Monday, 20 February 2012

Dropping Ponting The Right Thing To Do

After being appointed as head of Australia's new selector's panel at the back end of 2011, John Inverarity has wasted no time in making his mark on Australian cricket. After the failures during the Ashes a year before and the fall-out from the Argus Review, Australia's team has undergone a rapid makeover, with the chaff cut and new faces blooded in their place. Australia's success in such a short length of time is due heavily to the ruthless cull from the selectors, and their ability to find replacements who were good enough to come into the team and perform straight away. If you weren't doing your job, regardless of any past glories, you were out, and someone new was in.

The selectors have today shown that sentiment is of no relevance to their decisions, with the Ricky Ponting, he of 375 ODIs and 13704 50-over runs, being unceremonially booted out of the squad midway through the tri-series. While Ponting has arguably been Australia's most successful ODI player ever, the recent dry spell of five consecutive single figure scores has meant that he isn't justifying his place, and has been shown the door. On the face of it, the decision is obvious - Ponting won't be around for the 2015 World Cup, isn't scoring enough runs, and Australia have plenty of replacements ready to come in. John Inverarity tellingly said: "You don't put your heart to one side, but your head has got to dominate, and to the credit of the NSP, everyone holds Ricky in the highest regard, as a player and as a person, but we've got a decision to make, and we made a decision we believe is the right decision and the best decision in the interest of Australian cricket". Wise words indeed.

Ponting being dropped will of course upset a true legend of Australian cricket, but the selectors know that it's worth a few days of angst from Ponting if the team is to be more successful with him out rather than in it. Compare this ruthless attitude to that of the Indian selection panel. While in the recent test series, Australia were prepared to make some big calls and change things, India were all too happy to watch their team of legends fail, and fail again, coming off the back of tour of England where they failed even more. While a few superficial changes were made to the bowling attack, the much vaunted batsmen were left to their own devices. It's telling that the only batsman to get the chop after the English tour was Suresh Raina, who conveniently was the only batsman not to be backed up by thousands of caps or hundreds of hundreds. It was patently obvious that India's top, and middle order needed to be broken up and scrapped despite their success over previous decades, but nobody in the Indian selection panel was brave enough to make those gutsy calls, even though their over-the-hill performers just weren't cutting it.

Neither India or Australia are the best teams in world cricket, but Australia have realised this and are attempting to find a way to take over the mantle once again. India, on the other hand, have consistently buried their heads in the ground, and have blissfully ignored their big problems. The focus isn't on test cricket for a while, with the circus of a unnecessarily long ODI tournament taking centre stage for the time being, but before too long both teams will be back in the whites with some big calls to make. Australia's big calls, including dropping Ponting, have shown that nobody's place is guaranteed, which has led to players constantly needing to stay on the top of their games to stay in the side. Certainly the same can't be said about India, as too many players have been given places in the team for life, and they've been firmly in the comfort zone ever since. The big calls must be made, and Australia's success over recent times have proved their worth. Whether India can follow suit remains to be seen...

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