Even with a tri-series involving India, the cricketing action is somewhere else. The present has a distinct burnt flavour to it. It tastes like Ashes.
The epic war between Australia and England continues. The battle this time, will be fought in England. It would seem England have already started their mild-mannered banter with the release of their poem #RISE. A novel attempt, it must be said. Unfortunately, poetry having an effect on the Aussies teeters close to the effect an ICC ruling has on the BCCI ; quite negligible.
However, Australia themselves seem to be moving towards the Ashes, by burning themselves ; Mickey Arthur sacked, Clarkes steps down from the selection panel, Ed Cowan dropped and the kangaroo continues to remain a pest for many farmers in parts of Australia.
One thing new coach Darren Lehman has already done is he has welcomed experienced ex-players to join the dressing room. Warne has offered his help and so has Craig McDermott.
If you could pick one guy who would be influential in deciding the fate of a game sitting in the dressing room, it would be Ricky Ponting. The former Australian captain may have retired, but the team could ask him to get some sandwiches and beer from home, while he shares his experience with them.
The four-time Allan Border medal winner has played in eight Ashes series, with 2010 being his last. In all he has played 35 Tests against England, scored 2476 runs including eight centuries and averages 44.21.
Eighteen of these matches were in England. His average in Old Blighty is 44.10. If one were to be so bold, you’d say Ponting knows a thing or two about playing in England. In the Australian dressing room, if there is one guy who deserves and will get respect, it is their leading run-scorer in Tests and ODIs.
His influence on a team from the sidelines was evident in the IPL. In abysmal form with the bat, Ponting chose to sit out for most of Mumbai Indians’ matches. Yet young Rohit Sharma who captained in place of Ponting, conceded that he greatly benefited from Punter’s presence in the dugout. Perhaps Ponting even inspired Sachin to bat like Sachin of yore. His contribution wasn’t clearly visible in terms of runs or wickets, but his presence certainly culminated into a tournament victory for MI.
In some ways, Ponting could be the most apt mentor for the current Australian side. He had had a few disciplinary issues in his ‘goatee’ days. But along with greats like Waugh, Taylor etc. he grew. He matured.
On field he was still the proud Australian cricketer, but off field, well, he didn’t really punch adolescent boys in bars. He has gone through periods in which runs flowed like wine in a king’s court and in which they dried up as if in a desert.He knows how to identify technical problems and how to work on them. God knows Ponting can help dealing with the short ball. There still isn’t a better puller of the cricket ball. A few of the current Australian batsmen could do with a little bit of overall technical help (read Phil Hughes).
Cricket Australia can no longer avail of his services as a batsman. But it would bode them well to pick the shrewd brain hidden inside his skull. As a player, he would do anything to win. He often trod on the fine line between being called passionate or a cheat. When one plays for the country, it’s hard to differentiate.
Sitting in the dressing room, it’s almost a given, his commitment will remain the same. He might just be the inspiration the team needs. Without playing a single delivery, he could be their man of the series. Okay, perhaps that last line was just for dramatic effect, but you can’t deny, he would be helpful.