MELBOURNE: After enduring two stinging test defeats in India, Ricky Ponting will return home on Thursday with questions about Australia’s form and his captaincy ringing in his ears a month before the Ashes start.
The gritty Tasmanian jetted off to India with confident predictions for a big home summer but may feel less bullish after the Australian bowlers were humbled on Wednesday on the way to a thumping seven-wicket loss in Bangalore.
The manner in which Australia capitulated, with maligned spinner Nathan Hauritz being picked off at will amid a generous field placement, prompted groans of despair from Australian commentators.
It also provoked an online roasting from Shane Warne, who questioned Ponting’s tactics.
“How the hell can Hauritz bowl to this field?” Warne posted on Twitter. “Feeling for Hauritz, terrible!! What are these tactics? Sorry Ricky, but what are you doing?”
Ponting, as always, remained defiant in defeat.
“The scoreline was pretty flattering for the India team so we have to look at the positives we’ve created over the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“In saying that, all any of us can do when go back home is play the best cricket we can.”
While Warne predicted an angry Australia would hit back against arch-rivals England on home soil, where they have not lost an Ashes series in 24 years, Ponting’s analysis of the positives could well be a quick exercise.
After an emphatic win over Pakistan on neutral turf in England, the Australians crumbled in the return match and were comprehensively outplayed in India to slump to a three-match losing streak, their longest in 22 years.
Vice captain and pin-up boy Michael Clarke managed only 35 runs in four innings against India, while Marcus North cemented his reputation for inconsistency by scoring a breakthrough century in the first innings in Bangalore, only to fail dismally when another knock was required in the second.
Quicks Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson were dogged but ineffective for long periods, while Hauritz’s confidence after a difficult series will be shot after his captain admitted he had tried to coach the bowler for more than a year.
The 35-year-old Ponting, who last year earned the dubious distinction of being only the second Australian captain to lose the Ashes to England twice, has talked of returning to England as captain in 2012 to erase his past disappointments.
Disappointed sections of Australia’s cricket media have warned him not to get ahead of himself, despite at times appearing the lone bastion of resistance against a younger, more nimble Indian side.
“He’s now lost five series, it may be time to say, ‘Look mate, we’ve got Michael Clarke ready to go with a fresh mind, he can be captain and you focus on your batting and try to restore yourself to the level we know you’re capable,’” former test bowler Geoff Lawson told local media. -Reuters