By David Green
Whilst we enjoyed England’s Ashes triumph over the winter as much as any long suffering England fan, the continued demonisation of Ricky Ponting by some of our fellow supporters left us a bit nonplussed and even a little queasy.
That’s not to say that we didn’t take some pleasure in seeing Ponting’s own struggles with the bat as the likes of James Anderson and Chris Tremlett executed their bowling plans to the Australian captain to absolute perfection.
But our gratification was all to do with our fear and respect for Ponting as the best Australian batsman since Sir Don Bradman – we’d seen him punish England attacks too many times to not be wary of his talent.
However, we got the impression that the attitude of some England fans to Ponting bordered on hatred rather than fear and we found that a little bit disappointing and worryingly similar to the Neanderthal behaviour exhibited by some of those that follow football.
Whilst Ponting’s competiveness and frustration at his own and his team’s woeful performances got the better of him in the unseemly row with Aleem Dar in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, we couldn’t help but be impressed with the way he continued to front up to the cameras as the chasm between the sides widened. Not many cricketers would have been as honest, forthright and low on futile excuses as Ponting.
So, we will be willing him on to do well in the Test series in Sri Lanka – his first since relinquishing the captaincy and wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a similar Indian summer in the autumn of his career to that of Sachin Tendulkar and now also Rahul Dravid.
It has been reported recently that on Australia’s brief tour to India last autumn, Ponting encouraged Dravid to forget his poor form and put any thoughts of retirement to the back of his mind. Since then Dravid has embarked on a golden run that of course culminated in his quite brilliant solo performances in England this summer.
It would therefore be almost perfect symmetry for Ponting to do something similar and show the world once again the master batsman he undoubtedly is. Lest it not be forgotten, Ponting is the third-highest run scorer in Test history (Dravid having gone past him this summer).
With the cares of the captaincy cast aside (his decline with the bat mirrored the downturn in Australia’s fortunes), who would bet against him providing a lead to the younger batsmen and inspiring Australia on the long road to recovering its status within the ultimate form of the game?
(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)