Ponting loses rag, captaincy may follow

If ever there was a clear indication that the criticisms of his captaincy are getting to Ricky Ponting, today provided stark and ugly evidence of it.

On a day on which England ended 5 wickets down but with a 346-run advantage and a 150-plus partnership between redoubtable number 3 Jonathan Trott and resurgent keeper Matt Prior, Ricky Ponting let his frustrations boil over on the field when a caught-behind appeal after lunch for the wicket of Kevin Pietersen was turned down and upheld on review.

Hotspot showed no edge and so it was difficult to see exactly why the Australian captain was so livid, but livid he was, exchanging angry words with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and then assailing umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill with an extended rant which continued even as he stalked off towards his fielding position as the match continued.

Not Ricky Ponting's finest moment

Not Ricky Ponting's finest moment

Ponting has a history of questioning umpires’ calls, and of trying to influence decision-making on the field, most notably in 2008 during the series against India in which his gamesmanship and utter lack of respect left such a bad taste in the mouth that even Australian fans and media turned against him; indeed, journalist Peter Roebuck even called for Ponting to be sacked.

That was pure ugliness from the captain of a national cricket team; today, Ponting’s rantings and ravings smacked only of sad and naked desperation, of a man who has not only found himself in the Last Chance Saloon, but has ignored the dress code, cannot pay his bar tab, and is watching as the bouncers move towards him through the crowd to evict him forcibly from the premises.

That bum’s rush will most likely come at the end of this series, if Ponting cannot pull off something spectacular.

His captaincy is most under threat; his place in the Australian side is under scrutiny too.

Not only has he seen his team demolished first innings for 98 runs, but he himself could only contribute 10 of those runs, and so far his record in this series has amounted to only 93 at a dismal 15.5.

That he is in the twilight of his career is undeniable; that he can muster one last hurrah as arguably Australia’s finest batsman since Bradman is now looking ever more remote.

There have been suggestions that his eyesight is going, his reflexes too; that he has problems picking up short-pitched deliveries he would once have pulled with glorious and virtuoso abandon, and that he broke his little finger attempting a catch in the slips simply because he did not see the ball.

Ponting’s abdication of the captaincy, voluntary or otherwise, will cause problems for an Australia no longer certain of its place in world cricket’s hierarchy – or even of its ability to vanquish its old enemy, England, who once were Australia’s whipping boys but who provide easy pickings no longer.

Michael Clarke, once considered a shoo-in as next Australian captain, is in similarly abysmal form, and others talked of as future leaders, Wayne White and Callum Ferguson, are not even in this Test side. Tim Paine, impressive while filling in for an injured Brad Haddin, looks to be a safe pair of hands, both keeper and captaincy-wise, and is no slouch with the bat, but that is a couple of years down the line still, and Australia need a saviour now.

Whatever the reason for Ricky Ponting’s stark decline, it is a sad end to the career of a great player.

What is even more sad is that, on the evidence of what we saw today, he seems unable to end it with dignity.

One Response to “Ponting loses rag, captaincy may follow”

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