Will this be Ponting’s last year?
The vultures are circling and Ponting can hear them clearly. He knows that if he lies down now, they will surely tear his flesh apart. Critics have been calling for his head for some time and he knows he hasn’t been able to shut them up. Potential successors to his spot in the team have been putting up their hands with notable performances and it only seems to be a matter of time before he will be shown the door.
Unless, he comes up with a performance that only Ponting is capable of.
There used to be a time when the first name to be written down when picking an Australian XI was Ricky ‘Punter’ Ponting. At one time, he was the most feared one-down batsman in the world and you could see the alarm in a bowler’s eyes when Ponting would come to the crease. But that era has now passed. Ponting’s reign of dominance at the number three spot ended earlier this year when Shaun Marsh was promoted ahead of him when they played against Sri Lanka.
Once upon a time, Ponting was a majestic sight to behold for any cricket fan. His batting was easy on the eye and left one in awe. He became the third Australian cricketer to have gone past the mark of 10,000 runs in test cricket after Border and Waugh and then overtook them as the country’s leading run scorer. He is the most successful cricketer to ever play Test cricket, with over 100 wins to his name and is the most successful captain to ever lead a test side. His ODI record is just as fantastic.
But off late he has looked like a mere shadow of his illustrious former self. Last time he crossed the three figure mark in Test cricket was almost two years ago when he made a double hundred against Pakistan in January of 2010. Since then the centuries have dried up and the going has just gotten tougher.
Recently, he crossed the 156th Test mark. Two other great Australian captains played that many Test matches. Steve Waugh saved his fledgling career with a gritty 100 in his 156th test while Allan Border retired after his. Ponting made a half century that eventually led Australia to a victory against South Africa. But it wasn’t a chance less innings and he didn’t respond to his critics after getting out for low scores in the previous three innings. He has scored another half century in the recently concluded match but the question mark still remains.
I am not sure what it is that is holding Ponting back. It may be that he wants to be the most capped player of his country, or the desire to restore the side back to its glory days, or he may want to win the Ashes one more time. Whatever it is, it is not working out for him.
Australian selectors are ruthless as many former greats have found out. I just hope he goes before he is pushed, for it would be truly heartbreaking to see a player of Ponting’s stature being dropped. Like his former captain did seven years ago, the coming home series against India would be a good time to bid farewell to the game he loves.
Whenever Ponting does decide to go, he should not have any regrets. As Rob Steen recently wrote in his column, Ponting should rest assured that he owes Australia and cricket nothing but a parting smile. He has done it all in a magnificent career!
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