Punter and the Spirit of Cricket

July 13, 2009

Punter should guard his tongue. While the Guardian reckons that Ricky Ponting has begun the “mind games” in preparation for the second test at Lords beginning on Thursday, his outburst against England’s “time wasting tactics” has been a surprising embarassment for the tourists.

I was wondering yesterday evening on the way to the shops whether we’d see any sour grapes from the Australians, having been denied a victory which their play generally merited – but cricket being cricket you just have to sweep such disappointments aside. I thought they might. But Ponting disappointed me, munching some pretty tart grapes as he dissected the days play.

As the Times reports, Ponting criticized the sending on of twelth man Bilal Shafayat to provide a new pair of gloves for James Anderson shortly before the close, as well as the dispatch of England’s physio to minister to Graeme Swann.

“I thought it was pretty ordinary” he said, adding that “England can play whichever way they want, we will play in the spirit of the game. I was unhappy with it and I am sure others will be taking it up with the England hierarchy.”

Yet Ponting has never really cared much about the “spirit of the game” – an overused platitude which crops up more in the service of exasperated captains than in conduct books for young cricketers. As the videos that I posted earlier show, over the past year or so, with Australia’s dominance being challenged in all forms of the game, Ponting has resorted to outright cheating on numerous occasions.

For example, he has obviously grounded the ball (and would have known about it) on two occasions or more, yet claimed catches. The “spirit of cricket” would demand some restraint in such cases, but no matter.

On another occasion, the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin clearly broke the wicket with his gloves while gathering a ball which did not hit the wicket. He claimed the catch and a New Zealand batsman was given out, but Haddin would have known that his hands had dislodged the bails. Again, Ponting should recall that his team have hardly incarnated the “spirit of cricket” in recent times.

His sour grapes show a confusion and resentment born out of doubt. Aside from Australia’s technical dominance, which was without question, their leadership is questionable. Given a poor session or two at Lords, it is easy to see the confusion seeping into their overall play – and inexperienced bowlers like Hilfenhaus and Siddle need solid foundations with which to work. Hauritz, you sense, will only look good when his team are 200 ahead on a turning fifth day pitch, whoever is leading the team.

The mind games, whatever form they take, are subsidiary. The truth is that Ponting’s hypocritical blustering shows that Australia are not the team that they need to be. The Ashes are wide open, but Punter should ensure that his mouth is not.

Just to prove my point about Ponting and his team, I’ll adduce exhibit C, featuring the now disgraced Andrew Symonds grounding another one pretty obviously and then gleefully celebrating the catch.

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