Since Australia’s disastrous 2010/2011 homes Ashes series, there has been much speculation as to the future of besieged captain Ricky Ponting. Ponting’s substandard returns with the bat in the series, lacklustre captaincy and age have led many prominent cricket figures to question whether he should soldier on or pull up stumps on his illustrious career.
There is no denying that Ponting’s form with the bat recently has been well down on his output from previous years. His average of 16 in the recent Ashes series was lower than the averages of all rounder Steve Smith and bowlers Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson, as well as under performing batsmen Marcus North and Phil Hughes.
The man they call Punter has scored only one Test century since the 2009 Ashes series, and that was in a series against Pakistan that is under a cloud of suspicion regarding match fixing. He was dropped on 0 in that innings by a player who has since been found guilty of spot fixing and suspended for five years.
His one day batting in the last 15 months has also produced only one century. Figures like these from a batsman considered by many to be Australia’s finest since Sir Donald Bradman seem to indicate that his reflexes, and in turn his skills, are declining with age.
Ricky Ponting is 36, an age which very few players can play to without losing the skills that built them their reputations. There are several exceptions to this rule but Ponting’s recent returns suggest that he is not one of them. Given that his career seems to have little life left in it, retiring from one day internationals after the current world cup seems to be the most appropriate choice.
However, his Test future is not so clear. Given the doubts over the captaincy credentials of current deputy Michael Clarke, Ponting may need to continue playing the longer form of the game until a suitable replacement is found. Clarke seems to have the backing of the higher ups at Cricket Australia but possibly not his teammates, and certainly not the general public. It may be necessary for Ponting to continue to lead the Test side for at least one more home summer until Clarke or another candidate is deemed ready to take over the reins.
Ricky Ponting has refused on numerous occasions to concede that his best years are behind him. He has not given up on leading the Australian Test side on one more Ashes campaign, despite the fact that he will be 38 by the time the next series is contested. Ponting’s never say die attitude has been one of his great strengths during his career but it is likely to lead to him not knowing when to end his great career.
It would be a shame for a legend of the game such as Ricky Ponting to have his career ended by the national selectors, but it may be necessary to facilitate the rebuilding of the once world beating Australian cricket team. It would make little sense for Ponting to continue in the limited overs side after the world cup, but the reduced workload may just give him the boost he needs to rediscover his Test match form. That said, don’t be surprised if Punter bows out from international cricket completely after the world cup.