Retiring Ponting is to gamble with a loaded deck of inexperience
There have been many calls for Ricky Ponting to retire so that he could make way for the younger players. I read many online comments after he made the stunning knock of 221, hailing his knock but pushing him to retire on top.
Yet there weren’t many comments that suggested a replacement for Ponting. Does that mean many fans struggle to find a replacement for Ponting, or does it conclude that Australia will play with ten men?
There’s confusion in the air.
What complicates Ponting’s situation is our younger batsman are not stepping up to the mark, whether it’s in the Shield or Test level.
Currently in Shield cricket, Peter Forrest, who has moved from New South Wales to Queensland, tops the batting with 581 runs at an average of 58.10 from six matches.
The other players that are in the top ten most runs in season 2011/12 so far are Michael Klinger, Wade Townsend, Chris Rogers, Dan Christian, Peter Nevill, Tom Cooper, Adam Voges, Rob Quiney and Liam Davies – who rounds out the top ten has 451 runs at an average of 56.37.
Out of those top ten players, only Chris Rogers (51.2), Peter Nevill (49.30) and Adam Voges (41.65) average 40 plus in their first class careers. Rogers (age, 34) and Voges (32) are closer to finishing their first class careers, while Nevill is a wicketkeeper batsman.
Granted you could say other players down the list may have played one or two less games from majority of the top ten run scorers, like Matthew Wade’s 316 at an average of 63.20 from four matches out of six, but it still does give a reflection of where the batting is concerned at Shield level.
Put simply, Australia doesn’t have the batting depth at this stage. Former Australian captains, Mark Taylor and Ian Chappell have alluded to that. Maybe in 2014, but not in 2012.
At Test level this summer we have seen Phil Hughes and Shaun Marsh struggle big time. Interestingly both players are at the top of the order.
Although it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for both players as there are many facets of their respective batting that needs improvement such as footwork and the mentallality to cope with failures.
Let’s become a great player here, and let’s view things a couple of steps ahead. Say Ponting and Hussey retire from Test cricket today, here is the top 6 for Australia’s first test against the West Indies in April:
Now, with that top six, there are valid questions hanging over every player except Clarke.
Cowan and Warner are a green opening pair with only 10 tests between. As shown in the latest test, Warner may need to do some work dealing with the spinners. Warner’s two test centuries have come when the opposition has four fast bowlers, and no spinners.
As for his partner, is Cowan’s limited game strong enough to survive top-level Test cricket?
Marsh has scored only 17 runs in six innings, so unless he scores a motza at Shield, he won’t get a ticket to the Carribbean.
Watson has barely been sighted this summer due to his nagging injuries. It has been the case for Watson for majority of his career. Now, that Watson is 30, will that become a concern for him as he gets older as far as been injury free is concerned?
Khawaja is a strange case. If any, it may represent the new selection panel of John Inverarity, Mickey Arthur, Michael Clarke, Andy Bichel and Rod Marsh there first major selection mistake.
They dropped Khawaja after only four innings against New Zealand. Let’s examine this. Before NZ, Khawaja scored a vital 65 in Australia’s famous 300 odd run chase victory in South Africa to level that test series.
Against New Zealland, in the first test, he scored 38 but was run out. Remained not out in the second innings where Australia only needed 19 to win. In Hobart, on a green deck where it was tough batting conditions, Khawaja scored 7 and 23.
But unfortunately for Khawaja, Australia lost that test by 7 runs, and the selectors were looking for a scape goat, and Khawaja was it.
The selectors were quick to rush Marsh back in the test side. With the benefit of hindsight, I think Marsh needed time in the middle in a first class game to build up form and fitness.
Had the selectors held their nerve after Australia lost to NZ, and gave some faith to Khawaja, than he may have, could’ve, should’ve scored over 200 or 300 runs in the Indian series, and taken some of the runs away from Ponting and Clarke.
In the next few series, Ponting, if he still wants to play on, should bat at 3. He was the surrogate number 3 in the Indian series thanks to Marsh’s short stays at the crease. Have either Watson or Khawaja at 6.
I believe we need Ponting and Hussey to be around for a while longer. Judge them on a series by series basis. Their big test will be the South Afican series where they will again face Steyn, Morkel, Philander, de Lange etc.
If they survive that, than it puts them in good stead when they face the English bowlers in the Ashes. However if Hussey and Ponting have sub par series, than the selectors must retire them.
At least when they are replaced by two new players, they still have time to settle with a home series against Sri Lanka and an away series against India before the Ashes.
Those two players could be a mixture of Marsh, Hughes, Khawaja or someone like Joe Burns from Queensland. I’m preferring the latter two.
Ideally you want Hussey and Ponting or at least one of them to play on with form to the 2013 Ashes series.
It’s not a bad thing to have one run-making veteran in the line-up thats 37 or 38. He”ll have the experience to steady the ship, if things start collapsing, as evidenced in the recent Indian series where Australia were 3 for not many, and the stable middle order put Australia out of trouble.
With either of those in the side, it allows the new players in the test side to settle in like the openers, and it also allows young players at Shield level like Joe Burns, Chris Lynn, Nic Maddison, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Harris, James Faulkner to become established, and by the time 2013 or 2014 rolls around, they’ll be ready to step up. Hopefully.
The selectors didn’t held their nerve with Khawaja. Us fans should hold our nerve with Ponting.
Punter, are you playing on?