Ponting channels Seinfeld with a show about nothing
So here’s the news, if you can call it that. Ricky Ponting will no longer play One Day cricket, which we all knew, given he was dropped from the team yesterday. As Ponting himself effectively said this morning, the selectorial door is not a revolving one at his age.
Ponting will, however, continue to play Test cricket. So the Ponting landscape today is pretty much the same as it is yesterday, which made the 70 media at today’s presser, myself included, wonder why we had bothered to leave the office.
Notwithstanding the mild inconvenience of attending a cricketing equivalent of a Seinfeldian show about nothing, it’s worth reflecting on Ponting’s decision. And while we’re at it, let’s celebrate the 375 One Dayers Ponting racked up for Australia.
Ponting’s decision to keep playing Tests means he will now turn out in Tassie colours for the remainder of the Sheffield Shield season, in order for him to prepare himself for the three Test tour of the West Indies in March and April.
You can understand why he feels he deserves a chance, given he made over 500 runs in the India series, including a double century in his last Test in Perth.
Not many guys are dropped after a double ton. It happened to Jason Gillespie, but his freak double was made against the world’s weakest side. And as a bowler, he was rightly assessed on his ability to take wickets.
So Ponting has earned his spot. Assuming he make runs in the Windies, he then has a long layoff while the Australian One Day and T20 teams undergo a busy winter program which includes the World Twenty20 tournament. Ponting today said a stint in English country cricket is almost out of the equation.
In all likelihood, Ponting will front up in next summer’s twin three Test series, beginning in November, against South Africa and then Sri Lanka. If he goes well, then maybe, just maybe, he will make it to the 2013 Ashes. Asked today if he was seeking redemption, he answered: “Aren’t we all?”
Another thing professional sportsmen crave, though they never admit it publicly, is recognition. So let’s go through some of the highlights of Ponting’s One Day career.
In 375 games, he racked up 13,704 runs with 30 centuries at an average a tick over 42. Those are better numbers than Mark Waugh and Adam Gilchrist, who are the only other batsmen with a legitimate claim of Australia’s best One Day bat. You could probably throw in Michael Bevan as a candidate too, but while Bevan was a finisher, Ponting was the man who built innings.
This he did with incredible poise and skill for more than a decade and a half. The high point, as he admitted today, was the 2003 World Cup, an unbeaten campaign which preceded some incredible unbeaten streaks with Ponting at the helm of the One Day team. At one point, the team won more than 20 straight games.
Ponting instilled real hardness into the One Day team, so much so that you occasionally wondered why his captaincy was often so ineffectual in Tests. Captaincy issues aside, it is his batting he’ll be remembered for.
That match-winning 140 not out in the 2003 World Cup final was sheer class. There were classical cover drives galore, but the shot that totally made you gasp in awe was his signature shot – the pull shot.
The pull shot is both the easiest and the hardest shot to play in cricket. The easiest, because it is the natural swish across the body that every child plays instinctively before they learn the cultured art of the straight bat. And the hardest, because for one split second, the ball is coming straight at your face and all you have to defend it with is a cross bat.
The shot sums up Ponting’s career. When he is at his most vulnerable, he often pulls out his best cricket. He’s done that many times in all forms of the game and on balance, he more than deserves the chance to do it again in Tests.
If he so much as blinks, the selectors will be ruthless. Another Australian summer of Ponting is more than likely, but the Ashes are still a 50-50 bet at best. Really, it’s up to him. As he said today: “I am my own best selector”.
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