Just when I was starting to warm to Ponting, he does something stupid and inexplicable. I thought he had achieved the difficult feat of maturing, being able to talk honestly and intelligently whilst still retaining the fire and grit which was his, unmoderated, hallmark, along with a shedload of runs. But his protracted conversation with Aleem Dar suggests otherwise. Just what was that all about? What did Ponting convince himself that he saw and how could he believe that it was worth even starting a discussion about about a poorly defined smudge on hotspot 4″+ away from the point the ball passed the bat? Did anybody who saw that, apart from Ponting it would seem, feel that it was the basis for overturning the ‘not out’ decision?
It’s a rather pointless conjecture, but would he have started such a conversation with Harold Bird, David Shepard, how long would the chat have lasted with Peter Willey? In this instance Ponting has not been helped by the ICC or Dar. It looked to me that Dar, from his gesturing, repeated himself a number of times; there was nothing to be achieved by this and I feel he should have tried to walk away and tried to get the game restarted much earlier than he did and this is where the ICC should come in by giving the umpires a trigger phrase, something as simple as ‘play on’, after which, if the player continues the conversation it is automatically a level 1 offence, if the phrase needs to be used again, then it’s level 2. Dar is one of the best around and none of this excuses Ponting’s behaviour but I think things could have played out differently, to the benefit of Ponting and far more importantly, cricket. Ponting has plenty of previous for this sort of behaviour and whilst it looked like level two on the TV to me, the match referee has made his call and that’s that.
So what of Ponting’s performance on the fiel, ill considered conversations aside? His batting stats speak for themselves but he has just turned 36 and whilst he is nearer then end of his career than the start I still think this is a dip in form rather than a precipitous drop off in ability from which is unlikely to recover. Every night I watch Sky’s 2 hour highlight package, Bob Willis absolutely rips Ponting, I’m sure he has his reasons, but I never seems to hear them detailed. He’s no Ritchie Benaud but just how much support has he been given, on and off the field? He’s been exposed to a very new ball on numerous occasions because they don’t have a half way decent opening pair, Clarke is out of form, Smith is not a no. 6 right now, Haddin is making his contribution with the tail in next wicket down. You could see from the reaction in the last test when Hussey was dismissed that he is the only one that England fear right now. And the bowling is worse. I guess that Ponting has some sort of input to the selection process but I expect that he has to take the field with what he’s been given to a large extent and with few exceptions, what he has been given are players out of form (Clarke, Hilfenhaus, Johnson, Bollinger) players with unproven potential (Hughes, Smith, Dohety) and a handful of proven test match players, in form (Hussey, Haddin and to a lesser extent Watson, Harris and Siddle). I just think that far too much of the stick is going Ponting’s way and he is being asked to suck it up when Cricket Australia and the National Selection Panel should be standing alongside eating the same unwholesome diet that Ponting is being fed.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing 80000 Aussies melt away from the MCG long before stumps on the 1st day of the Boxing Day test, loved watching the Barmy Army have the run of the place for most of the remaining time that it took to retain the Ashes and spank the arse off them in their back yard but if they all think these miserable performances are exclusively Ponting’s doing, as captain, then they would appear to be badly mistaken.