Ricky Ponting is the worst test captain in the history of modern Australian cricket. If this was ever in doubt, the final, irrefutable piece of evidence came in the recently completed test series in India.
While the pundits have found their voice following the second test, the momentum and the series was lost on day five in Mohali, in the first test.
When the 8th wicket fell it was going to take a miracle for India to chase the 92 remaining runs with only two wickets in hand. Australia had all but finished off its prey, standing over the lame body of the Indian batting line up. Ponting should have produced the lethal bullet, instead he glanced away and missed the moment.
From that point on the Punter had become the hunted.
The thing that makes test cricket so spellbinding is that despite being played over five grueling days, in close games, it is inevitably a fleeting moment that is decisive.
When those moments arrive the outcome is so often in the hands of the fielding captain. If the batsman makes an error and the ball catches the edge of his willow, will the ball fly into the waiting arms of the third slip or will it fly through the vacant third slip position for a pressure relieving boundary?
Ponting has too often opted for that one less slipsman and for conservatism when the game has called for attack. In Mohali he brought on second string bowlers and spread the field when Australia were dominating. The message Ponting sent was defensive, that the game was still in the balance – it soon was.
In contrast to his early career as captain where he refused to admit fault, Ponting of late has shown a penchant for a “mea culpe” in the aftermath of matches we should have won.
It has now got to the point where he has had too many chances. During his tenure Australia have lost the close tests in the big series against India, South Africa and England.
It seems the Australian test captain gets much more leeway than the Prime Minister to get it right before the apparatchiks move.
Now seems like the perfect time for Cricket Australia to act – just a few months ago it appointed Greg Chappel (one of the patriarchs of Australian cricket) as its first full time selector. Chappel has never been a man short of an opinion or scared of putting noses out of joint. He has the gravitas required to bring about generational change to the national side.
Ponting is the greatest batsman we have produced since Don Bradman, however, his cricket IQ is extremely low.
He lacks judgment when big games are on the line. Ponting’s win loss record looks good but if you dig deeper many of those wins are against lowly ranked test teams. It is his lack of self-awareness that makes me sure that he will need a push.
My call, it should be Pup and not Punter leading the boys out against England this summer.