Usually I don’t like to call out just when is it a time for a player to leave the scene, as in my honest opinion, the player himself is the best judge of that, especially when the player has played long enough at the highest level and earned some credibility. However, I do have a problem when a player or administrators set a certain level of standards for other players and sort of force them into retirement after a bad series or two, but when the shoe is on the other foot they try to dance around the issue. The current Australian Cricket administrators and their legend player Ricky Ponting find themselves at that juncture right now.
Let’s just flashback to the Ashes 2006-07, the famous white-wash of England, that ended with Australia drubbing them 5-0. Middle order batsman Damien Martyn, veteran of 67 tests with a respectable average of 47 and 13 centuries to his name, was finding the going a bit tough, but hey, just 5 test innings prior , he had scored a match winning ton against South Africa in Johannesberg. Even after taking a 2-0 lead in the Ashes, the team management (includes the captain Ponting) dropped the batsman to make way for “younger” Andrew Symonds. Martyn saw the writing on the wall and retired, Young Symonds lasted all of 2 seasons!!!
Come 2010-11 Ashes, an inform opener Simon Katich, who had been consistently scoring for the team in 2010 calendar year when most of the other team batsmen were a no-show (barring Watson & Hussey), scores a 50 at Brisbane, follows it with a 43 at Adelaide and gets injured and misses the rest of tour. At the end of the tour, he found himself dropped as the administrators thought of not having more than two batsmen over the age of 35. The only problem was that of the two they retained, one (Ricky Ponting) had scored a total of 113 runs in that same whole tour and had not scored a hundred for almost a year.
Now Cricket Australia is gearing up for their next biggest home series after the Ashes. The scars of 3-1 defeat in the ashes are still fresh and the crowd and supporters would like to see their home team beat the highly competitive, World #2 ranked India outfit. Ricky Ponting is still pretty much in the team and that is really questionable. For a captain who couldn’t afford to keep “solid” middle-order batsman, just after 5 mediocre innings, even when team had a cushion of 2-0 lead, well “performance” was the straight answer. Well then how can that same captain, now a player, stake his claim in the side after the following numbers over last 2 years: 16 Tests, Average of 27.48, & 0 centuries. Not even a single match wining fifty of the seven he scored in 30 innings.
Is it the lack of bench strength? Not really, Hughes is being made a sacrifice lamb, for the reason that Watto needs to return to his spot? Why is Watto batting at top-order? Wouldn’t he be more effective at the middle order and that way bowl more overs, possibly, and can be a true all-rounder? If Hughes is not the ideal partner to Waner then Sean Marsh might be, don’t discard these guys after one bad series. #3 to #6 can be Khwaja-Clarke-Hussey-Watto. Ian Chappell called ‘omission of Pujara to make way for Laxman coming back from injury lay-off’ as a “backward move”, then Mr. Chappell, carrying a guy in your team for 2 years with no significant returns, as a player or a leader, is that a forward move?
Ricky didn’t announce himself on the cricketing stage, right at the arrival. It took him a couple of years before he could make his first hundred, so the young boys like Marsh, Hughes, & Warner deserve little more than just one or two chances here and there.Cricket Australia needs to stick to their own “high standards” that they measured players like M. Waugh, S. Katich, & D. Martyn by and give R. Ponting a sort of ultimatum that Boxing day test would a make or break for his career. If you can’t do that, then you really had no rights dropping a solid batsman like Martyn in the middle of the Ashes and leaving aside a much deserving Katich just because he turned 35. Come on, look at your opponents, they have 3 best batsmen all above 35, don’t they?
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav