You lost the Test series, champ!

Clayton MurzelloIt’s quite amazing how the whole of Australia covered Ricky Ponting in gold after he announced his retirement from the game.

Probably, the Australians simply loved the way Ponting went about playing for the country — flashy, attractively and controversially.

What shouldn’t be forgotten is the fact that Ponting hung on for a touch too long and the selectors gave him a longer rope than their predecessors did for other great players.

Ricky Ponting
Respect: Ricky Ponting walks through a South African player guard of honour, as he heads onto the field to bat during day four of the Third Test Match between Australia and South Africa

Ponting is also the only captain to have lost three Ashes series. His defenders might argue that, for someone with a captaincy longevity like that, there are bound to be series-losses. Yes, but then, whatever happened to the Aussie way of being ruthless in selection?

It’s fine for Australia to have persisted with Ponting, but this turns odd when their media and ex-players go on rubbishing other teams and call for the heads of those outfit’s star players.

Australia have a rich cricketing history and the way they promote the sport is quite peerless. However, they have a tendency to be preachers and that’s what leaves a bad taste. Remember Andrew Symonds’ criticism of the way India celebrated their World T20 in 2007?

Being the best team in the world (Australia were No 1 at one time) doesn’t award you exclusive rights to believe that other teams don’t know how to go about their cricket.

Back to Ponting’s farewell. I felt the Perth Test match coverage had too much of the ‘Goodbye Ricky’ factor. South Africa who played splendidly never got all the credit they deserved. A lot of cricket fans were expecting a better performance from the home batters on Day Four; even the opposition expected a stronger show of will, but what happened? Ten wickets fell well inside the scheduled close of play.

Yes, their media had some strong words for the team after the Perth defeat, but they chose not to use their flashy highlighter when it came to labouring the point about Ponting’s announcement. Should he have been roasted for announcing his retirement plans before the all-important Perth Test? However tough the Australians are made out to be, one doubts whether Ponting’s decision would have not affected the thought process.

Way back in 2003-04, Steve Waugh announced his decision to retire before the series against India, a move not universally accepted by experts. Not to take anything from Sourav Ganguly’s Indians, but the record books will show that Australia failed to win that series. And they could well have lost it had India been more attacking.

Probably the best farewell by an Australian batsman was enjoyed by Greg Chappell, who crossed Bradman’s record 6,996-run mark in his last Test at Sydney against Pakistan in 1984. But Chappell’s chief objective was winning the Test. He said later: “It was the time for me to finish and it was time for me to focus on finishing on a high note. The Bradman mark and the 7,000 runs were secondary. I wanted to make sure we won the Test match.”

The obsession of winning has never been lost on Australian captains. Dean Jones illustrated this wonderfully in a documentary produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation a few years ago. Jones was in good cheer after helping Australia to a solace win the final Test at Sydney in 1986-87 along with lanky fast bowler Bruce Reid. Jones attempted to cheer skipper Allan Border up but encountered a strong response which went like this: “What are you so happy about? Just because you got 184, Deano? You lost the Test series, champ. You lost the Ashes... you know what that means?”

Ponting for sure knows what that means. Three times over in fact!

Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports EditorĀ 

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