In an apologetic article in The Australian, our good friend, Peter Lalor provides a long list of apologies for Ricky Ponting’s woeful form this summer.
He says, for example, “It seems [Ponting’s] mind leaps to create his own controversies at the crease. And why shouldn’t they dog him out there? From the moment the one-day series started in India last September he has battled nonsense and scandal at every turn. Players have clashed on the field and nations have clashed off it. His team and his board are at loggerheads for the first time in years.”
Two things leap to my mind. First, is this not an admission of a mentally disintegrated state? In which case, I think we could call it 1-0 to India! After all, Australia has prided on “targeting” the opposition captain as an object for disintegrating. Second, the same controversies that have dogged Ricky Ponting have also dogged his opposite number, M. S. Dhoni — or Anil Kumble, depending on which form of the game the controversies arose. The last time I looked, both Dhoni and Kumble were leading their side tremendously competently (with bat, gloves, ball as applicable) through these controversies. Indeed, after the nightmare of the Sydney Test match — arguably the worst of the controversies that dogged the two teams this summer — it was India that rose to play superb cricket. It was Anil Kumble that bowled and capatined well.
Through the ODI series, M. S. Dhoni has had to deal with three facets/dimensions: his own game, the puerile sledging controversies as well as a young (very young) team. And frankly, he has come out the better on all three fronts. He has had to dig the team out of trouble with his batting on a few occasions. And each time there was a crisis, his batting has been assured and Zen-like. He wanted and got a young, inexperienced team. He rode the storm of protest and effigy-burning that accompanied his call for a young team. He rode the strident protests of his detractors in the Indian media. And he continues to prove his critics wrong. In yesterdays’ match, he backed his instincts and opened the bowling with Praveen Kumar. He roped in Piyush Chawla for the 19-year-old leg-spinner’s first game of the series! Both moves were masterstrokes. He knows his players and their capabilities and backs them. They deliver — mostly. I also think that Dhoni has come out of the sledging wars in much the same way as Anil Kumble has. He has stayed above the waters and come out of it with composure, poise and dignity. I can’t hold my hand on my heart and say that Ponting has come out of the sledge-fest with a clean head. It is certainly not a clear head. He is muddled and unsure and this has translated into his batting.
Ponting appears to be floundering with his batting as well as his responses to the sledging controversies. Here is a captain who is, in my view, somewhat (mentally) disintegrated. He is ending the season with a dismal batting record and a somewhat woeful auction price in the IPL auction! He needs a good long break from the game to rediscover himself.
The Australian team needs a fully-(mentally)-fit and a firing Ricky Ponting. A good start would be for excuses from the likes of Peter Lalor to stop now.
John Eales, the great Australian Rugby captain often said that leadership is about maintaining composure and form under pressure. It seems to me that Ricky Ponting has lost his own mental disintegration battle. And the more Peter Lalor’s tribe provide excuses for his bad form, the worse it will get. I do think it is a matter of time before Ricky Ponting re-discovers his mojo — he is too good a player to continue to drift the way he is. But to do that he needs to listen to John Eales and not to Peter Lalor!
After last nights’ loss to India in the first final of the CB Series, Ricky Ponting was said to have delivered a “kick in the backside” to his team. Interesting! How does he kick himself in the backside?