Ponting’s biggest challenge to come after quiting captaincy
Ricky Ponting thinks Michael Clarke should replace him as captain of the Australian cricket team
HOLDERS of the two highest offices in Australia – prime minister and Test cricket captain – do not have a tradition of hanging around after their days as top dog are over.
Ricky Ponting is an exception. So is Kevin Rudd.
There’s one glaring difference – Ponting insists he got no ‘‘ tap on the shoulder’’ to vacate his post, whereas Rudd received a considerable and pointed ‘‘ tap’’ between his shoulders.
Ponting’s decision to bat on despite quitting the captaincy, however, could present him with the sort of professional tensions that have beset Rudd and his successor Julia Gillard.
It means the ambitious and at times abrasive Tasmanian will soon be taking orders from someone he has spent years bossing around, almost certainly Michael Clarke. It means he will have to suddenly start parking his ego at the dressing room door.
No more calling all the shots, no more directing all the traffic, no more petulant outbursts if a youngster like Steve Smith should accidentally bump him in the act of taking a catch.
Unless, of course, he wants a ticking off from the ‘‘ pup’’ expected to be named new top dog.
No Australian captain has found himself in this position for almost three decades, since Kim Hughes and Graham Yallop were catapulted into the job, in between the Chappell brothers, amid the murky ructions of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution.
Ponting insists he will be able to ‘‘ sit in the corner’’ of the dressing room, mind his own business and offer advice if and when asked. But will he, like Little Jack Horner, be able to content himself with thumbs and plums and at the end of every day be able to say, ‘‘ What a good boy am I’’?
‘‘ I can’t see why not,’’ said Ponting as he made his announcement at the SCG yesterday.
‘‘ I’m a big boy. I know when it’s my time and where is my place. I’ve actually been taking orders since I started in first-class cricket as a 17-year-old.’’
Plenty of big names in other countries have done it.
The Indian and Pakistani teams are always full of ex-captains. If it’s good enough for Sachin Tendulkar, why not Ponting? And yet some doubts remain. It takes a particular form of hardnosed, single-minded determination to do as Ponting has done – to win 48 Tests as skipper, more than anyone else in history; to lead in 227 victorious one-day internationals, at a victory ratio second only to Clive Lloyd; to lead in consecutive World Cup triumphs as well as 16 consecutive Tests; to amass over 12,300 Test runs ,more than anyone bar Tendulkar; to post 39 Test centuries, a tally bettered only by Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis; to clobber over 13,200 ODI runs, more than any other Australian and third in the all-time list; to play in 152 Tests, just 16 short of Steve Waugh.
After all he has been through, after all his heady successes, can Ponting rein in his natural aggression and leadership instincts, and subjugate himself to the will of a former underling? It could be the biggest challenge of what remains of Ponting’s career.
END OF THE ROAD: Ricky Ponting arrives at yesterday’s press conference