Steve Waugh, the man who Ricky Ponting succeeded as Australia's Test captain, has said Ponting made a mistake by using part-time bowlers instead of his main strikers on the fourth day in Nagpur. Ponting has been widely criticised for the choices he made after tea on Sunday, when a quick string of wickets could have given Australia a realistic chance of victory.
But Ponting was concerned about Australia's dismal over rate and rather than handing the ball to his fast men, he went for the part-time slow offerings of Michael Clarke, Cameron White and Michael Hussey, with the frontline spinner Jason Krejza at the other end. India built a sizeable lead and went on to win the match and the series.
"I am sure Ricky would regret the decision," Waugh told the Herald Sun. "Winning the Test match is what mattered. You have just spent six weeks in the subcontinent. You just don't take your foot off the gas."
After the match Ponting was fined because Australia were behind on their overs but they had hustled enough for him to avoid a possible suspension for the first Test against New Zealand next week. But Waugh had some sympathy for Ponting and said everyone involved in Test cricket needed to keep the game moving quickly.
"There are far too many stoppages," he said. "I remember when I played it was considered a badge of honour not to have a drink in a session [apart from the scheduled drinks break]. And no one died from dehydration. These days there are far too many drinks breaks. It's ridiculous. But it is just not the captain's fault. It is up to coaches, referees and umpires to keep the show moving."
James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, has voiced his concerns about slow over rates and he will take the matter up with the ICC. But for now, Ponting is the man under fire after Australia handed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy back to India.
Australia's former captain Allan Border was commentating on television during Sunday's post-tea session and, despite usually being very restrained in his commentary, he could not hide his frustration at Ponting's decisions. Another ex-captain, Ian Chappell, also queried Ponting's tactics but said he remained the best man to lead Australia.
Ponting was publicly backed by his coach Tim Nielsen, who said after play on the fourth day that he felt Australia had still pushed for a win. Stuart MacGill, the retired legspinner, wished Australia had "gone for the jugular" but he said Nielsen's comments proved Ponting was not entirely to blame.
"It's not the captain's fault and this was clearly a decision at the weekend made by four or five people," MacGill said. "That became obvious when the coach backed his captain and there were a number of people who would have made the decision."