Monday, March 27, 2006

The unbearable greatness of Ponting

Ricky Ponting scored yet another century yesterday. In the first innings, he was reprieved by Boucher on 5, and by Smith and Kallis on 36, he tooks his tally to 29. Now he's reached the big Three-Oh. It is surely only a matter of time before he surges past Tendulkar's 35 centuries and Lara's runs total. The plaudits are ringing from far and wide already - with one writer suggesting that Ponting is now one of the greatest players of all time, and others calling him the greatest Australian batsman since Bradman.

I know I've harped on about this before, but quite simply, these comments smack of either ignorance or prejudice, and I am in no position to say which. A truly great player must demonstrate his prowess in all conditions that he is pitted against. In 14 innings in India, Ponting has scored 172 runs at an average of 12.28. Quite simply, that's not good enough.

Inzamam ul Haq averages 30 in Australia and South Africa, and that is rightly held against him when we come to evaluate greatness. They don't rate in the same bracket, but I draw the parallel only to illustrate that Ponting must be measured by the same yardstick. In a world in which Sachin Tendulkar's greatness is under question, Ponting must conquer his own final frontier before being admitted to that pantheon.

He is a superb batsman, and currently in a patch that is a very deep purple indeed. Nobody can argue with that. He is also a destructive batsman, in the mould of several of the genuine greats, and he has as good a pull shot as I have ever been fortunate to see. It is in fact almost unfair that he has that Indian blot on his record, perhaps desperately so. But it is real, and if he is half the cricketer I suspect he is, then he himself will be all too aware of it.

The real difficulty is that he will have at most one opportunity remaining to set the record straight. Australia's next tour to India will be in October 2010 per the current schedule. Ponting will be just shy of his 36th birthday at that point, and presumably at the tail end of his career. He will have close to 50 Test centuries to his name, and will have rewritten every record in the book, but his place in history will come down to those 4 weeks he spends in the sub-continent. If he doesn't succeed there, or if he doesn't play for that long, then he will forever remain just one notch below the top rung.

Reality Bites, as the movie espoused.


Anonymous said...

thing is mate, ponting actually hasn't played any cricket in India since he has been batting at his potential (missed all but one test of the last tour). Before 2002 he was good, but not great, and was as promising as any but wasn't playing as we see him now. It was when he was named O.D.I captain that is batting in both forms really took off, and since then has lifted his average from around 50 to nearly 60, batting at an average of over 70 since then! Even if he never succeeds in India, that won't be enough to deny him a spot in the elite of all time if he keeps this form of batting up for years to come, you can damn well count on that.

Varun Singh said...

The kind of form he is in currently, I'd say its unlucky for him that the next series in India is not before 2010. Success or No success in India, he has pulled himself up among the all time greats with his current form. I'm predicting he'd cross Tendulkar's record of max centuries in this calendar year.

Fourth Umpire said...

Don't disagree with either of you really, but that's half my point. It's damn unfortunate that they don't play in India till 2010, by which time, as I said, he'll have about 50 centuries and an average of 65. The blot will remain, and we can speculate all we want, but we will never really know for sure.

The real problem is that in 14 innings, the average is as low as 12. Not 30, or 35, but 12 runs per innings. Even in those days, he was averging 40-50 anywhere else, and the difference is glaring.

Let me put it another way, if a batsman from anywhere else had the same record as Ponting, but the 12 avg in 14 innings was in Australia, we'd all be saying that he had failed a key test of his mettle. Why should this be any different?

Anonymous said...

You must be a close relative of Mr. Shiv Kumar Thind of Toronto. You just can't resist taking a swipe at Inzamam, can you.

I'm just waiting for your next article about Mars exploration where you blame Inzi for the loss of Beagle 2.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is true that Australia won't play in India till 2010. I remember reading that Aus will be touring India thrice in the next 4 years - and 2 of those tours will involve Test matches.

Fourth Umpire said...

You may be correct there - there certainly have been discussions, but as far as I am aware nothing has been inked in, so 2010 is the only firm date currently on the calendar.

It does seem that the BCCI is going to be setting up more frequent series' with Pakistan, England and Australia - so we may be in luck.

I hope Ponting tours and succeeds. The 80's had Viv and Sunny, the 90s had Waugh and Lara/Tendulkar, and the 00s have Ponting and Dravid. Should Ponting overcome his India blot, there'd be nothing left to choose between them (in fact, Ponting's destructive capabilities may at that point give him the edge).