Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Will South Africa Push Ricky Ponting into Retirement?

They say that in every Fairytale there is a Monster, and for Ricky Ponting with his dream of redemption in the 2013 Ashes this can be found in the form of South Africa's exceptional pace corps. The morning papers across the Land Down Under magnified this drama with the view that this series will encompass an epic showdown which will point the veteran towards England or retirement.

This hysteria was built around South Africa's Captain Graeme Smith stating that Ricky Ponting will be one of the Teams chief targets on this tour. Which has its basis around Ponting high profile batting weakness of falling across his wicket making him a dead ring for LBW that Australian pundits will say has been ironed out with the ex Skippers return to form against India earlier this year. But also Smith's words seems to be a real attempt to attach some awe in the form of intimidation to South Africa's current standing as Test number one by having a past tormentors blood on their hands.

A glimpse of lovely blood thirstiness was seen recently in England where they sensed they could gain a kill and leave a legacy by taking out England's Skipper Andrew Strauss.

A similar legacy left here seems to be Smith's desire on this tour

Symbolically, Ponting's answer was to hit a peerless unbeaten 89 for his State Tasmania against a Test bowling calibre Victorian Team today. Which was a timely reminder of the calibre that still remains in the past Master as well as stirring the plot beautifully for the upcoming series

As Smith perfectly stated

"Probably for the first time in his career he's a bit of an unknown factor. But I know the man and there's no doubt he's been training the house down and will be desperate to make an impact at this stage of his career."

So the question is can he?

The best way to address this is to ask if indeed he has dealt with a weakness that a bowling unit as talented as South Africa will victimise to the hilt with their skill in seam and swing. 

Fans of the ex Aussie Skipper will automatically point to his average of 140.66 with two centuries against the touring Indians earlier this year to address that. But this series needs to be put into context by how appalling the Indian bowling was all series that led to many cheap runs for the Aussie batsmen. Encapturing the Indian bowling follies were their tactics to a hopelessly out of form Ponting by feeding his revered strength

They tried to bounce Ricky Ponting out when clearly he had been falling lbw over the last few months, thus playing him back into form.

So you can understand how Mssrs Dhoni and Fletcher and their curious tactics ensured they were on Puntas Christmas card list!

A follow up tour in the Caribbean where the dilapidated Ponting was on show again with him only averaging a smidgeon over 24 with just one score over 50 showed the weakness was against just bubbling under the surface. Ensuring a bit of heat would be bring it back to the boil

Leading us to the queries on him now

When you look ahead and strip the combatants bare you tend to view Ponting facing an Everest like proposition. With it not only the class and calibre of the South African quicks in more than likely bowling confines against his success, but the fragility and uncertainty of the Aussie top three that no one has faith in. Ensuring he is almost certain to be in early facing the new ball.

The Aussie squad for the series has yet to be announced, but you know of the top three the only certainty is the dasher Dave Warner. Who like all the Aussie batsmen enjoyed the benevolent Indian bowling but has yet to fully establish his Test pedigree. Then his opening partner should be the resolute Ed Cowan, but there has been a huge push in Australia at present to reinstate Phil Hughes. Which if it happens would not only be one of the most retarded moves by Cricket Australia in a good long time but would also throw out the balance that Cowan dour style brings in partnership with Warner's attacking flair.

At 3 the likelihood is Shane Watson will be inserted despite the fact that he has shown a real inability of late against the swing of the new ball as well as Michael Clarke being the Teams perfect number three

Watson record in the Test top order of late does not inspire hope with him scoring 
458 runs in his 17 innings at an average of 26.9.  Further highlighted with him averaging 23.75 against the same South African attack in 2011.

All these factor would be enough to turn Puntas brown eyes blue with worry.

But as with all Masters they seem to welcome the obstacle and smile in the face of overwhelming adversity. Add in Ponting's burning desire to make the Ashes's to right some of his career stand out wrongs it would not surprise to see him once again morph into being a thorn in Protea sides

Either way it falls or indeed if it fizzles out to a nil all draw the clash alone will be one of Test Crickets highlights of 2012

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