The details of the Australian cricket team’s transitional turmoil continue to be laid bare by its retiring players with former captain Ricky Ponting becoming the latest to offer a peak into the dressing room and his doubts about his then deputy Michael Clarke’s attitude.
After retired batsman Michael Hussey recalling his concerns about the Australian team culture in his autobiography ‘Underneath the Southern Cross’, it is Ponting’s turn to revisit the turbulent times in his memoir ‘The Close Of Play’.
In extracts from the book that were published by newspapers here, Ponting has spoken of his concerns about Clarke’s attitude towards responsibility while he was vice-captain.
‘The little things’
“I knew he was an excellent thinker on the game, but for a long time I was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to handle the huge variety of ‘little things’ that go with being Australian captain.
“It wasn’t that he was disruptive or treacherous, and publicly he said all the right things, but he had never been one to get too involved in planning sessions or debriefs at the end of a day’s play, or to volunteer to take on any of the captain’s workload,” Ponting wrote.
“More than once, (then coach) Tim Nielsen and I had encouraged him to take on more of a leadership role within the group, but when Pup was down on form or if he had a problem away from cricket, he’d go into his shell,” he recalled.
Ponting did not go into the details of it but said between 2008-10, Clarke seemed like moving “in a different world to the rest of us”.
Being a Team man
“It never worried me if a bloke didn’t want a drink in the dressing room, but I did wonder about blokes who didn’t see the value in sticking around for a chat and a laugh and a post-mortem on the day’s play,” Ponting wrote.
“This was the time when we could revel in our success, pick up the blokes who were struggling, and acknowledge the guys who were at the peak of their powers.
Pup hardly bought into this tradition for a couple of years and the team noticed.
“At times, he reminded me of a team-mate from earlier in my career, who’d be chirpy and bubbly if he was going well, but appear a bit grim if things weren’t working for him. The best team-mates are the ones who can keep their moods in check for the sake of the group,” he added.
It was during this period when Clarke had the infamous dressing room bust-up with former opener Simon Katich.
Ponting said he was not witness to it but could understand the resentment towards Clarke at that juncture.
“The blow-up with Pup and Kato after the Test in Sydney in the first week of 2009 wasn’t in itself a big deal. I’ve seen worse arguments involving Australian cricketers...We wondered if he’d lost a little of his sense of team,” Ponting wrote.