Five series losses.
Two Ashes in England, the loss to South Africa down under and the two series losses to India in India.
Ricky Ponting is the most unsuccessful Australian captain in recent times. And that is saying something or maybe nothing.
Australians love their cricket and their cricketers but most of all they love to see them win.
And in recent times (not so recent), they had grown accustomed to being masters of all they surveyed.
Players like Shane Warne, Glen McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh and Adam Gilchrist ensured that they were at the top of the totem pole. This venerable list would have to include the Punter as well.
The ruthlessness exhibited by the formidable Aussies – over the last decade and a half – is best exemplified by the sixteen test victories (a world record) on the trot , not once, but twice.
Interestingly, their sequence of victories was interrupted by the very same opponent – India.
For Ponting, the transition from being a great team, a dominant team to being a team that is well, just good enough to compete with the rest , has not been easy.
The warning signs were apparent in the Ashes loss against the Pommies way back in 2005. The Australians missed McGrath and Freddie Flintoff had a wonderful series to knock the stuffing out of the Kangaroos’ invulnerability to take the series 2-1.
Retribution was quick though with Ponting’s boys pummelling the English 5-0 in the return series 2006-07.
It helped that the English side was not quite at full strength.
The more recent series loss to the South Africans down under signified a shift in cricketing fortunes with the South Africans signalling that they were willing to be the flag-bearers amongst Test-playing nations. The Australians however rebounded in the return series on the back of a stirring performance by Mitchell Johnson , their newly discovered bowling all-rounder. It was even Stevens.
But if any team has been the bugbear of the Kookaburras, it has been the Indian side who seem to reserve their best for the Best. The rivalry that captured the imagination of every cricket fan in 2001 has continued with a passion usually reserved for either an Aus-Eng or Indo-Pak series.
It was only in 2004-05 that the Australians finally conquered the final frontier winning 2-1 in a four-match series. However, it was not Waugh or Ponting who led the team in the two matches they won but that overlooked talent named Adam Gilchrist.
Ponting made an appearance in the final test of the series only for the Indians to pull one back. Ponting thus has not won a single match against India in India as captain.
The Aussies have since lost two series in India and managed to hold on to the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2-1 in 2008 despite coming under determined fire by an Anil Kumble inspired team.
The recent series loss , a 2-0 clean sweep to the Indians, despite arguably ‘the greatest match ever played by Ponting’, has not gone down well with the Punter’s critics.
Australia now await a resurgent England back home after losing the Ashes 1-2 once more in 2009.
Can the Punter turn it around?
Or will he be forced to forfeit both his captaincy and place in the Aussie line-up if the Kangaroos succumb again?
The Aussies are no longer invincible at home as the South Africans showed.
The only saving grace for Ponting is that the pretenders to the throne seem to have even more troubles of their own. Michael Clarke looked a pale shadow of himself. Hussey struggled throughout the recent series and is a far cry from his metronomic performances of his initial twenty Tests. Is Paine a potential captain?
In all probability, it is the series against the old enemy that will determine Ponting’s fate. The Aussies pride themselves on the fact that they tell their captains when to go. Steve Waugh too was eased out without ceremony. Ironically, it was the young Ponting who displaced the grizzled veteran, first ensconcing himself as the ODI captain and then forcing a hobbling Steve Waugh out into the wilderness of Test retirement.
Will a similar fate befall the Punter? His protestations of being the best man for the job are eerily reminiscent of his predecessor.
Or will Ponting be able to choose his exit into the sunset?
Time is running out for the man who is Australia’s best No. 3 ever after the Don.
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