Some former players and pundits have written off Ricky Ponting and called for a look to the future minus the star batsman. I think the critics are wrong. Despite currently being out of form, without a doubt Ricky Ponting still remains Australia’s best batsmen. Australia’s biggest problem seems to be the complete lack of good, solid, capable players! Its as a simple as that.
Australia’s problems start right at the top of the order. Phil Hughes was a terrible replacement for Simon Katich. Shane Watson despite not being a regular opener has adapted superbly to the task and deserves to remain at the top of the order. Along with Katich he provides a semblance of stability at the outset. With Hughes coming in, it was only a question how soon Australia would lose its first wicket.
Usman Khwaja appears to have the talent and should be in contention for permanent slot in the future. Michael Clarke who is hopeless out of form and appears to be low on confidence could surely use a break. Mike Hussey showed shades of form but could perhaps use a break too. Steven Smith in his current incarnation is really an ODI player and simply unsuitable for Test cricket.
As for the bowlers, Australia’s spin chest seems barren at the moment. After Warne and McGill, Australia appears to have been stranded with no replacements. Xavier Doherty was clearly not up to the Test level, while Michael Beer, though a better choice between the two, was still well short of being the answer to Australia’s spin woes. Nathan Hauritz who was discarded after a poor tour of India might have been a better bet than either of these two youngsters.
Among the seamers, Peter Siddle showed the most promise but was not consistent. Perhaps with good support from the other end he could had more success. Hilfenhaus is hardly a devastating bowler and Ryan Harris ran into injury troubles pretty quickly. Johnson is by far Australia’s biggest bowling failure. At a time when he should be leading the bowling attack, he comes in at first change and barring his performance at Perth, did little to justify his place in the team. The sooner the selectors can give him an extended break to regain his form the better.
Ricky Ponting had great success as a captain in the past because he had a formidable team. In fact, he inherited a perfectly balanced team from his predecessor, Steven Waugh. Ironically, Waugh was phased out while he still had some cricket left in him. Hayden, Langer, Martyn, Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath, to name a few (apart from Ponting himself) of Waugh’s team mates were a class apart. None of the present members of the Australian team are anywhere close in talent or abilities to these champion players. Its the very same captain, its just that he has poor resources to work with at the moment. In the past, he just had to go out there and be a good batsmen (something that always came naturally to him) and the rest just took care of itself. Even if he failed there were many others in the team who could be relied on to score runs. Today its a very different story. Ponting’s failures directly impact the team. When he fails, the team fails. In fact, the performance of the rest of the team was so bad this Ashes tour, that I suspect Australia would have lost the Ashes even if Ponting had succeeded as a batsmen!
After having dominated world cricket for a couple of decades Australia finds its Test cricket at an all time low. Surely, the cricket administration bears some responsibility for this slow but steady decline. While I am no fan of Ponting’s captaincy I still believe that its best for the Aussies to retain Ponting as a member of the team and even as captain and spend the next couple of years grooming a team for the future. At this stage naming a new captain will be way too much pressure on the new comer who will have to establish himself as a player in the team and as a captain. The bulk of the current crop should probably be shown the door or at least given a break to work their way back. To dump Ponting and start afresh would be a wrong move for Australian cricket.