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Ponting's captaincy is hurting Australia

By Ian Chappell
Sunday, December 19, 2021

Reports of Ricky Ponting's demise have been greatly exaggerated. His Test captaincy has been prolonged by a player who himself was in danger of disappearing off the cricketing map just a few days ago. Mitchell Johnson continued his love affair with the WACA pitch by producing another electrifying spell to rip the heart out of the England batting order.

Johnson's epic resurgence shouldn't camouflage the fact that Ponting's captaincy is starting to hurt the Australian team. In what appears to be an attempt to prove the critics wrong, Ponting has become impatient for success and his constant changes to the field placings only serve to distract the bowlers from their task.

He looks like a captain trying too hard to prove he’s worthy, rather than a steady skipper with a firm grip on the levers. There’s no need to be a cricketing genius at the WACA ground; if you bowl to encourage the drive, mix in the odd bouncer and keep as many catching fieldsmen behind the wicket as possible, success will generally follow.

If it hadn't been for Johnson's remarkable revival, the series could've been England's for the taking. If the pattern of the game had continued to follow the first day, Ponting's captaincy would now be under immediate threat.

It hasn’t helped that Ponting went cheaply in the Perth match after earlier failures in the first two Tests. He's currently a batsman out of luck rather than out of form.

In this series he's either got a good one early or he's edged to the keeper down leg-side. This is a batsman's worst nightmare but Ponting's footwork is still intact and this generally means, for a player of his calibre, a big score is just around the corner. While Ponting is coming to the end of his Test captaincy reign, the path to the future leadership has suddenly became a rutted road.

Just a few weeks ago it appeared that Michael Clarke was certain to take over the captaincy. However, the English bowlers have discovered his achilles heel. They've unsettled him with short stuff and it's starting to have a debilitating effect on his batting.

If Clarke does continue to struggle Australia could be forced to deviate from their time honoured method of always choosing a long-term captain.

If they opt for a stop gap captain Brad Haddin would be a good choice. Haddin has already had some success as captain of NSW and he's a good aggressive cricketer with an eye for what keeps the game moving forward. He’s also brutally frank about his own performance and if he adopted similar principles as Australian captain he’d be on the right track.

It may not be the ideal solution but it’s better to have a stop gap captain than make a glaring error that haunts the team.

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