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The Roar


Ponting's left field solution to end Smith form slump, backs Langer for new deal

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17th January, 2022
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Ricky Ponting believes Steve Smith should consider toning down his famously intense batting practice sessions in a bid to rediscover peak form after a poor Ashes series by his own extremely high standards.

Smith’s Test average dropped below 60 for the first time since 2017 when he was dismissed for 27 from a Mark Wood bouncer on day three of the fifth Test in Hobart.

The Australian vice-captain’s average is now 59.87 after 82nd matches in the baggy green cap after he scored 244 runs at 30.5 for the Ashes series with a highest score of 93 in Adelaide, one of only two half-centuries.

It was also the first time he has not hit a century in an Ashes series since his maiden series against England in 2010-11 and also the first time he’s not reached triple figures in a home summer since 2012-13 when he played just two matches against India.

Ponting believes Smith will come good sooner rather than later and with tours to Asia coming up against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in India, his output will be crucial to Australia’s chances of success.

“One thing I know about him is that he wouldn’t be missing out on batting, that’s for sure. Whatever he’s not doing in the middle he will be doing in the nets and getting plenty of work done there,” he said on Cricket Australia’s The Unplayable podcast.

“Maybe that’s even something he needs to look at. It’s not like he’s right at the back end of his career but he’s getting closer to the end, does he have to look at trying to find ways to be mentally fresher and not focus so much on hitting so many balls.

“But they’re all questions that he will have the answers to. I can’t give the right answers to those.”


He has had a lean run with only one century in 14 Tests since dominating the 2019 Ashes series in England and some observers have questioned whether being hit by a Jofra Archer bouncer during that series has perhaps dented his confidence.

Ponting rejected that notion, saying “I don’t think it’s anything to do with that”.

“There’s standards he set for himself for so long, that three- or four-year period that he had where he took batting to another level. To try and maintain that for four, five or six years, no one’s ever done it and no one will probably ever do it in the game. You’re going to have your ups and downs,” the former Australian skipper said.

“I don’t think it will change his mindset. He’s so hungry and determined to be the best he can be anyway.

“There’s lot of things that we could probably think about it and ask questions about but it’s not going to be long. I know what he’s like. Even though Australia’s won the series he will look back at his own game and ask himself those questions as to why things didn’t work out or haven’t worked in Australia as he would have liked them to in the last few seasons and he will come up with the answers.

“The best players are the best problem solvers.”

Ponting said the seaming wickets Down Under this summer had contributed to the lean run of Smith and English skipper Joe Root, another batter regularly ranked in the world’s top five.


“I’ve never seen a series of wickets in Australia that have been anywhere near as conducive to seam bowling as what I’ve seen here.

“I think some of it’s got to go down to that. He hasn’t looked like he’s been out of touch to me. All his things that he usually does, his mannerisms, his footwork patterns and all of that have been as they would normally be.

“I think England’s tactics have been pretty good to him too. They haven’t really allowed him to come out and dominate. He’s had to work hard for every run that he’s got.

“If you have a look at some of his stats for the last four series. Before this series he’s averaged about 36 or 37 in his last few home series and this one is less than that.

“I can’t put my finger on it. Nothing’s looked like it’s changed to me. He just hasn’t got the runs.

“Right the way through this series I think you’ve had to have your fair share of luck to make big scores. With the exception of Uzzy [Usman Khawaja] probably in Sydney, anyone else that has got runs has either been put down, got bowled off a no-ball, played and missed 20 or 30 times an innings.”


Ponting also went into bat for former teammate Justin Langer over talk that he may not be retained as Australian coach when his contract ends in June.

Speaking on Seven commentary moments after Australia sealed their 4-0 Ashes series win with a thumping victory over England in the fifth Test, he said Langer deserved another deal from Cricket Australia.

“I can’t see how he cannot be re-signed as simple as that if he wants to go on in this role. There’s a bit of speculation about will they split the roles, will there be a Test match coach and a white-ball role,” he said.

“On performance, there is absolutely no way that Justin Langer cannot continue on as head coach of this Australian cricket team.”

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