Ricky Ponting is arguably Australia’s greatest ODI player but with time called on his international career, should he be allowed to walk straight in to Tasmania’s one day side?
In an Australia record 375 ODIs, Ponting became the second highest ever run scorer and century maker and, of those who have scored more than 8000 ODI runs, his average of 42.03 is only surpassed by modern champions Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis.
Statistically he has also proven himself as a player for important situations. His average improved to over 50 in World Cup matches, where he scored over a thousand runs and hit four centuries while leading Australia through two undefeated campaigns to become World Champions in 2003 and 2007.
While his captaincy was rightfully criticised for lacking initiative at times, he played some of his greatest innings as captain and either placed Australia in winning positions or saved them from defeat.
More than pure numbers, his presence at number three in the batting order saw him become the Australian top order’s prime wicket for opposition attacks, and there was a feeling among supporters that all was well while Ponting was at the crease.
Meanwhile, his fielding saved hundreds of runs and took dozens of wickets behind backward point.
Now with Ponting effectively retiring from ODIs on Monday, he has made himself available for both limited over and first class cricket for Tasmania and will make his return for the Tigers in the Ryobi Cup final against the Southern Redbacks at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
While it will be a boost for domestic cricket, currently lacking appeal to the general cricket supporter, the rules which allow Ponting being allowed to play on Saturday make a mockery of the competition.
Currently there are no eligibility requirements to play domestic finals in Australia, meaning Ponting is able to come straight back from international competition and take part despite not playing a domestic one day game for Tasmania all season.
Not only does this adversely affect the balance of Saturday’s match, considering the Redbacks now have to face a player who other teams have not had to play against, it also takes away the chance for a player who has been part of Tasmania’s campaign all season to be a part of the final.
While coach Tim Coyle has suggested Ponting will fill a spot in the top six that others in the squad, when given the chance, have not grabbed, it will still be an injustice to Matt Johnston or James Faulkner if they are forced to give up their place in the side for Ponting.
It may be argued that Ponting’s current lack of form will mean his presence actually hinders Tasmania’s chances but there will always be an asterisk in the record books if Punter scores a big century which leads his side to the silverware.
Surely this situation is the perfect opportunity for Cricket Australia too look into qualification rules for players to take part in domestic cricket finals, such as those present in state football leagues for players returning from the AFL.
A fine line is being ridden between promoting domestic cricket in Australia and making the individual competitions a sideshow to drawing in crowds and television audiences. It must be ensured that the balance is kept.