Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Player Profile: Ricky Ponting

The Ashes 2009

Player Profiles and Predictions

by Chris Smith

Australian Captain

Ricky Ponting

Ponting has one of the best winning records of any captain in test cricket, but one wonders how long this will last and also if the winning record he has is down to his captaincy or being fortunate to have some of the greatest test cricketers of all time in his team. Some might say a combination of both, but I have always been of the opinion that Ponting is in fact a poor captain particularly with respect to his tactical acumen. This was shown in England in 2005 where Michael Vaughan captained him off the field and more recently in India in the fourth test. On the fourth day Australia had India reeling before tea and with wickets after tea might have had Australia looking at chasing a gettable target to level the series. Instead worrying about over rates, Ponting had his spinners on and even Michael Hussey’s medium pace and not his strike bowlers. Momentum was lost and Australia ended up chasing too many on the last day and subsequently lost the series. I have thought that for a long time, even with quality players Ponting has been a captain that has erred on the side of defence, which can let other teams gain the upper hand. He is also quick to lose his cool in situations that don’t favour his team, he gets easily upset, which can lead to a lack of focus on the field. This seems to be happening more often as wins are harder to come by.

One thing that is not in doubt, despite Harbajhan Singh’s ridiculous comments, is his batting quality and the respect of his players. I’m not sure how you can criticise a batsman who is averaging 57 in a test career spanning 124 matches. Ponting is truly a great batsman, with a good record against England, but perhaps not as good as you might imagine.

His main weakness in his batting is early on in his innings. Ponting has always had a pronounced forward movement when he bats and because of this can be unbalanced to begin with. This can cause two weaknesses that England can probe for at the start of his innings. The first is a tendency to play around his front pad early on, opening up lbw possibilities. This does get better as he goes through an innings though and Ponting then starts to become particularly severe on any balls bowled near his pads. The second is a problem dealing with a ball of extra bounce, just back of a length, I have seen him out a number of times caught in the gully off the shoulder of the bat. But again if the bowler is too short there is no better puller of the cricket ball in the game. The margins for error, as with most great players are small.

Ashes prediction

One of the leading run scorers in the series for Australia, only behind Michael Hussey. Ponting’s wicket will be of vital importance.

Expect Ponting to get frequently flustered when captaining in the field as his side will have many questions to answer without McGrath and Warne in English conditions.

Pontings test record (as of 24/11/08)

Overall: Matches: 124 Runs: 10386 Bat Ave: 57.06

Vs England: Matches: 26 Runs: 1978 Bat Ave: 48.40

Click these links to view our Ashes Preview or Rick Ponting's rival captain's profile and prediction for Kevin Pietersen