Ricky Ponting concedes powers are fading

By Ian Ransom,Reuters
Wednesday 29 December 2010 12:03

Heart-broken after failing to regain the Ashes, Ricky Ponting was forced to admit the captaincy issue was out of his hands and his powers with the bat may be on the wane.

His team lost their remaining wickets before lunch to concede an innings and 157-run defeat to England in the fourth test, allowing the tourists to forge an unassailable 2-1 series lead and take the Ashes home for the first time in 24 years.

Ponting, whose struggles with the bat have mirrored Australia's underwhelming campaign, became his country's first captain in 120 years to lose the Ashes three times.

"I guess the fact that I lost those three series is disappointing for me, hopefully I'm not only remembered as that guy, the guy that lost those three Ashes series," the 36-year-old told reporters.

"As a player in the series I haven't achieved what I needed to achieve for the team to be in with a chance to win the Ashes back which I'm very disappointed about."

Ponting scored 10 and 20 in both innings in Melbourne and as Australia's bowlers were put to the sword in England's innings of 513, his frustration spilled over into a heated tirade against the umpires over a failed video review on Monday.

He was fined part of his match-fee and later apologised but may find little forgiveness from a shattered Australian public after the team's slump in the five-test series.

Ponting holds the record of 48 test wins at the helm, but has never been perceived as a great captain at home, where Ashes defeats to bitter rivals England are regarded as virtually unforgivable.

He led Australia to a 5-0 whitewash of the tourists in 2006/07, but the triumph was bookended by losses on tour in 2005 and last year.

Criticism of his captaincy has been his cross to bear and he has worn it defiantly amid his team's long decline following the retirements of greats like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.

But his sublime gifts with the bat, which have yielded 39 test centuries over the course of a glittering 15-year career, have never been in question.

That they are now following a series in which he has scored a solitary half-century from eight innings, has proved almost as galling to the Tasmanian as defeat to bitter rivals England.

"I wish I knew," Ponting told reporters with furrowed brow, when asked to explain his form lapse.

"I've trained the same way, I felt like I've been well prepared for every game."

"We've had four tests and eight innings, a few of those I probably felt I hadn't done a lot wrong to be dismissed.

"When you're having a run like I'm having at the moment, you tend to try and find ways of getting out and the game can just really grab hold of you and you feel like you're unlucky all the time."

Ponting has stuck barnacle-like to the number three position for most of his career, but admitted that selector Greg Chappell had talked to him about a possible move down the order to number four before the opening Brisbane test.

The notion was a "two-minute" conversation at the time, Ponting said, but conceded the following three tests had taken their toll.

"I guess there's been a few doubts creeping into my mind over the last couple of weeks, I'm not going to hide that," he said.

"I definitely have to re-evaluate where I'm at as far as where I bat in a test match is concerned."

The free-scoring Usman Khawaja, an untried Pakistan-born cricketer, had been floated as his successor.

Ponting praised Khawaja as one of Australia's most technically-gifted players, but suggested his place at number three would not be conceded without a fight.

"If it happens to be someone from outside the team coming into bat at that position then they have to make sure they're ready for it, its not an easy position to bat," he said.

Speculation has been rife that the 36-year-old may step down as captain or skip next week's fifth and final match of the series to rest the broken finger he sustained in the third test victory in Perth.

Ponting made it clear the selectors, who will meet on Wednesday and put out a 12-man squad on Thursday for the fifth test, would have to drag him out kicking and screaming.

"It's out of my control," he said, grappling for words to convey his determination to stay on.

"I've tried my hardest over the last few weeks to go play well and try to lead the team as well as possible.

"I want to keep playing, I would love to keep leading the team and think I've got a lot to offer in both of those regards.

"I'm trying to do the right thing by my team and by Australian cricket and I think that I've right through my career done it most of the time."

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