Love him or loathe him you cannot argue that Ricky Ponting will go down as one of the greatest ever Test batsmen and arguably the best ever Australian top order player. He has announced he will step down from Test match duties after the third Test of the current series against South Africa which is good news if you’re an England fan keeping one eye on the Aussies ahead of next year.
Ponting has made the decision after stating that he feels as though he hasn’t consistently contributed to the team for a period of a year to a year and a half. It’s going to leave a gaping great hole at number three for Australia and piles the pressure onto other key players just before back-to-back Ashes contests in 2013.
“I haven't been performing consistently over the last 12 to 18 months. I believe now is the right time. This is a decision not made by the selectors, it was made by me. It's a decision I thought long and hard about. It was based on my output and my results in this series so far. It hasn't been what I expect of myself and certainly not the level required of a batsman in the Australia team,” said Ponting.
The reason he’s going to be missed so badly is because he has such massive experience of playing cricket all over the world. There may never be another Australian number three who plays over 160 Test matches making 41 centuries at an average of just over 52. He’s leaving some massive shoes to fill for a new player coming into the Australian Test side.
The reason this is good news from an England point of view is because Ponting knew how to score centuries against England in English conditions. Australia will have a few new faces in their Test team when they come to England next summer which is going to make it difficult for the side to settle into arguably the biggest Test contest in world cricket.
It places a lot of pressure on Michael Clarke, Shane Watson and Mike Hussey who are all certainties to be in the squad for the Ashes. Each one of those players now has to step up a level because they do not have Ponting at the top of the order to sure things up if an early wicket goes down or to make a vital century at the right time.
England will know that Australia only have a few key experienced players that they will rely on next year so they will go all out to focus on those players and make sure that they aren’t effective. However, a chance has opened up for a young player to come and make a name for himself but anyone who suggests that Ponting’s retirement is not bad news for Australia is using fundamentally flawed logic.