Ponting still as competitive as ever
With the first ten days of the Indian Premier League T20 competition done and dusted, there are some who have ticked the days off the calendar and are well and truly into their countdown as they cannot wait for the tournament to end. They would probably call themselves purists and would like to deny that Twenty20 cricket has a place on the big stage. Well, from all the action of week No 1 it is clear to see that once elite sportsmen are placed in a competitive environment, they cannot help but fight to the bitter end as it is very much in their nature to try and find a way to win. That is exactly what most punters derive pleasure from watching.
From the outset the Indian Premier League sought to put older legendary players with the current stars of the game to the point where some played on the basis of what they had achieved in the game rather than what performances they were putting out at the time. This was the initial phase of the tourney where there was a case for trying to build a good reputation and draw the rest of the world in. Think back to the likes of Glen McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Sourav Ganguly, Stephen Fleming and Shane Warne, who despite having already retired from the international game, turned up in India to continue to try and mesmerise crowds and television audiences with their skills; they had varying degrees of success on the field, but one thing is for sure: many were drawn to watch.
We have another similar situation in the 2013 edition of the IPL with former Australian captain and legend Ricky Ponting returning to the tournament. A fleeting and less than successful association with defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders in one of the earliest editions of the tourney was probably ill timed, as it was during Ponting's international career and it seemed difficult for him to balance all that he had on his plate. The Australians also did not seem to take Twenty20 cricket at all seriously at the time. Quite a few years on, the landscape has changed and he is back.
Yes, it is an opportunity for a big pay cheque and it sure would be silly to turn that down, but for the viewing public, it is a wonderful opportunity to see two greats of the same generation playing in the same team. When one thinks of great batsmen of the modern era, the names Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting and Kallis will almost definitely be mentioned each time. Now to have a couple of them together in one team, even if it is only in the T20 format, is brilliant to savour. The hope will be that somewhere along the line they will both cut loose and unleash hell on a set of bowlers, together – that would surely be a sight to behold and I pity the attack that catches their wrath.
Watching the diminutive former Aussie captain marshal his newly acquired Mumbai Indian troops, there is not a doubt about how competitive he continues to be. The scratch of the head in search of a move to gain the upper hand and then the childlike smile when a plan is executed correctly and bears fruit, are there for all to see each time he goes about his captaincy in the IPL. Despite retirement and the change of colours, the competitive nature of Ponting and all the other elder statesmen still in the game, is impossible to conceal. It is etched on their faces and surely keeps them going.
As with all the others, Ponting will want to contribute significantly in the tournament so as to make the decision on whether to turn up again next year that much easier. Many are watching.