POSTED: August 24th 2009

Fair play to Ricky Ponting: how to be a winner in defeat

Ricky Ponting: dignity in defeat /
Ricky Ponting: dignity in defeat /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Here is an early nomination for the end-of-year sports awards: anyone's fair play prize should head the way of Australia’s cricket captain Ricky Ponting.

The intense media and public pressure often pushes the high-profile sportsmen and women of this era beyond a mental breaking point: their talent resides in their hands, feet, muscles and sinews rather than in intellectual debate.

Expecting them to come up with well-chosen words in that flash interview moment immediately after their minds and bodies have been exhausted in the active expression of that talent is almost insultingly banal.

Hence the frequent press conference outbursts at the twists and turns of sporting fate, usually grasping at a controversial decision by a referee or umpire or opposing player.

Ponting on Sunday at The Oval – one of not merely London’s but world cricket's most historic venues – faced an immediate microphone inquisition after Australia’s defeat to England surrended the Ashes, one of the oldest and most prized of trophies.

He had just suffered the indignity of becoming the first Australian captain in more than a century to lose the Ashes twice in England.

Praise where due

But his assessment was calm and collected. He noted: “We had our opportunities in this series. In Cardiff and Leeds we were exceptional but a couple of really bad sessions have cost us the series. That is where we have come up a little bit short.”

Ponting was also generous in praise of the old enemy, saying: “England have bounced back really strongly throughout the series. They did it at Lord's after they had been outplayed at Cardiff and they did it here, and there are really good signs for the England team. Andrew Strauss as captain led from the front with his batting on each occasion, and Stuart Broad's spell in this game was a big factor."

He even accepted that Australia's team selection for this decisive fifth and final Test, in hindsight, had been misjudged - in their preference for an all-pace attack ahead of the off-spin of Nathan Hauritz.

“We thought that we were picking the right attack for the conditions that we saw," he added, "but I don't think that anybody would have expected the wicket to break up as badly as it did. But that was the same for both teams.”

Of course, Ponting – one of the great cricketers of this era – knew that the critical knives were already being sharpened back home; that his own misjudged run-out in Austalia’s second innings was a crucial moment.

Still, to stand up and lose with dignity as he did spoke volumes for the man . . . and for sport. Someone, somewhere, amid all the plethora of awards, should recognise the fact.

To do otherwise, so to speak, would not be cricket . . .

Picture (above right): England's Andrew Flintoff hails his run-out of Australia captain Ricky Ponting /

Keywords · Ricky Ponting · cricket · Australia · England · Test cricket

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