He might not be the most liked cricketer(Australians very rarely are), might not be rated as a great captain but pedigree and achievement-wise, even his staunch detractors will agree that Ponting deserves to be mentioned among the greatest players of all time. He has won the World Cup thrice , twice as captain, won the Man of the match in a World cup final where he scored a ton, he is only behind Sachin in total runs and centuries in tests but he has played fewer tests, he is arguably the best player of the pull and hook and he has been the best fielder in the world for so long now.
As he helps an inexperienced team to find its feet, being the only player of real class left due to the retirement of players from their Golden age, he has shown great character and commitment. It is similar to the rebuilding that Alan Border did in the early 80s, when Australian talent was scarce and the team weak. Border maintained the country’s pride and built a team of World Beaters instilled with the fighting Australian spirit. Ponting in a more milder way is doing the same. He is leading by example, consistently shoring a weak batting side. Captaining a below par side has had its effects on his batting and he is not as consistent with big scores as he was before. But he put all captaincy thoughts behind as he crafted an unbelievable 72 runs on a breaking wicket today. As wickets tumbled around him, he hardly gave a chance and mixed aggression with circumspection as he put together a potentially match-winning innings. Ponting is a proud man and he would desperately like to have a test win in India, just to complete his impeccable resume. Questions about his ability to play in Indian conditions should also be put to bed with this kind of performance.
This sets up an intriguing match. Sachin ground the Australian bowling yesterday but VVS was missed as the rest of the batting buckled easily. Sachin’s brilliance was accentuated by the fact that once he got out the innings, all the 4 remaining wickets, folded up within 20 runs. Getting anything above 200 in the 4th innings is going to be a challenge. Without VVS it’s going to be that much more difficult. Hopefully Sehwag and Sachin will take this as an opportunity to improve their 4th innings performances and get India to a win. Sehwag will be the key, as we need the scoreboard ticking continuously. Dravid & Sachin go into a shell during chases , just increasing the pressure on themselves. Or may be Pujara, Vijay and Raina will bring the young guns to the fore. For now, however it seems Punter’s effort has put the Aussies slightly in front.