Defining the decade

Ricky Ponting has been named ‘Player of the Decade’ — and the evidence below, read with Christian Ryan’s appreciation, seems to suggest that he deserves the accolade:

Ponting scored more runs and centuries in both forms of the game than any other batsman in the decade, and he was the only one to go past the 9000-mark in both Tests and ODIs. In 107 Testsbetween 2000 and 2009, he scored 9458 runs at 58.38, and 32 of his 38 centuries. Ponting and Kallis, along with Mohammad Yousuf, were the only batsmen to average more than 58 in Tests in the decade.

I don’t know, though. Ponting is a brilliant batsman, arguably among the best of his era — but surely an accolade of this kind has to extend beyond personal achievement and take into account the player’s influence on the game itself?

It is on that measure that Ponting comes up short. He has, both as player and as team leader, done more to bring the game into disrepute than anyone else in the period in question. Examples abound, but I’ll leave you with one — the catch that wasn’t, and Ponting’s ludicrous claim to an integrity that he manifestly did not possess.

That personal example, that it is alright to do whatever it takes in order to win, has rubbed off on his team — and again, here is one instance of several.

Under successive captains — Ian Chappell and his brother Greg, Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh — Australia has played the game hard, with no quarter ever asked or given. Their game has been characterized by a desire for total dominance over the opposition, by a willingness to be ruthless in pursuit of team objectives.

Yet, underlying that uncompromisingly hard attitude, there has always been an element of fairness — till Ponting took over. He changed the paradigm; under him, the Australian team plays hard, and fairness be damned. The chief weapons are the sly, and the slimy; the chief characteristic a willingness to push the boundaries as far as they can without actually getting caught — and sometimes, even then.

A favorite tactic of this Australian team is to abuse — consistently, and in ways no self-respecting individual can swallow. The team has perfected the art of doing this on the sly, without getting caught out by the cameras [I sometimes wonder if they train for this just as hard as they train at batting, bowling and fielding] — and then, when someone breaks, and retaliates, to present the picture of injured innocence. Again, examples abound — the most recent one being the incident involving Suleiman Benn.

The Aussie press, on that occasion, castigated the team for its tactics. And not for the first time this decade, Ponting got all pious and issued a statement that he would be talking to his mates — an exercise in gratuitous hypocrisy, since it is clearly Ponting himself who has set that example, and encouraged his mates to kick over the traces.

With all respect and admiration for Ponting’s undoubted skills with the bat, is he really the one the cricket world wants to hold up, as the player who typifies the decade just ended?

PostScript: Gratuitous bad behavior appears to have become the norm; champion teams seem to believe that they cannot be defined by results alone. Mumbai — locked, at the time of my writing this, in a gripping contest with Karnataka in the Ranji final, is an exemplar. There were reports of some unsavory incidents in an earlier game against Hyderabad; yesterday, this happened.

Maybe the Player of the Decade jury knew what it was doing after all; maybe Ponting does exemplify the cricketing spirit of the decade.

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14 thoughts on “Defining the decade

  1. I don’t know the overall statistics but I am sure the jury did not consider the number of runs scored by Ponting using the fiberglass bat and to what extent that helped beef up ponting’s stats.

  2. Prem,

    I agree with what you have said here.

    At the same time, this was picked by a jury. The issue is if the jury was asked to think about the other criteria to. In such cases, the jury must be given some idea of what is “expected” from “player of the decade.”

    It looks like this was purely a statistical award! and then it came down to subjective comparison of which stats look better! For example, Vettori said, “for his ability to dominate bowlers all across the world for such a long time.”

    It might be worthwhile for cricinfo (?) to reconsider the measures by which they decide player of the decade, but they don’t have the chance for another decade!! With the amount of data at hand, we usually end up focusing too much on the stats than on the real “impact.”

  3. Ponting, to me, is batsman of the decade. On big occasions, there’s no one else who has played better than he has. On the overall influence bit, I’m totally with you. He’s NOT been the best (infact, far from best) example on that front.

    But then, today’s cricket has lots of characters like Ponting – who play hard and want to win at any cost. The aussies set the benchmark here as well, while other teams play catchup and get caught when they get offensive on/off the field :D.

    So, you may be end up picking between the devil and deep blue sea, right ??

  4. Prem,

    So the implication is that the Karnataka team were the epitome of good behavior? Which explains why when Ajit Agrakar came to bat in the second essay, there were words exchanged as he went up to bat and following his dismissal.

    Mumbai could do well to learn from the well coiffured, well maned Karnataka boys!

    Cheers,

    • Dude, if that implication exists, it exists only in your head. I’ve known you long enough to recognize you for an intelligent, balanced, person — where did this jingoism come from? The remarks I made about Bombay’s behavior were in context of team behavior at a larger level, which should be clear to any idiot reading that post; had Karnataka’s behavior been written about this day, that would have been linked to as well. My post nowhere suggested one team was comprised of demons and the other of angels, so chill. I am neither a fanatic Mumbaikar nor a neo-convert Karnataka-ite, leave me out of this ‘versus’ thing please.

      • Prem,

        The jingoism stems from the fact that Mumbai is hardly the exemplar of bad team behavior – that the incident in question followed a series of other incidents during the course of the match and even in the context of the incident itself, it was hardly over the top ( and definitely not in the same country code as “If you question my integrity..”)

        The jingoism comes from the knowledge that there is a certain reluctance to acknowledge what Mumbai has achieved this season despite the odds.

        This is by far one of the most ordinary Mumbai teams to take the park… No outright wins in the regular season, an unsettled batting order with no definite openers and no middle order, a bowling attack that was either injured or out of form or both, hanging on by the skin of their fingers..

        With this context in mind,they come in to play a team that has been steamrolling all comers, in their house. Which incidentally is tailor made to suit their bowling attack.

        And win.By the narrowest of margins.

        This was a great match, and the perfect advertisement for what our domestic structure has to offer. And if you have noticed, the last five years of the domestic season have all provided gripping narratives – from Mumbai’s amazing turnaround in 2005/06 to Delhi winning the Championship in the tightest race ever, with no definite quarterfinalists decided till the last day of the regular season.

        And it proved Manish Pandey’s big match temperament and credentials.

        And lest we forget, we have had previous instances when batsmen have run after bowlers and fielders with bats in hand and fielders have attacked batsmen with stumps.In domestic cricket.

        Cheers,

  5. I think for the simple fact that Ponting has averaged a miserable 21 in India should have meant that he shouldn’t have been voted player of the decade. If there was one team that challenged Aus, it was India and there Ponting has flopped. So if you can’t perform against your main opponent, pray how are you the best of the decade ?

    I’d agree with tea_cup. The figures of McGrath is simply staggering and in the batsmen dominated era to come up with those figures should have meant he should have been the winner. As always it’s the batsman that wins !!

  6. This from cricinfo’s brief on Glen McGrath’s achievements in the past decade.

    “Six bowlers took more Test wickets than McGrath, but in terms of effectiveness, he was second to none: among bowlers who took 100 Test wickets in the decade, McGrath’s average was the best. It’s hard to spot a kink in his record, for he did well in all conditions, against all opposition: his away average was a superb 19.96, and he was even better in Asia, averaging 17.08. In ODIs he had an economy rate of 3.78, among the best in the decade; his World Cup stats were outstanding – 47 wickets at 14.19 – while he was equally impressive in finals of ODI tournaments, averaging 15.20.

    Tests: Matches 66 Wickets 297 Ave 20.53 5WI 14 10M 2
    ODIs: Matches 149 Wickets 234 Ave 20.28 ER 3.78 5WI 4”

    What more can you expect from a pace-bowler in a decade that favored the batsmen so much? My vote would have been for Glen McGrath.

  7. LOL @ the PS… I have to agree with the theme and beryond that I must add that the aura of Australian invincibility have definitely played a part to his getting the most wins. Look at Kallis’s Test figures over this period, he is very close to Ponting. Ponting actually averages just under 50 away for the decade, and over 65 abroad, Kallis 53 and I think 65 as well. Ponting has an avgof 21 against Ind, Kallis 22 against Eng. But then, add Kallis’ bowling to the fray and everything changes, 200 wickets in addition to all those runs! If he wasn’t hated simply for being Kallis and getting far less media attention because of Ponting’s tactics, he would deservedly be crowned player of the decade. Consider also that he was part of an SA team making a comeback after being rocked by the biggest scandal in cricket.

  8. ‘Batsman of the decade’ would make sense. Player/Cricketer of the decade award should take into account the person’s all round character too.

  9. Ponting is a divisive figure. Hell, the Aussie media also bags him. All said and done, 2 World Cups, 2 Champions Trophies, an Ashes whitewash, the final frontier breach, most successive Test victories, etc. came under his watch. These will outweigh the stumbles (Ashes lost…twice, PR issues, Sydneygate, Benngate, pushing Pawar in Mumbai) which are all moral and ethical issues. Sad but true.

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