There was a strong sense of déjà vu reading the papers and scouring social media this morning.
Just like this time last year, South Africa’s fast bowlers are dominant, Australia’s top order batting is insipid and Australian cricket is seemingly in a state of despair.
And once again the finger of blame seems to be pointing squarely at veteran Ricky Ponting.
"Ricky Ponting is suddenly under the spotlight again after his third duck in four innings against South Africa," a News Ltd article said.
The twittersphere was littered with similar sentiments
That is skewing statistics to suit an argument.
It is correct that Ponting’s recent record against the best fast bowling attack in the world is horrible.
But it was conveniently forgotten that:
• Ponting has scored 789 runs in his past nine Test matches at an average of 56.35.
• He has gone past 50 seven times in 15 innings in that period, including one century and one double century.
• He has made 355 runs in four Sheffield Shield matches so far this summer at an average of well over 100.
It seems that one low score has erased all that good work.
Ponting’s dismissal yesterday, poking at a ball he should have left alone, was disappointing given the state of the match.
But for him to shoulder all of the blame for Australia’s top-order frailties, which were papered over by his prolific run-scoring last summer, is unfair.
For his part, Ponting would have known these sorts of headlines were coming. He copped much worse from his critics during his well-publicised form slump last year. He will shrug them off as he has always done.
The veteran laid his cards on the table a long time ago by indicating he wants one more Ashes tour next year. He has put himself at the mercy of the selection panel and will live and die by his performances over the next 12 months.
With Shane Watson set to come back into the side and Usman Khawaja, Alex Doolan, Phil Hughes and Joe Burns all mounting a case, Ponting needs runs to assure his place on the plane to England next year.
Maybe he’ll get them, maybe he won’t. If he doesn’t, he knows better than most that his place in the side will be in serious jeopardy.
But just one innings into the summer is too early to judge.
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