Australia has just been handed it's second consecutive series loss by South Africa. The last time Australia lost two series in a row it was in 1988-1989 when Australia lost to Pakistan and the West Indies. That is twenty years. In Test cricket, that record is outstanding.
Unfortunately for Ricky Ponting, not since Allan Border, has an Australian cricket captain had to deal with this infamy. In most other countries, that would spell the down fall for the captain. In Australia, it will be status quo.
Here in lies the quality of Australian cricket and self belief in it's leader. In twenty years, Australia has only had four Test captains. All four captains have been high quality players, top scorers on their respective teams, tough, and uncompromising.
All four captains had a rigorous apprenticeship and they learnt from the best. Not one Australian cricket captain in the last twenty years was put into that role under prepared.
Australian cricket captains are a personification of Australian character and will to win. Australians say that the Australian Cricket Captain is the most important job in Australia, more important than the Prime Minister.
Unlike other test nations, after a series loss, Australian selectors don't burn the skipper and make him walk the plank. The team captain in Australian cricket is the core they build their team around. Australians would rather right the ship, rebuild a batting or bowling order from top to bottom and sail again. They don't discard the captain.
Ricky Ponting is still the best player in the world. Ricky Ponting is still the best captain for Australia. His heir apparent, Michael Clarke is doing his apprenticeship and is learning each test. Clarke is also the second best player in the Australian team and one day, he will be the Test Captain.
Michael Clarke is now getting a feel of how it is to lose, what went wrong, how to make better decisions. Ponting's protégé will be a better captain because of these series losses. When Ricky Ponting retires, Michael Clarke will be Australia's Test captain. For the ambitious Clarke, potentially, he still has three to five years before he will be ready to lead the Australian Cricket Team.
When Australia lost to England in 2005, many people wanted Ricky Ponting's head. Ponting headed back to Australia and prepared for the Ashes rematch. As history shows, Australia battered England into oblivion.
Yes, Australia have lost two series, but they lost to the only two teams in world cricket who can really compete with them. India in India is always a tough task and the recent series against South Africa was very hard fought series. Some crucial decisions and some smarter play on the Australians part, could have turned that series to Australia.
Australia are struggling, but only against the standards they set before themselves. With some invigoration amongst the players, and that fighting spirit to win again will kick them and Ricky Ponting back on top.
I am aware that Austalia beat New Zealand before the series before South Africa, so technically my point in the first paragraph is mute. I would like to add though, that I consider three tests to be a Tour/Series.