Punter needs 546 runs. He has two days. It’s 78/0 even as I write this. Else he will have lost two Ashes series, first one in 2005, his first after taking over from Steve Waugh. This is death, in Australian cricket terms,
Undoubtedly one of the best batsmen of this generation, with 11K + runs both in tests and ODIs, Ricky Ponting will look back at his captaincy record with a bit of mixed feelings. Two World Cups without losing a single match, one ICC Champions Trophy and a number of ICC Test Championships. And no. 1 in tests and ODIs for over 4-5 years till 2008.
But the critics will say, hey, he inherited a great team – Hayden, Langer, Martyn, Symonds, Gilchrist, McGrath and Warne to name a few. Then all these people quit. In terms of batting, it was still fine with Clarke, Watson, Hussey, Katich besides Ponting himself. It was the bowling and he had no idea what to do with them – Lee was on and off with injury. And when he did play, he was a shadow. Siddle, Johnson, Hilfenaus, Hauritz, Kreija, North… His bowling line-up has simply not impressed any one. No one doubts their commitment, sure. But they have been struggling.
The lack of ideas when fielding has exposed Ponting as a captain. Probably, whatever captaincy talent he may have had were anaesthetised with the presence of the stars. He didn’t need much to do bar call heads or tails. And probably call the umpire for the new ball.
Most people believe that he is likely to be sacked if he loses the Ashes. That would probably mean Michael Clarke as the new captain. The challenge for Clarke will clearly be the bowling. Especially when their batting fails – as they did in the first innings of the current Oval test. Not to forget a couple of ducks for Hussey in the series. The Australian batting is still one of the strongest in the world today and have to be on top of the game putting up scores of 500+ to give their bowlers the space to strike out the opposition.
It’s going to be tumultuous time for Australia. It will be fun.