Thursday, 16 December 2010

Ricky Ponting - the new Michael Vaughan?

There are some quite big parallels between the current situation regarding Ricky Ponting's captaincy and the final throes of Michael Vaughan's tenure as England skipper. Spookily so...

Ponting has had to relinquish One Day captaincy recently, just as Vaughan gave the reigns over to Collingwood. While there was mixed success with Collingwood; just as with Clarke, the split captaincy only served to undermine the test captain and put a seed of doubt in other senior players mind whether the captain is the right man for the job.

Ponting himself has been in a poor run of form, just as Vaughan was in as England were overpowered by a better South African outfit. This led to inevitable calls to drop an out of form Vaughan, as well as questions over the captaincy. While Ponting's decline may not be as terminal as Vaughan's, he certainly is not the player of earlier in the decade, which doesn't bode well.

So the series itself. Australia started really well in the first few days of the series, scoring loads of runs and bowling out England cheaply. But then allowed the touring side to bat their way to a comfortable draw. In 2008, England stuck on loads of runs before bowling South Africa out cheaply, but then watched as the touring side comfortably batted their way to the draw. And both Ponting's Australia and Vaughan's class of '08 lost the second test heavily.

But that's not where the similarities end. Before the Headingley test in 2008, Darren Pattinson was plucked from obscurity behind the captains back in shoehorned into the side. Vaughan later revealed that this massively undermined his position as captain, and was a key part of his eventual resignation. Ponting has Michael Beer, a man he had never even met before Monday (and like Pattinson in only single figures of first class games), and probably wasn't calling for Beer in the selection meeting.

Do the parallels end there? If Australia lose the third test (just as Vaughan lost the third test v South Africa), then Ponting may not be granted the dignity of a tearful resignation. Ricky has already lost two Ashes series, and a third loss would certainly mean he isn't in a job this time next week. Whether he gets a spot as a specialist batsman is up in the air, as Vaughan can testify. Ricky Ponting is one of the greatest captains of recent times. But he was fortunate enough to captain the greatest sides of recent times. This current outfit is not a great side. Vaughan, the man who was Ponting's adversary in the greatest series of them all, may be able to offer some advice (or at least some understanding of) Ponting's current situation. Once the wheels are in motion, it's difficult to stop the bandwagon. And Ponting's captaincy may be reaching the end of the road.

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