While Ricky Ponting has seen Australia through some lush times as cricket captain, his time is most certainly at an end. His performance during the fourth test in India has been unconvincing, and his willingness to throw away what could have been a glorious win in order to maintain his captaincy during the first test against New Zealand in 10 days time is little less than deluded.
There was a time during India’s second innings of the fourth test that Australia, ebullient after the run-out of Tendulkar, should have pressed home their advantage with the quicker swing bowling of Lee and Watson.
Yet to the dismay of commentators and fans alike, Ponting fell into the hands of the Indian batsmen by bowling first Cameron White (who took a thumping), then Michaela Hussey (who didn’t boost the score, yet didn’t bother the batsmen) and then Michael Clarke (who seems to be losing 1kg in weight every time he bowls a ball).
The reason for this bizarre selection of bowlers was solely due to Australia’s dismally slow over rate. While the entire team risked a fine for slow over completion, Ponting risked suspension for the next match, which just happens to be against New Zealand in 10 days time. While I’m quite sure the team would have copped a fine simply to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Ponting let Harbhajan Singh and Mahendra Dhoni belt a partnership of over 100, setting Australia 382 to secure a win…a big ask in any country, let alone India. A big ask so Ponting could avoid suspension.
When Watson was finally invited to bowl well after the damage was done, he not only stopped the avalanche of runs, but almost immediately secured the valuable wicket of Harbhajan Singh. Had this occurred 90 minutes prior straight after the tea break, Australia could have been chasing a total of less than 300 with a day to spare.
Yet this has happened before. In January 2008, Ponting was forced to use similar tactics to avoid suspension and a team fine in the 3rd Test against India in Perth.
Australia lost the test and still copped a fine. Perhaps the fine would have been worth a win. Ponting’s perspective – that being captain in an upcoming test is more important than chasing victory in the here and now is questionable. His inability to monitor the over rate should have selectors searching for a math’s coach quick-smart, while his insistence on part-timers, and his confounding reluctance to bowl the unpredictable Katich, or even the quicks off a short run, should leave the Australian Cricket Board asking some serious questions.
As Australia enters its hot and lazy summer of cricket, change is most certainly nigh.