It has become a regular sight over the past couple of months. The Australian Cricket Board holding press conferences for the leading players (and umpire) to sheepishly read prepared statements about one transgression or another, in the company of either board chairman Denis Rogers or chief executive Mal Speed.
In November it was Darrell Hair announcing a self-imposed sideways move after publishing his memoirs mid-career and mid-season. In December it was Mark Waugh and Shane Warne announcing, almost in unison, their 1994 naive, stupid, commercial transactions with a man named John.
Last night in Hobart it was Ricky Ponting's turn. Suspended by the Australian Cricket Board pending inquiries into a disciplinary breach, Ponting was hauled before the media to explain why he had a black eye and to tell the world that he was about to seek counselling for a drinking problem.
It all started on Sunday night after Australia's day-night win against England at the Sydney cricket Ground. Ponting, unaccompanied by any of his Australian team-mates, went to the Bourbon & Beefsteak nightclub in Kings Cross, a few kilometres from the ground. Ponting told the media yesterday that he had been drinking heavily, and that he got into a fight and was punched in the face. From there, his recollection jumps to when he woke up in his hotel room on Monday morning sporting a black eye.
On Channel Nine's A Current Affair this evening, the proprietor of the Bourbon & Beefsteak said that Ponting was hit in an argument of a girl. He went on to say that he believed that Ponting was not at fault.
On learning of the incident a meeting of captain Steve Waugh, team coach Geoff Marsh and manager Steve Bernard was convened. ACB CEO Speed announced that an investigation would be conducted to determine whether Ponting was guilty of a breach of the Code of Conduct which applies to all players contracted to the ACB. This was announced at a press conference in Hobart last night by Speed, accompanied by Ponting, who read from a prepared statement and then answered questions.
Speed also announced that Ponting would be stood down from the Australian team pending the outcome of the investigation. The first game that Ponting missed was today's one-day match between Australia and Sri Lanka at Bellerive Oval, Hobart.
It was announced today by the ACB that Ponting would appear before the board's Code of Conduct Commissioner Justice Gordon Lewis in Melbourne on Monday. Ponting will, meanwhile, also miss Australia's game on Sunday against Sri Lanka at Adelaide, and the earliest he could reappear would be for the game against England on Tuesday night.
It is believed that the specific breach of the code of conduct under which Ponting may be found guilty relates to the 1.30am curfew on players which applies on the same night as day/night matches (on any other day the curfew is midnight).
Ponting had previously been fined by Australian team management on the tour of India early last year following a fracas in a Calcutta nightclub. The Australian reported today that Ponting had also been fined during the 1997 Ashes tour and dropped from a one-day game for missing the team bus to a training session.
At last night's press conference Ponting said that "on occasions I've drunk too much and got myself into certain situations that I don't intend to be in. It's up to me to make sure I look after myself properly." He further said that he would undergo counselling for his drinking problem.