Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day December 29, 2010

Ponting fights for his captaincy


Ricky Ponting knows his case to hold on to the captaincy is not strong, but he is desperate to retain the job and lift Australia from their lowest period since the mid-1980s. Ponting lost the Ashes away in 2005 and 2009 and he has become the country's first leader since Allan Border in 1986-87 not to hold the urn at home.

England celebrated as Ashes winners with their innings victory at the MCG and while the series can still be drawn in Sydney next week, the reality is Australia have lost. Ponting is no certainty to hold on to the leadership after being unable to inspire his team-mates with his batting or captaincy.

"The fact that I've lost those three series is disappointing for me," he said, slightly prematurely. "Hopefully I'm not only remembered as that guy, the guy that lost three Ashes series. There's lots of other great things I've been lucky to be able to be part of as a player throughout my career. This result is not one of my proudest."

Ponting is second on Test cricket's run list with 12,362, but he has added only 113 in eight bats in this series, which is more concerning given the damaged state of his side. Australia's squad for the fifth Test will be named on Thursday and the selectors could point to Ponting's broken left pinky if they want to ease him out. Ponting thinks he will be able to play but understands the situation might be taken out of his bruised hands.

"It's out of my control, I can't think too much about it," he said. "I've tried my hardest over the last couple of weeks to try to play well and try to lead the team as well as possible. I've felt I've led the team as well as I can. I haven't performed the way I wanted to perform, but I certainly haven't done it without trying, that's for sure."

It seems the only way Ponting will be dethroned is if the selectors force him out, either publicly or privately, and if they do it now they risk upsetting him before his defence of the World Cup starting in February. Ponting has never lost a World Cup game as captain and Australia are pushing for a fourth consecutive success at the tournament.

"Whatever decision I make, it's really important it's for the betterment of Australian cricket," he said. "I want to keep playing, I would love to keep leading the team. I still think I've got a lot to offer in both those regards."

Ponting took over from Steve Waugh in 2004 and since then has developed an excellent record of 48 wins in 77 games, but over the past two years the change of personnel has resulted in the side falling to fifth in the world. However, the number of his team is not as painful as another below-par Ashes campaign.

"I probably haven't got much of a case at the moment," he said of hanging on to the captaincy. "I've got a lot of knowledge on the game, the fact that I've played 150 Tests and won 99 Test matches.

"I've captained a lot of winning teams. There is no doubt that the experiences I have in the game will hold me in good stead. I feel I am well equipped to bring on some young guys and we have got a few of them in the side now."

The resume is impressive but time is moving fast for Ponting, who is now 36, and the selectors must decide whether he is worth holding on to. Not having a ready-made replacement is one major issue, with Michael Clarke struggling with the bat and at times behaving like someone who doesn't want the extra responsibility. Clarke is 29, enjoys an A-list lifestyle, and has a heavy influence over Phillip Hughes and Steven Smith, his young New South Wales team-mates.

While there is currently strong public sentiment against Clarke and Ponting, the incumbent said he has received encouragement from the majority of people he has run into recently. "I've received great support in the last few weeks," he said. "I've had other international players in the last couple of mornings send messages through to me about different things."

But there are growing elements of despair in the masses and Ponting does care what the public thinks. "Yeah of course, we all do," he said. "But quite often there's a perception out there which sometimes you can't change. No matter what you do and how well you do things, sometimes you can't change things.

"I'm trying to do the right thing by my team and by Australian cricket. I think that right through my career I've been able to do that most of the time. I haven't been able to do it in the last few weeks and for that I'm bitterly disappointed and so is the rest of my group. We will soldier on."

Australia lasted for only 83 minutes on the fourth morning and with Ryan Harris not batting due to his stress fracture, the end came when Ben Hilfenhaus edged Tim Bresnan behind. The mood of the hosts has swung dramatically over the past week with a huge high in Perth and now another low to match the one of the other innings defeat in Adelaide.

"We weren't doing handstands," Ponting said of the post-match mood in the dressing room. "Only last week we were on top of the world. We didn't do anything different this week than we did last week, we just haven't played well."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • varun on December 30, 2010, 5:27 GMT

    @popcorn - LMAO... as someone pointed out 'popcorn' is nothing but ponting in disguise...btw - I dint know Peter English n Ian Chappel are Indians... hahaha

  • Graham on December 30, 2010, 5:13 GMT

    I've said before , Ponting will not leave the position he holds whilst he is receiving $4M a year . Neither would I , but the difference is that he is not contributing much more than I do! As for the Captain designate M Clarke , he is an embarrassment to Cricket Australia , but no-one is big enough to announce that fact . That Andrew Hilditch is Chairman of Selector's is really laughable when you look back at his miserable career in cricket . I hate myself when I have to complain , but I would like someone in the media to really spell it out to Board Members , very loud and very clear , just how bad Australian Cricket appears at present . Surely they would be able to draw some answers from all the contributions on this sight alone ! Oh o , here comes the Warden , to lock me in again .

  • Big on December 30, 2010, 4:45 GMT

    I wish Pointing continues as Australian Captain. He needs to go through the same agony and pain as other teams have when rebuilding their team. Pointing can be compared to spoiled little Stuart from England. Pointing has been lucky to lead the team with one of the best players in the world, but now we see the real Pointing without the great players behind him. Anyone can score big runs when you have great players in your team to back you up. I have no sympathy for Pointing.

  • Suresh on December 30, 2010, 4:42 GMT

    so the obvious has come, i expected this some days ago....he could have left of his own by anouncing his retirement some months ago....but some things take it's won turn over a period of time.....and Ricky will be remembered for his onfiled pranks with Alim people's memories are struck to the last few days of a person, i still rememeber Steve Waugh being carried thru the stadium on his last day of test cricket, same memories of Glen, Gilly, Tubby, Test cricket a great leveler, some years ago the Same Ricky was considered the best, but look at Sachin....he was so sober and humble, he just went about his job clean and quietly.....Ricky should pickup a phone and call Sachin and take some tips....there is no harm in being humble, just leave the arrogance and ego....

  • HARIHARASUDHAN on December 30, 2010, 4:12 GMT

    hey all those who comment on Aussies, shld comment ly on them n Eng,dont cmt on india and its future. indians always skilled players whether its batting or bowling. but don go too futurous. what ll be india in 2 or 3 yrs. every team goes that phase but not like Aussies. inspiration shld come from captain and team. that s not happening. they wont be good as before in anywhre now. because of consistently underestimating teams like ind,Eng,Srilanka also a major reason for there dwnfall.respect was never given by them to visiting teams,so they failed to know there oppts form and aggression. any way they never going to change there approach but teams around world ll be keen to put aussies in rock bottom.don ever compare Sachin and pontin. Sachin s not only a great cricketer but a Legend by passion control character discipline. even s not a case for ponting,a worst example of a captain on-field as all knows indians ll be in a transition state by 2011 end bt thr r plyrs to cope 70%

  • Krishnadeep on December 30, 2010, 4:05 GMT

    @RASAD03..Letz not talk about India's bench stregth...They have a 22 year old first class batsman averaging 68(Rahane). Virat Kohli, Pujara and a few other who are also capable of taking over the reigns of batting. Obviously transition will have issues but not to this extent. Bowling also looks good with some good leggies (Chawla Mishra)and offies(Ashwin) in the fray. Seam bowling options(Mithun, Pankaj Singh, RP Singh and many more) are good as well.

  • Philip on December 30, 2010, 3:58 GMT

    I agree with those commenting that there needs to be a purge. Although a team rebuilding needs some experienced players, there are too many players in the current Aussie team with baggage associated with recent losses. All credit to Hussey, Haddin, Siddle and Johnson, they have been the best players, but it sounds like some of the younger guys are performing well enough at state level to represent their country, conservatism won't work in the long run. It was a myth that the current bunch were all a young team, anyway, many of them had been playing around the backblocks of state cricket for years. It may seem like a shock to do this, but a new look team can't really be any worse than the current bunch, can they?

  • Keith on December 30, 2010, 3:42 GMT

    If nothing else Ponting's and Australian cricket's situation can remind us all of what happens to a dynasty when the king is toppled from his throne or simply runs out of time and energy. In this case, the crown princes retired or proved less than suitable replacements, so Ponting could not even consider a decent retirement. And there was the carrot dangled before him of setting all-time batting records. For a time he seemed set to catch Satchin, but no more it seems... Lo, how the mighty have fallen! Now it is down to the selectors, perhaps inspired by Punter himself, to make hard choices that just might cut short the interregnum. Interesting possibilities mentioned here for at least interim captain: Mike Hussey, Cameron White. Hadden could give it a go, but he is a far cry from MS Dhoni and would suffer from the comparison. Why not Hussey, with White as vice? Let Clarke and Ponting, when healthy, return as pure batsmen. Bring in the young guns. Have a "wild XI" for the SCG.

  • Aaron on December 30, 2010, 2:46 GMT

    Did anybody watch the India vs. NZ series where NZ were white-washed. That was an entirely young team; no Tendulkar, Khan, Singh, Dhoni. Sure India have a struggling lower order but this series just proved we can win with ease with a younger team. Speaking of Australia winning the U19 world cup, how many of those players are in the Australian team now? I doubt very highly India will struggle in oncoming years.

  • Rajaram on December 30, 2010, 0:52 GMT

    Look how short public memory is! Look how the public castigates Ricky Ponting for riding on the "luck" of having the greats - Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden in his winning sides! Look how they forget that Ricky Ponting led an inexperienced side to South Africa in February and March 2009 and THRASHED South Africa 2 -1 with novices - Phil Hughes,Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle,Andrew McDnald,Brad Haddin, Marcus North! EAT YOUR WORDS, you critics of Ricky Ponting - here is a Captain who INSPIRED his NOVICES to beat the next best Team in the world ON THEIR SOIL.I rest my case.

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