Ricky Ponting has shifted the focus from Australia to Ben Stokes and his England side, as debate continues to rage over the Jonny Bairstow stumping at Lord's that has divided the cricket world. Stokes said after day five - when his side went 2-0 down in the series - that Australia's actions went against the spirit of cricket.
England veterans Stuart Broad and Joe Root have also echoed that view, questioning why the Aussies would want to win a Test in that manner, despite the umpires ultimately deciding it was a legal dismissal. Stokes was Bairstow's batting partner at the time of the controversy, and let rip at the Aussies in his post-match speech.
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“If I was fielding captain I would have had a real think about the spirit of the game. For Australia it was the match-winning moment," Stokes said. "Would I want to win a game in that manner? The answer for me is no.”
Ponting has launched a passionate defence of Cummins and his men and in doing so, turned the tables on Stokes, after insisting the England skipper should have raised his concerns out in the middle at the time, rather than after the match. “The two things that separates both of these two captains is that Ben Stokes had about three hours to think about his answer,” Ponting told The ICC Review.
“Pat Cummins had about 10 seconds to think about what he was going to do and whether he was going to uphold it (the appeal) or not. It‘s pretty easy for Ben at the end to sit down and give that point of view.
"But he was actually out there as the batting captain of his team. He could have asked there and then in the heat of the battle if he was thinking clearly like he said he was three hours later in post-game.
“If he was thinking enough, he would have said that to the umpires, ‘You know, was it over? Had you started to move? Is the ball dead?’ They were the questions that had to be answered then and not at the end of the game when he said it.”
Ricky Ponting slams England over 'sprit of cricket' debate
Ponting was also at pains to point out that the "spirit of the game" argument extends to respecting the rules of the sport and the decision of umpires - two things the England team and their furious supporters have failed to do.
“If we take that Bairstow moment out of this series, you would say that this series has been played with great spirit and everything that has to do with the spirit of cricket and I don‘t think anyone would disagree with that,” he said.
“But one thing like this pops up and then this whole spirit of cricket question is raised again. I’m absolutely a believer in it because there’s more to it than just that one in or out (Bairstow) decision. It’s respecting your opponents, it’s respecting the opposition captain, it’s respecting the umpires and it’s respecting the crowds.”
Ponting said Bairstow - who had attempted a similar stumping of Marnus Labuschagne earlier in the Lord's Test - only had himself to blame for the biggest flashpoint of the series. The former Aussie captain said Bairstow's decision to act on his own terms and failure to check with Australia whether the over was finished, was indicative of a lack of respect he believes has crept into the modern game.
“I know when I was playing, and the ball had gone through to the keeper, you wouldn‘t dare leave your crease until you actually asked the opposition captain if it was OK and if the ball was dead and Jonny hadn’t done that," Ponting added. “Even to the point now, when you’re asking for gloves or asking for a drink, I think players just do it. They don’t even respect the fielding captain to say, ‘Oh, sorry skipper, is it OK if I go and change my gloves or is it OK if I get a drink’?
“When we start talking about spirit of cricket, it’s not just about in and out dismissals in the spirit of cricket thing. It’s about the respect of your opponents and the umpires and everyone around you as well. And I think that’s just died off a little bit.”
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