Updated: Ricky Ponting’s little book of calm
(Update, Thursday): Ricky Ponting is at it again. The Australian captain is master of understating the negatives in a losing performance whilst always finding something good to say about his team. And today, here’s a headline from the Times of India - and OK, it is just a summary headline, but it encapsulates Ponting’s piercing analytical style.
For all his success as a batsman and captain the loss against India has seen the Aussies slide to an unconscionable fifth in the world rankings. Ponting’s leadership was publicly questioned during the game when Shane Warne tweeted: “How the hell can hauritz bowl to this field ?? Feeling for hauritz , terrible !! What are these tactics ? Sorry Ricky but what are you doing”. It’s not often this happens, but Warney was probably speaking for the whole country.
There’s more from Ponting here at Fox Sports. To be fair the skipper did say last night that the Australians have “got to be harsh on ourselves”. Though his preceding sentence was: “If I had’ve made 200 in the first innings, the result might have been different.” No kidding. The original column follows below.
The one certainty of this weekend’s second cricket Test between Australia and India is that regardless of the outcome Ricky Ponting will have something good to say at the end of it.
The Australian captain’s ability to find positives in defeat is as world-class as his batting. This week after failing to finish off India and losing by a wicket, he was glowing about the team’s performance. “We played a very good Test match,” he said. “we have done really well in a lot of areas and I am proud of the boys.”
Yeah, but the Aussies still lost a game which, on any objective assessment, they should have won. A look back at Ponting’s comments after defeats reveals this as a pattern. He sometimes sounds like the NASA engineers saying that on Challenger’s last flight everything went according to plan apart from the bit about the spaceship exploding.
Perhaps this ability to think positively has helped make Ponting into arguably the most successful cricketer in the game’s history. Being upbeat is as deeply ingrained in his approach to the game as his ability to pull a short ball over square leg to the boundary.
Let me show you what I mean.
At Edgbaston in 2005 England pipped Australia to level the Ashes series. It was the turning point in the tour and the Poms would go on to win the little urn. It was also the beginning of the end of Australian dominance in world cricket. Australia’s failure to win there should, by rights, haunt this team.
But asked about it last year before a return to the cauldron he was staggeringly chipper: “At the end of the day I don’t think we were that disappointed coming away from here last time. It was a great Test match and one in which, during the majority of the game we weren’t at our best but one in which we almost pulled what would have been one of the great Test wins ever.”
In late 2008 Australian cricket reached the lowest point of the modern era when it was deposed as the world’s No.1 team following a series defeat at home to South Africa. “A great era has ended” was how The Australian began its coverage on the front page. The Daily Telegraph in Sydney updated the famous obituary of English cricket with a graphic of a tombstone that read: “RIP Australian cricket: slaughtered by South Africa; aided and abetted by incompetent selectors, inept batting, impotent bowling, dreadful catching and poor captaincy.”
Ricky Ponting’s reaction was a masterful display of understatement: “It seems like everything we have touched lately has not worked out the way we would have liked it.”
After failing to win the first Ashes Test in Cardiff last year: “The way we fought was pleasing… We didn’t bowl our best on day one and we didn’t bat very well, either.”
Yes you can fight in cricket but the whole not bowling or batting well might prove a problem.
After losing two Twenty20 games to South Africa before a World Cup: “We did a lot better tonight, particularly with the ball… So to give some exposure to [debutants] is beneficial for us going into a World Cup campaign. They have been two pretty poor results but at the end of the day, the bigger picture is a World Cup.”
And what happened at that World Cup? The Aussies were knocked out in the first round! The captain’s thoughts: “I’d like to be able to tell you I knew what was going on,’’ he said. “That’s five international Twenty20 games we’ve lost in a row. That’s a bit of a worrying trend for our team and our group. I couldn’t have been happier with what we’ve done leading into the tournament, everything was spot-on. But when the big moments have come along we’ve just stumbled.”
After a loss to Bangladesh – Bangladesh! – in England in 2005: “That’s a bit of a worry - the No.1 ranked team in the world against Bangladesh, it’s reasonably worrying.”
“It’s just that when the games are coming around we’re not performing.”
Is this fair? No. Are the quotes selective? Yes.
But we are heading into a challenging few months of cricket, playing to regain The Ashes from an ascendant English side. Watch for the Australian captain’s search for the positives. If you’re an Australian fan it might at least be more enjoyable than the action on the field.
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