COOLUM, Australia: Flipping through the pages of Ricky Ponting’s new book, there’s nowhere in a 10,000-word chapter devoted to the forthcoming Ashes series that the Australia captain predicts a 5-0 whitewash over England.
For good reason: Ponting says quotes attributed to him last week to that effect were a big stretch.
“Don’t believe everything that you read,” Ponting said, smiling, during the launch of “The Captain’s Year,” his eighth book. It came during a player camp at a five-star resort north of Brisbane that included all 25 contracted players and Cricket Australia personnel.
Ponting said he was asked last week whether another 5-0 series win was possible, a feat Australia achieved in 2006-07 when it regained the Ashes at home after losing the previous series in England in 2005.
“There are five games to play, so anything is possible,” Ponting said Monday. “If we play our best cricket for every minute of every Test match, then there is a possibility we could do that. But I never said we were going to win 5-nil.”
Ponting and the Australians are preparing for a two-Test, three limited-overs matches tour of India, a home series with Sri Lanka and then the five-Test Ashes before the World Cup next year.
“We’re expecting a very high level of performance for the next eight months,” Ponting said. “The expectations are that we will be ultra-competitive in every match we play.”
To do that, Ponting said the team will have to overcome a series of batting collapses that saw quick wickets fall and matches given away, first at Lord’s and then The Oval during last year’s series won 2-1 by England.
The Australians were also out for low scores against West Indies in Perth last year, then against Pakistan in Sydney in January and most recently at Headingley in England in July.
“Looking back at the Ashes series, it was probably the major reason we didn’t win that series,” Ponting said. “When England got on a roll with the ball we weren’t able to stop that.”
Ponting said the team has been more consistent since, and has more experience.
“We have been able to adapt and adjust to different game situations a lot quicker than we probably did last year,” Ponting said. “And if you look at the makeup of our team, we had quite a few reasonably inexperienced players in that side.
“Now, 12 months down the track, they have played another 10 or 12 Test matches, and they should be able to understand the situation a lot better.”
Ponting was careful to respond to a question about England’s players reportedly being banned from using Twitter and other social networking sites during the Ashes.
“I think the job of all international players these days is that if we can bring people closer to the game with that kind of information … bring people through the gates, then that’s good,” Ponting said.
“It’s the helmet-on, helmet-off, sort of stuff. Very few people around the world know what we’re like with the helmet off. I’m totally for that, as long as it’s done in the right way. You won’t see us banning our players.”
Ponting makes that point in his book, where he includes numerous Facebook entries he’s made during the last year. None of them are particularly earth-shattering, some of them are a plug for his sponsors, but every now and then he’ll talk about an injury or why he chose to bat first after winning a toss.
He also included a chapter entitled “The Best of the Best” – his highlight reel of players he’s faced in the past decade.
His top-order batsmen are Virender Sehwag of India and South Africans Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. The middle order is veteran stars Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara and Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara.
The all-rounder is Andrew Flintoff of England, the pace bowlers Curtly Ambrose of West Indies, Wasim Akram of Pakistan and South Africa’s Shaun Pollock and the spin bowler all-time top Test wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan.
Ponting pays Flintoff a compliment, then takes it away.
“Freddie Flintoff was one of the most talented cricketers I saw during the past 10 years,” Ponting wrote. “However, I can’t help thinking he should have achieved more than what he did.”
The five-Test Ashes series begins on Nov. 25 in Brisbane, followed by matches starting Dec. 3 in Adelaide, Dec. 16 in Perth, Dec. 26 in Melbourne and Jan. 3 in Sydney.
Ponting lamented the fact that he’s been so busy with cricket business he hasn’t been able to play the championship Hyatt Regency golf course outside his door and which hosts the Australian PGA tournament each year.
The single handicap golfer said he hopes to get out on the final day of the team’s stay at Coolum, but realises why he’s here.
“It’s been mentioned that I’ve been the only captain in the history of Australian cricket to lose two Ashes series,” Ponting said.
“I’m going to do my absolute best to make sure that it’s not three.” —AP
This article was published in Dawn.
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