Ricky Ponting has forged a reputation as one of the most astute minds in world cricket and now the Aussie legend could be taking that knowledge with him to the United States. The former Aussie captain has confirmed he is in talks to coach the Washington Freedom in America's Major League Cricket (MLC).
The United States launched its first major foray into the world of cricket with the introduction of the MLC in 2023 - a T20 competition comprised of six teams from a number of America's biggest cities. MI New York were crowned inaugural champions after defeating the Seattle Orcas in the championship final, with the majority of the matches played in front of sold-out stadiums in Texas and North Carolina.
The US-based competition is part of the ICC's push for cricket's expansion into the lucrative North American market, and Ponting's inclusion would be a massive boon for both the MLC and the sport. The legendary former Australian captain is deciding whether he can commit to both the MLC and commentary duties for the T20 World Cup, which will be held in North America in June.
Ricky Ponting confirms talks with Washington Freedom
The second edition of MLC will begin just four days after the World Cup final is played in Barbados on June 30. "We're not there yet, I haven't committed to anything just yet, but I've had some initial discussions (with Washington)," Ponting told SEN radio on Thursday.
"The time of the year sort of fits in OK for me, but I've got a really hectic off-season again. When I say off-season, there's no such thing as an off-season for cricketers anymore."
Ponting is currently head coach of the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the head of strategy for Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League (BBL) and one of the chief commentators on the Seven Network's free-to-air cricket coverage in Australia. "It's potentially another big year of time away if I want it, so there are things I've got to work through," Ponting said. "If I'm actually going to be commentating the T20 World Cup or not and if I'm not doing that, where does MLC fit in?"
Ponting would be a tremendous addition to a Washington Freedom side that made it to the MLC eliminator final last year, with his knowledge of the game and tactical awareness among the best in the sport. Not to mention the commercial and public relations possibilities that come with having one of the game's greatest ever players attached to the competition.
India's influence in the fledgling US-based competition is evidenced by the fact three out of the six teams share part of their names with IPL franchises. Aussie states have also shown a willingness to form strategic partnerships with the US teams, with Cricket Victoria aligning itself with the San Francisco Unicorns and Queensland Cricket announcing a collaboration with the Seattle Orcas.
Cricket NSW also share a partnership with the Washington Freedom, with Greg Shipperd central to the relationship between the two parties. The Aussie coach led the Washington side in its inaugural season and recently took over as the NSW state coach, having managed the Sydney Sixers since 2015 in the BBL.
If Ponting is named as Shipperd's successor at Washington, he would become the latest big name in Aussie cricket to join the MLC. Aussie ODI World Cup winners Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa, as well as white-ball stars Matthew Wade and Aaron Finch were all part of the MLC's inaugural season.
"I don't like saying it, for the West Indies' sake, but normally this game has a way of making things like that come unstuck", says Ricky Ponting...
And with the last ball of the day, West Indies lose a wicket!#AUSvWI pic.twitter.com/QB4m9CXHQS
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 25, 2024
Ricky Ponting's cricket brain continues to amaze
Washington would no doubt be hoping that Ponting could bring some of the cricketing genius that he continues to showcase in his commentary role for Seven. Ponting's commentary predictions have become legendary in recent years, with the 168-Test legend showing why he's regarded as the smartest man in cricket during Australia's Test series against the West Indies.
Ponting successfully called Alex Carey's downfall on day two of the Windies' historic Gabba Test win in Brisbane. It came as Usman Khawaja and Carey were left to try and rescue Australia's innings after a top order collapse against the underdogs. Khawaja and Carey combined for a 65-run partnership to steady the ship for Australia, but Ponting noticed Carey was starting to become frustrated with his own scoring rate.
"It looks like his eyes are spinning. He is in overdrive and wants to hit every ball," Ponting said. "I agree with you Bish (West Indies great Ian Bishop), just go a bit more defensive and make him play a big shot from a good length ball." As Ponting finished his tactical analysis, Shamar Joseph charged in and delivered a ball at Carey's chest.
Carey mistimed a pull shot and the ball went directly to the West Indies fielder. Once again Ponting had a premonition about a wicket after also displaying his clairvoyant powers 24 hours earlier. On that occasion, Ponting suggested the West Indies batting duo should rotate the strike at the end of day one or risk losing a late wicket.
That same over, Alzarri Joseph was dismissed on the final ball of the day after Kevin Sinclair had refused a single. The two examples were just the latest in a growing list of brilliant calls from Ponting, whose ability to predict what's about to happen in a cricket match is becoming legendary.
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