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Ponting:A batsman only and never a Captain

January 9, 2011

Dust has yet to settle down in the Ashes urn after such an exciting test series in Australia. They lost a home series after 16 years since losing to Richardson’s West Indies in 1994. Achieved a record of losing 3 tests in an innings at home. Lost the Ashes in Australia since 1986. Who does everyone blame????? The captain — Ricky Ponting.

The rant of the media and the criticisms of the once great cricketers on a lone man of recognition in the otherwise mediocre Australian team is unwarranted for. The ignominy of losing 3 ashes series is a great burden to carry after captaining a team of players who never lost the Ashes. Current media fails to recognize his batting achievments in the previous 2 lost Ashes series where he sometimes was the lone batsman fighting for Australia and are now calling his squad place into question. Leaders are judged quite harshly at time and pay a hefty price towards the era of a change of baton.

The great leaders in their ambition to conquer everything forget about the mortal nature inherent in every human being. From Clive Loyd to Hansie Cronje everyone was a great leader and inspired their teams to success beyond the imagination of normal. Loyd had the quartet and Cronje had the White Lightening with him but  Similar to them the Ponting had the magic of Warne, accuracy of McGrath, Lee’s pace, Gilchrist’s warrior like batting and the best opening pair in tests I have ever watched.

Protected with this armour, Ponting batted like a knight of the 12th century with all the flair and grace of a classic batsman joyful to watch. To win a battle with such an armour required little leadership equivalent of America chosing a nuclear or hydrogen bomb on Iraq. With the Ashes loss of 2005, the english spartans exposed the fralties in the armour of Ponting. Ponting battled forth in 2006 to a second ever clean sweep after Warwick Armstrong 1919 in an Ashes. 

It was the last frontier to be captured by Ponting’s leadership that instilled awe and fear in an opponent like Aleander’s halt at the Indus or Napolean at Waterloo. The protection was dismantled and Ponting was exposed. Ponting had no more magic, awe, or inspiration beyond his batting skills in the last 2 lost Ashes after the demise of Warne and co. He lay battered and alone. He never led the team as a captain again struggling to inspire the young players. His batting declined and the graceful pulls and hooks were replaced with mistimed shots and catch practice to fielders. Indications of retiring with his troops were evident but ignorant of his own mortality, he battled on with a hope to inspire the next generation of youngsters. Unlike his predecessor he wanted to continue.

Waugh did not lost his composure towards the twilight and fought for his place in the team rather than the captaincy making his twilight career more graceful and gritty. Waugh inspired the batsman in Ponting who failed continuously and miserably for the 1st 2 years of his career in 94 -96. It was the inspiration and discipline of Waugh’s team which made Ponting’s leadership look gigantic and enormous than they really were. Hansie Cronje had 1 and a half stars in his team and inspired a team from 8 and a half other players. M S Dhoni may not be a great batsman or even a wicket keeper to acquire an inch of space in the history books but his surety, calm and composure as a leader will put him amongst the history of great captains in the company of Bradman, Gatting and Loyd.

A leader is one who inspires the mediocre to become great and does not need a great player. If Ponting is a great leader, he should have marshalled his troops better. Winning a WC with the Sharmas and Amarnaths against the Richrds and Loyds is more a leaders job than winning 2 WCs with the McGraths and Warne.

Eventually, I wish History judges him only as a great batsman and never as a captain for he was a helluva batsman at no. 3 second only to Dravid.

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