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Ponting doubted Clarke's captaincy, team spirit

October 13, 2013 17:46 IST

Ponting doubted Clarke's captaincy, team spirit

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Ricky Ponting once harboured doubts over the suitability of Michael Clarke to succeed him as captain of Australia.

Ponting, who stood down after nine years in the post in 2011, said the concerns over his successor-designate and vice captain -- who he called Pup -- had prevented him from considering resigning earlier.

"It wasn't that he was disruptive or treacherous and publicly he said all the right things," Ponting said in an extract from his autobiography, At The Close Of Play, serialised in the Herald Sun newspaper.

"But he had never been one to get too involved in planning sessions or debriefs at the end of a day's play, or to volunteer to take on any of the captain's workload.

"More than once, (coach) Tim Nielsen and I had encouraged him to take on more of a leadership role within the group, but when Pup was down on form or if he had a problem away from cricket, he'd go into his shell.


Image: Ricky Ponting of Australia talks to captain Michael Clarke
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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'I was concerned he wouldn't be able to handle the 'little things' that go with captaincy'

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"I knew he was an excellent thinker on the game, but for a long time I was concerned that he wouldn't be able to handle the huge variety of 'little things' that go with being Australian captain."

Those feelings had been compounded by the way Clarke distanced himself from the team as he became more and more involved in a celebrity lifestyle off the field.

"Pup remained a good trainer and we could all see that he loved playing for Australia and was determined to do well," Ponting recalled.

"But away from cricket, he moved in a different world to the rest of us.

"It never worried me if a bloke didn't want a drink in the dressing room, but I did wonder about blokes who didn't see the value in sticking around for a chat and a laugh and a post-mortem on the day's play.

"This was the time when we could revel in our success, pick up the blokes who were struggling, and acknowledge the guys who were at the peak of their powers. Pup hardly bought into this tradition for a couple of years and the team noticed."


Image: Ricky Ponting with Michael Clarke
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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Ponting reveals details of Katich-Clarke bust-up

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“At times, he reminded me of a teammate from earlier in my career, who'd be chirpy and bubbly if he was going well, but appear a bit grim if things weren't working for him. The best teammates are the ones who can keep their moods in check for the sake of the group," he added.

It was during this period when Clarke had the infamous dressing room bust-up with former opener Simon Katich. Ponting said he was not witness to it but could understand the resentment towards Clarke at that juncture.

"The blow-up with Pup and Kato after the Test in Sydney in the first week of 2009 wasn't in itself a big deal. I've seen worse arguments involving Australian cricketers...We wondered if he'd lost a little of his sense of team," Ponting wrote.

"It was our first significant Test win in exactly a year, almost certainly Matt Hayden's last Test, yet Pup wanted to get away. I didn't actually witness what went on, but as I understand it he asked if we could do the anthem sooner rather than later, Mike Hussey said he'd have to wait, the point was pushed, Kato suggested Pup be patient, and when Pup continued to complain Kato grabbed him and again told him to be patient.

"Okay, it might have been a bit spicier than that, but that was the gist of it. Michael left immediately after the confrontation, while we just shrugged our shoulders and said, 'That's Pup'," he recollected.


Image: Simon Katich and Michael Clarke of Australia
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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'After 2010, he was inspirational'

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Ponting said Clarke's attitude changed after his teammates "closed ranks around him" during his well-publicised personal problems with his then fiancée Lara Bingle in early 2010, which caused him to return from the tour of New Zealand.

"I wouldn't say we were tight after that, but we were better. His official reign as Australian captain started on a high, with ODI wins in Bangladesh and ODI and Test wins in Sri Lanka, and he quickly took his batting to a new level, to the point that it seemed he could almost score big hundreds at will," Ponting wrote.

"He was training hard when we were together and obviously doing a lot of extracurricular work on his fitness and his game as well, which was inspirational. He now seemed happy to take on the planning, media and administrative duties that he'd veered away from when he was vice-captain and the mood in the Aussie dressing room was positive.

"Perhaps I'd been wrong to be so concerned for so long."


Image: Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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