Ricky Ponting

My Cricket Clearance List

This is, in order, who I’d get rid of from the Australian cricket scene if I could.

1. Ricky Ponting. Can’t bat (anymore). Can’t captain.
2. Bill Lawry. The most annoying commentator in the world.
3. Mark Taylor. Only just beaten by Bill Lawry. These two have ruined my summer almost more than Ponting.
4. The selectors. Seriously. Get some new material.
5. Mitchell Johnson. Bowls well sometimes. Doesn’t know what he’s bowling the rest of the time.
6. Michael Clarke. Doesn’t seem to be able to see the ball most of the time.
7. Phillip Hughes. Needs some time to get his head right.
8. Peter Siddle. Hard worker, gets wickets eventually, but seems to lull opposition batsmen into form with his boringness and stupid goatee.
9. Ben Hilfenhaus. How long can we carry this guy? Has done so little that I almost forgot that he was in the team.

Feeling the burn

The Ashes are, without a doubt, the single most important piece of post colonial national pride. There is no other contest so closely fought between Australia and England. It’s important. People who don’t understand sport can’t see the influence that cricket has on the national psyche. But our sporting dominance over the Poms is important because they’re better at other stuff – like comedy – than us.

Now that we’re going to lose the Ashes again, in all probability, from a seemingly unlosable position, I’m going to go on the record (again) with my statement that Ricky Ponting is the worst captain of Australia in my lifetime.

I can’t speak for previous generations – but he’s not a patch on Waugh, Border, or Taylor (listed in order of captaincy nouse from least to greatest). He is a great batsmen – but if he can’t get his players to keep their heads, and their wickets, when the pressure is on, then he absolutely should not be leading the team.

He’s also terrible at managing his players, setting attacking fields, using his bowlers, and all the other rudimentary elements of captaincy. Unfortunately, like the Liberal Party, there doesn’t seem to be an obviously palatable replacement.

On cricket

There have been a whole lot of posts around the internet about the predicament facing the Australian Cricket Team. Australia’s pre-eminent cultural institution. I have, until now, resisted throwing in my two cents. 

Much has been made over the departure of past heroes. The Gilchrists, Warnes, McGraths and now Haydens of this world are irreplacable. What makes me sad is that Australia has arguably the strongest domestic competition worldwide with imports kept to a minimum (they’re pretty much non existant – unlike county cricket in England) and young players being developed through government funded programs.

We really should be doing better at bringing young players into the national fold. Michael Hussey should have been in the national team years before the selectors got the balls to pick him. Same goes for Phil Jacques. Brad Hodge must surely feel like the unluckiest man in Australian cricket. Simon Katich has done what few have managed to do and resurrected his career from selector induced oblivion. 

Australia is blooding players too late. Debutants are often aged over 30 (eg 36 going on 37 year old spinner Bryce McGain) and longevity isn’t a possibility. Longevity and tenure has also been a problem. Half of these players retiring now are players I’ve watched my entire cricket watching life. The selectors need to be a little bold and courageous. Tenure needs to be an attitude of the past. Domestic players need to feel like they’ve got a real chance of breaking into the test team on the basis of performance. Underperforming veterans should be axed. We can’t afford to be sentimental about selections – any more than we are when voting for politicians. If there’s a better option there they need to be in the team.  

Michael Clarke’s decision to forego the big bucks in India to have some rest and focus on his international career is laudable. It’s a pattern that needs to be established on a wider level. Australian cricket will not survive at a test and 50 overs level if IPL dollars are the holy grail for up and coming cricketers.

Ricky Ponting is a terrible captain, but a terrific batsmen. This presents a terrible problem. How do you remove the captaincy mantle without slapping him in the face and having some effect on his batting.

That’s the batting side of things covered – our bowlers are in dire straits. They can not take a wicket. The lower echelons seem incapable of doing any better. We’ve seen about 6 no name players make inauspicious debuts this season. Who’d ever heard of Bollinger, Siddle or Hilfenhaus before they got a crack? And don’t get me started on spinners. How can there be such a scarcity of bowlers in the ranks? The quest for the perfect one day all rounder because of England’s ashes triumph on the back of Andy Flintoff has filtered down to the state level. Other than those players who made their test debuts this year can anyone name a bowler at state level? Didn’t think so.  How is Nathan Bracken, rated the world’s best one day player because of his economy rate, not suitable for a test berth? 

I also blame 20/20 cricket for the downfall.  But that’s another post for another time. End of rant.

Over rated

Really, this is another post largely due to the clever title I can ascribe to it. I don’t like Ricky Ponting being the Australian test captain. I haven’t for ages. Pretty much since he took the reigns and lost us the ashes.

I can’t begin to fathom his approach in this test. Why a captain was more worried about a one game suspension for a slow over rate than winning an arguably pivotal series by bowling his best bowlers against India in the final session yesterday is beyond me. I am left scratching my head. ABC commentator and SMH columnist Peter Roebuck likes Ponting’s captaincy even less than I do.

India are the new global super power when it comes to cricket – winning a series on Indian soil is already as rare as hen’s teeth. Ponting essentially sacrificed this chance for the chance to play New Zealand at home in Australia. What’s with that. It beggars belief.

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