It was only twelve months ago that Ricky Ponting’s position in the Australian Test team was under severe scrutiny.
There were many cricket experts, commentators and former players calling for the former Australian Captain to retire or else be axed. Ponting responded by hammering 544 runs against India at an average of over 100.
This changed the question from being “When will he be dropped?” to “How much longer can he go for?”
That was way back in January. Since then Ponting has been dropped from the ODI side, averaged only 23 in the West Indies and started his off-season training.
Ponting came into this series as the leading run scorer in the Sheffield Shield with 358 runs. But with scores of 0 and 4 so far in the South African series, the questions and criticism are starting to come back.
On day one of the second Test, Ponting was literally knocked over by Jacques Kallis. The ball was full on off stump, swung away late and bowled Ponting. But the way Ponting played the ball (he ended up falling over on his knees) added to the insult and humiliation.
Sure you can argue that Ponting was facing arguably the world’s best Test bowling attack but if you look at how South Africa bowled in the third, fourth and fifth day of the first Test and on day one of the second Test (so far they have conceded 1047 runs in an innings an a half), you could say Ponting could’ve easily avoided those two dismissals. At the Gabba he fended at a wide delivery, that he really should have left.
This year Ponting has scored 568 runs at an average of 47 which is his best return since 2009. However he has only averaged over 50 in two of the last ten series and he is averaging just over 30 in his last 30 innings.
Sure age can be a factor but players like Mark Taylor who averaged 53 in his last 30 innings, Steve Waugh who averaged 52 and even Matthew Hayden who averaged 43 have been able to perform reasonably well in their twilight years.
Minus the series against India last summer, Ponting has averaged just over 25 in the last nine series and is averaging 2 this series.
What might be keeping him in the side is the reluctancy of Michael Clarke, Mickey Arthur and John Inverarity to drop him, saying that he brings a load of experience to the younger players. Also, the fact that players looking to replace him like Peter Forrest, Phil Hughes, George Bailey are not performing.
What also might keep Ponting for the third Test in Perth is that Rob Quiney is yet to make a decent score and if he fails to do so in the second innings in Adelaide, Ponting may just be safe for now.
However there are players like Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson who have been heavy scorers in Shield (Ferguson having taken over Ponting) and the former captain’s spot may be under extreme pressure come the series against Sri Lanka, or the Ashes in eight months’ time.
In my opinion, I’d like the selectors to give him another chance in Perth and possible in Hobart for the first Test against Sri Lanka and see how he goes. If Ponting does not register a big score in the next two or three tests, we may see the back of Australia’s greatest ever batsman since Bradman.
If you look at the other 37-year-old in the side Michael Hussey, he has cemented his spot for at least the next Test series after back-to-back hundreds.
I think Ponting will bounce back either in the second innings in Adelaide or in Perth for sure. You can never write off champions.