Cricket World Cup 2011

Ponting a 'polarising' captain

2011-03-29 08:46
Ricky Ponting. (AFP)

Sydney - Ricky Ponting's resignation ends one of the most successful and most polarising reigns as captain of the Australia cricket team.

Ponting led Australia in 77 Test matches, winning 48 to surpass his predecessor Steve Waugh's record of 41 test victories as captain.

He also captained Australia in 227 limited-overs internationals, of which he won 163, encompassing two World Cups triumphs and a Champions Trophy title.

Throughout his nine years at the helm, Ponting fashioned unprecedented records of individual and team success, including a record-equalling 16 consecutive Test wins between December 2005 and January 2008.

He participated as a player in 99 Australian Test victories, surpassing Shane Warne's record of 92, and is Australia's most prolific international batsman with more than 12,000 tests runs, including 39 centuries, and more than 13,000 in 352 ODIs.

"We all play to win games of cricket and be involved in a team that wins a lot of games of cricket," Ponting said when he equalled Waugh's captaincy record. "They are things I am very proud of."

Yet, even purely statistical examination of Ponting's captaincy emphasises the paradoxes that mark his career.

While he achieved unprecedented success and helped make Australia almost invincible in the middle period of his tenure, he was also the first Australian captain in more than a century to lose two Ashes Test series in England.

His team's 3-1 Ashes series defeat in Australia this summer, Australia's first series loss to England at home since 1987, helped crystalise opposition to his captaincy and impel him toward Tuesday's announcement.

And beyond bare statistics or considerations of success and failure, Ponting's captaincy raised long-lasting and polarising questions about conduct and demeanour, the style and the substance of his leadership.

"Ricky Ponting has been an outstanding batsman, one of the best to wear the baggy green," Cricket Australia chairman Jack Clarke said in a statement Tuesday.

"His leadership as captain has been outstanding, and I sometimes think his brilliance with the bat has overshadowed his fine work as captain."

Emerging from the island state of Tasmania, where he had been the youngest player to represent the province in domestic first-class cricket, he was in equal parts an oddity and a prodigy.

After episodes of youthful indiscipline which led him to admit problems with alcohol, Ponting became sober, mature and, some would say stolid and uncharismatic.

His captaincy and his career was still subject to evident dichotomies. To some he fits the template of the admired, if mythologised, "Aussie battler", while to others he seemed imperious and less a man of the people.

Where some saw confidence, others saw arrogance. Where some saw competitiveness, others saw pugnacity; he deeply respected cricket's traditions of sportsmanship and civility, yet didn't walk until given out and expected Australia to play to the limits of acceptable conduct.

He was seen by some to lack tactical imagination or daring, and yet he was ambitious and often risk-taking in his declarations.

He was criticised at times for an overcautious nature, and yet when he made too-bold declarations he was more mercilessly slated.

The nature of his leadership was hard to fathom. He could appear ill-tempered, impatient and dismissive, yet he sought to be supportive and nurturing to young players.

Among fellow players, his skills as a leader were admired and he was as much a rallying figure for teammates as he was divisive to fans.

"He is quite inspirational as a leader and I just never get all the detractors he has," opening batsman Justin Langer said.

"Whether it's in the fielding practice, the nets, the way he holds himself off the field. Every time he speaks, these young guys just listen, they hang on every word he says."

Ponting's outstanding individual record during the period of his captaincy contributed significantly to his team's success, but he was also seen to owe that success to the stellar nature of the Australian team in its most successful era.

Some have argued the weight of the captaincy was lightened and the complexities of tactics reduced by the presence of some of Australian and world cricket's greatest names: Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden.

Ponting succeeded Waugh as Australia's one-day captain in 2002, immediately leading the team to a series win over South Africa, then supplanted Waugh as Test skipper in 2004, again achieving immediate success with a 3-0 clean sweep of Sri Lanka.

Waugh saw in Ponting the potential to become his nation's most-successful Test captain.

"Ricky Ponting was destined to lead his country. I couldn't have handed Australian cricket's ultimate individual honour to a more capable and deserving man," Waugh said later.

When Ponting, in 2009, surpassed Allan Border as Australia's leading Test run scorer, Border also remarked on the Ponting's often unfathomable qualities as a player and captain.

"The beauty of Ricky Ponting is what you see is what you get," he said. "There is no real hidden agenda to Ricky. He wears his heart on his sleeve that endears him to people.

"It takes three ingredients to make a great player: determination, courage and skill, and he's got all three in abundance."

Ricky Ponting in figures

Born: December 19, 1974

Place: Launceston, Tasmania

Nickname: Punter

Batting style: Right-handed

Test appearances: 152

First Test: Sri Lanka (1995)

Runs: 12,363

Average: 53.52

Centuries: 39

Double centuries: 5

Highest score: 257 India (2003)

Catches: 178

ODI appearances: 359

First ODI: South Africa (1995)

Runs: 13,288

Average: 42.59

Centuries: 30

Highest score: 164 South Africa (2006)

Catches: 155


Tests: 77

Won: 48 (62.34 percent)

ODIs: 228

Won: 164 (71.93 percent)

Australia's highest run-scorer in Tests and the second worldwide, behind India's Sachin Tendulkar.

Australia's third highest number of Test appearances


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk
Cricket World Cup 2011

The day Aussies went 'soft'?

2011-04-01 07:37

Newly appointed Michael Clarke seems to represent a seismic change to Australian cricket captaincy characteristics. Read More


Who would you like to see named as the next Proteas' coach?


Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.