Ponting axing shows reputation counts for nothing in Australia
Just when one thought Ricky Ponting was secure in the Australia set-up, the selectors have struck, axing him from the one-day team. After the batting great stepped down as skipper, in the wake of the World Cup quarterfinal defeat against India last year, many felt the Australian selectors would strike as the combative but ageing star struggled to stitch together a Test century.
With transition writ all over the team and the new captain Michael Clarke – despite experience and the leadership qualities he subsequently displayed –yet to settle down, the selectors held fire. It was surprising the reconstituted selection panel did not straightaway nudge Ponting into retirement.
They were proved right as Ponting showed the old fire in him was yet to be doused, as the sensational run with the bat against India showed. It also allowed the younger players to ease into the side. But not for nothing have Australia been champions for most of the last two decades. The grit in the team is also attributed to the decisiveness with which selectors act. The long-term welfare of the team is always the first priority.
Ending sporting careers, especially those of great players, is never pleasant and will always attract criticism. However, the openness with which the Australian board deals with selection issues needs to be admired.
Ponting was stand-in captain in Brisbane on Sunday when the hosts crushed India. But he had failed again with the bat, and that meant it was time to hand the spot to a younger player and allow him to grow as a consistent top order batsman.
As of now, Ponting’s Test spot seems safe but the player whose deeds in Australian cricket are rated next only to Don Bradman, will address a press conference on Tuesday. He may retire from One-day cricket or even call time on his career.
Chief selector John Inverarity has made it clear it is time for Ponting to move on. Although he belies his age with super reflexes on the field, it is time to help the team regroup in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup.
Australia is a sports mad nation, but their success on the field across disciplines is also due to a professional approach by administrators. Their cricket selectors were as decisive in axing Steve Waugh as One-day captain and player in 2002, allowing his successor Ponting to reshape the team in his own way. It came as no surprise when Australia retained the World Cup the next year.
In the latest case, there has been criticism of Ponting being named to lead the side in place of the injured Michael Clarke. Dropping him now will allow a younger player, and possible future skipper, to take charge if Clarke is not available.
There is a big lesson for the Indian selectors and the cricket board. Despite poor performances in England and Australia, the selectors and their bosses continue to sit back and watch. There is no doubt about the greatness and contributions of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, all senior to Ponting and far less agile on the field. The selectors were guilty of inaction when the team cried out for a younger batsman to step in during the Test series rout in Australia as there was nothing to lose.
The Indian selectors are still mum, allowing the drama of a rotation among the top three players – Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and the out-of-form Virender Sehwag – to play on, and to damaging consequences.
The Australian selectors, on the other hand, have told Ponting the time to end his great career is near. Their Indian counterparts, by waiting endlessly for a signal from the BCCI bosses instead of doing their job, have only contributed to uncertainty in the team and leave the three batting giants face questions they should not be subjected to in the first place.
By Anantha Narayanan