT

    Seriously wen was Sachin alone in the Indian batting lineup. This is a whole lotta nonsense sustained by the media. India has always had a decent batting order. Its not like nobody else scored any runs, it was more a case of Sachin getting the starring role. India struggled more due their bowling being not very good and the tendency to play an extra batsman. Too much is being made of Sachin conquering Warne in 1998. Its not like he did it on his own. It was a trend set by Sidhu as the opener and everyone in the line up took to Warne, hell even Mongia who opened in that series went after Warne. Getting the better of Warne maybe a big deal to SA or English teams. For India its no major achievement Even in India rarely has Sachin scored big runs when everyone above him has failed. There is no way you can compare with Lara's solo acts where Chanderpaul was the only other batsman who had a chance of making it into any other nation's test team

  • Dru on December 29, 2010, 5:16 GMT

    What a sad stage in Pontings career - lost the Ashes at home, cant make a run and cant get his team to do much other that get flogged by Eng. Regardless of what CA does Ponting needs to decide for himself if he is up to take the next step or hang up the boots and both decisions are as hard as they come. A champion like him deserves a better way to call it a day than this sorry state of affairs. If he wants to go on he must first score some runs and then inspire the team to perform both of which currently look remote at best. CA are usually ruthless and rarely (if ever) have former captains playing under current captains as in Asia. I'm not sure if Aus can afford to drop Ponting at a stage either. Its the full circle of life for Aus which started in the 80's with Border and its back in a corner all countries have been in - what CA does next will define the future I guess.

  • Ujas on December 29, 2010, 5:12 GMT

    If you look at Ponting's career, it has been downward graph. At one time his tally of centuries were close to God of Cricket - Master Blaster - Sachin Tendulkar.. However he is down on form and mental state of mind to score big.. His starts his innings tentatively, poking at deliveries, whereas Sachin starts to hit the ball at the start of his innings very confidentally...

    If think Ponting should retire considering the amount of pressure off the field and on field... Clarke is the next man to lead Australia.... Era and fans of Ricky are on Decline..

  • Murray on December 29, 2010, 5:03 GMT

    All I can say that it is not only the demise of Ponting, but that of Australian cricket. Terrible, terrible, horrible. CA, the selectors, coaching staff and senior members of the team must accept responsibility for this debacle. How a team can go from top of the world to 5th ranked, probably lower now in a few years is inexcusable. Not even the West Indies crumbled so quickly. Why haven't David Hussey (12000 runs, 40 100's, 50 x 50's) and Brad Hodge (17000 runs, 51 x 100's, 64 x 50's & a Test 100 and 2 x 50's) been given a look in before now? Instead we gamble with left field selections and soft out of form players living on reputation like Clarke. Now these fine players are approaching the end of their careers. Players must not only be picked on style and technique, but also their temperament and ability to perform under pressure and fight. Sadly the current Aust side have a very soft underbelly to go with their lack of ability. Shameful the selectors could not see this.

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