Ricky Ponting's chances of re-engaging in his absorbing battle with Ishant Sharma and his awkward deliveries that are enlivened by Australian conditions, has taken a big upturn in the last few weeks. At the Gabba, Ponting hit a glorious boundary off the back-foot to bring up his second successive half-century in Test cricket.
Doesn't sound like much of an achievement for a batsman who has amassed more than 12,000 runs in Test cricket but it was confirmation that the rejuvenation of the former captain is progressing well.
The first sign that things in the Ponting world were on the improve was a pull shot he hit at the Wanderers on the way to helping Australia claim a pulsating second Test victory over South Africa. Where Ponting had been over-committing on the front foot and playing his pull shots in the air for about twelve months this time, he transferred his weight onto the back foot and hit the ball like a rocket into the ground and on to the boundary. That was a Ponting in his prime pull shot.
When Ponting is a little anxious or in the mood to dictate at all costs, he often has a tendency to over-commit to the front foot. When that happens his back-foot play is not authoritative and he's more vulnerable. Consequently those two shots, the one at the Wanderers and then the satisfying back-foot drive at the Gabba were good signs for Ponting as he tries to prolong his successful career.
Throughout his career Ponting’s honest approach has been a strong point in his development. From the time he announced publicly he had a problem with alcohol to calling a team meeting after the 2005 Ashes loss, he's been able to face his demons. Once again he has confronted a lean trot with the bat and through hard work he’s been able to rehabilitate his game.
It’s doubtful if Ponting can consistently produce big innings like his glory days but if he’s prepared to play at a slightly lower standard he can still be a useful contributor to this young team. The hardest thing for an aging batsman is to dredge up peak concentration on a regular basis. There are days when the concentration is still strong but there are also times when the mind won’t do as it's told. Those are the days when batting is a real grind and often results in starts that aren't converted into something substantial.
If Ponting is prepared to put up with those frustrations then he can still be a valuable contributor.