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If only Graeme Smith had learnt from Ponting's mistake!

March 06, 2014 17:10 IST

If only Graeme Smith had learnt from Ponting's mistake!

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Bikash Mohapatra

Ricky Ponting’s decision to retire in the middle of the 2012 Test series against South Africa, who were led by Graeme Smith, proved costly for Australia.

For someone who not only took away the former Aussie captain’s record, but also condemned him to retirement in defeat, Bikash Mohapatra says, it is a shame that Smith did not learn from the Australian’s error in judgment while calling it a day.

It was in November 2012 that Ricky Ponting committed what can be termed the final faux pas of his professional career.

In the middle of a home series against South Africa, it suddenly dawned on the former Australia captain that he wasn’t scoring enough runs any more. With one match in that series left to be played, he decided that would be his last Test.

A legend of the game opting to call it quits before being asked to leave.

Nothing wrong with that! What was not right about Ponting’s decision was its timing. It came just ahead of the third and final Test in Perth.

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Image: Ricky Ponting addresses a media conference after playing his last international cricket match during Day 4 of the third Test between Australia and South Africa at the WACA on December 3, 2012
Photographs: Paul Kane/Getty Images

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If only Graeme Smith had learnt from Ponting's mistake!

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Bikash Mohapatra

Australia had the upper hand in the series till then, and should have won the second Test in Adelaide had it not been for some resolute batting by Faf du Plessis.

In such a scenario, Ponting’s announcement had an adverse impact. The home team faced a humiliating reverse at the WACA, and lost the series as well.

The reverse denied Ponting a winning farewell, something his illustrious career definitely deserved.

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Image: Ricky Ponting
Photographs: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

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If only Graeme Smith had learnt from Ponting's mistake!

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Bikash Mohapatra

Weeks before, the captain of that South African side (Graeme Smith) had robbed Ponting of one of his most cherished records. The Australian had won 48 of his 77 Tests as captain, a world record, till Smith got past it in the preceding series against Pakistan.

Smith proceeded to build on that record, in the process becoming the first player to captain a team in 100 Test matches.

 (Smith ended his career having captained South Africa in 108 Test matches and leading them to 53 victories)

For someone who not only took away Ponting’s record, but also condemned him to retirement in defeat, it is a shame that Smith did not learn from the Australian’s error in judgment.

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Image: Graeme Smith leaves the field after getting out to Ryan Harris during Day 3 of the third Test between South Africa and Australia at Sahara Park Newlands on March 3, 2014
Photographs: Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

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If only Graeme Smith had learnt from Ponting's mistake!

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Bikash Mohapatra

Cut to March 2014. Smith was in a similar predicament. Woefully short of runs, the captain stood out like a sore thumb in a well-oiled South African team that was riding high on a winning streak, something they weren’t willing to let go so easily, as confirmed by their convincing win in the second Test against Australia at St George’s Park that helped square the series, after losing the opener at Centurion.

Though South Africa was, and is, still ranked the No. 1 team in Tests, Smith wasn’t happy with his own contribution, something that prompted him to surprisingly announce his retirement at the end of the third day’s play in the third and final Test at Newlands.

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Image: Graeme Smith
Photographs: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

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Bikash Mohapatra

The decision came at the worst possible time. South Africa had won at Port Elizabeth and could have carried forward the momentum in Cape Town, but for their captain’s error in judgment.

The announcement had an adverse impact on the home team. Having been second best for most of the deciding Test, South Africa, to their credit fought well in the fourth innings (chasing an improbable 511 to win), certainly better than what Australia had done in Perth.

However, it only delayed the inevitable; the damage had already been done.

That Smith failed yet again with the bat wasn’t a surprise. That he failed as a captain was.

The timing of his decision not only cost South Africa a home series, but also robbed the 33-year-old of a winning farewell.

Only if Smith had learnt from Ponting’s mistake!


Image: Ricky Ponting (L) and Graeme Smith
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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