Back in January 2009 I wrote a post examining Mathew Hayden’s comments that the decision on whether or not he should tour England for the 2009 Ashes series was basically up to him committing to do so. I thought that insufferably arrogant and had a look at his last 15 innings to see where he was situated compared to other players who had been given a push rather than been able to say whether or not they were committed to playing.
Here’s what I found:
Matthew Hayden - Average 26.4, Nil 100s, 2 50s, top score 83.
Greg Blewitt - Average 30.9; Nil 100s; two 50s; top score 89.
Darren Lehmann - Average 28.6; Nil 100s; five 50s, top score 70.
Michael Slater - Average 39.8; Nil 100s; three 50s, top score 86.
Mark Waugh - Average 33.7; Nil 100s; two 50s, top score 86.
Then there were two players who jumped before the push:
Then there were two who were a bit above the average:
Now the reason of course I am revisiting this issue is because of Ricky Ponting. Here’s his last 15 innings:
Ricky Ponting: Average 29.6; Nil 100s; five 50s; top score 77.
His average is worse than all the above bar Hayden and Lehmann. His number of 50s is good with five – the most, but Lehmann also had made five and it came to signify that he couldn’t go on and make a big score. His top score of 77 is second lowest (Lehmann’s 70 is the worst).
Now were he not the captain we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Ponting would be gone. It would be a thanks for your career, but time waits for no man yada yada. Enjoy racing your greyhounds. (Let’s forget this drop him down the order stuff – you do that for younger guys who were tried at number 3 but couldn't cut it – eg Steve Waugh.)
But as the Captain to dump him, means we need to replace not only his spot at number three (a pretty easy choice given NSW’s Usman Khawaja is sitting there champing at the bit to go, and averaging 52.83), so then I guess we give the captaincy to his deputy, Michael Clarke.
This could be done – there is precedent – Bill Lawry was dumped as captain mid-way through the 19780-71 Ashes series and Ian Chappell took over, and Kim Hughes jumped before being pushed in the 1984-85 series against the West Indies.
However, here we hit a snag. Here’s Michael Clarke’s last 15 innings record:
Michael Clarke: Average 24.8; Nil 100s; three 50s; top score 80.
That ain’t good. In fact were he not Michael Clarke and he came from New South Wales (yeah that’s an anti-NSW dig) he too would likely be bidding farewell to the glories of the baggy green.
Make no mistake, Ponting is not still in the team and captain because of his leadership qualities or because he is such an integral part of the dressing room furniture. It is because the selectors believe there is no one to take his place.
No sure, he might come out in the second innings and hit a big hundred and he can turn to the camera and say up yours to the bloggers of the world, but even if he does I still think he should say, well that just buys me one final chance to say goodbye in Sydney, and then he should depart. The guy is 36. Thirty six! When Greg Chappell retired he was 35. I remembered because he was my absolute idol (my name is Greg after all), and even then I thought him ancient.
Modern medicine is all nice and great, but time does not wait for any man, and if Australia wants to make it ok for a 36 year old to average less than 30 and still bat number 3, then it sets a pretty low bar for the rest of the players. The Australian captain has always been the first among equals – he gets his place in the side because of his abilities as a player, not as a captain.
If Clarks is not up to it, that doesn’t mean Ponting by default should be (because after all, it’s not like he is a master tactician). Brad Haddin is 33, but he is as safe in his spot as anyone. He has captained NSW, so let him captain for a couple years until one of the younger guys steps up, or at least reaches a level of maturity supposedly required of the position – who knows that person may not even be playing at the moment.
I have been a Ponting fan for most of his career, but as happened with Hayden, Mark Waugh, Langer, and the others at the end of their careers, when I watch him bat, part of me hopes he fails because I know another innings of 70 odd or more will only serve to convince him that he is good to play till the next Ashes series. And let’s cut the bull, there is no way in hell that can be allowed to happen.
Let’s bid adieu now while we still remember him as one of the greatest batsmen of his generation, and not as the guy who we kept on because there was no one else we thought could do his job.