Ponting’s big­gest chal­lenge to come af­ter quit­ing cap­taincy

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - OPIN­ION – by Doug Conway

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

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