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'Ponting is probably the best player I have seen'
Harish Kotian

Greg Blewett
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October 20, 2007 18:30 IST

Former Australia player Greg Blewett believes Ricky Ponting [Images] has achieved enough success as a captain to be regarded as one of Australia's best.

"One of Ponting's best attributes is that he has been able to keep a good relationship with his players and has also been an assertive leader. It is not an easy mix to get right, so that in regards he has got all the players' respect as a captain and he is their mate as well. He will go down as one of our best captains for sure," Blewett told at the CCI in Mumbai on Friday.

Blewett, who is doing commentary for 'NEO Sports' on the Australia's ongoing tour of India, played 46 Tests and 32 ODIs between 1994-95 and 1999-2000. Though he started his Test career with a bang, scoring a century in his first two outings, he never really cemented his place in the Australian team.

The 35-year-old played under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh during his brief international career and also rates both of them very highly. He believes Ponting compares favourably to Taylor and Waugh in terms of what he has achieved as a leader.

"Well, Ponting is probably the best player I have seen. Mark and Steve were both very good players, very different players. I think they were all different as captains. I played under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. They were different players and different characters in terms of how they went about their captaincy and Ponting is also the same," Blewett said.

Australia won the recently-concluded seven-match series 4-2, but the series was overshadowed by alleged racists taunts from Indian spectators on Andrew Symonds [Images]. However, Blewett does not read too much into it and, instead, prefers to dwell on the positives.

"I reckon the crowds, in general, have been very good. They have been in pretty good mood ever since the Twenty20 [World Cup victory]. It's given cricket a bit of a boost in this country. When I was here in 1998, it was very much the same. Whenever a big star came out to bat, you couldn't hear a word even if someone was 4-5 metres away. I think the Australians in general are happy about how the tour has gone and the atmosphere in the ground has been electric," he said.

The one Indian player that has caught his eye in the series is Robin Uthappa, who delighted everyone with strokeful innings of 44 and 47 in the last two one-dayers.

"I have been very impressed by the young [Robin] Uthappa. He is just 21 and playing that well at international level. He is going to be a very good player in the next couple of years," Blewett said.

The former Aussie all-rounder said India should not be too disappointed on losing the ODI series because they were up against a top-quality side like Australia.

"It is a transitional stage, but the big three -- [Sachin] Tendulkar, [Sourav] Ganguly and [Rahul] Dravid -- are coming to the end of their careers, so you got to gradually phase those guys out and get new guys in. I think it's an exciting time for Indian cricket. Obviously, I think Australia have played really well in the series, so India should not be too dispirited about getting knocked over by the world champions," he said.

Blewett, who toured India in 1998 for a Test series, says Australian batsmen have improved considerably against spinners in the last few years.

"When we came here even in 1998, I know myself and Ricky Ponting had a terrible [Test] series because we didn't play well under these conditions and you look at these guys now. I think Australia play spin bowling as well as anyone; so that's a real improvement in the way Australia have gone about their cricket.

"So I think full marks to Cricket Australia because a lot of our 'A' teams are now coming to the subcontinent. They are trying to give our young and up and coming players good experience of playing in sub-continental conditions. So, Cricket Australia has done very well in this regard," he added.

Blewett says a player of the status of Tendulkar should be allowed to make his own decision on retirement.

"You have to ask Sachin, because he is obviously batting so well. He is the leading run-scorer [for India in the series]. He has still got that amazing ability that he had a few years back when we played against him. He always rose against the Australians and did very well.

"Similarly, Brian Lara [Images] has also done very well against Australia. So the champions do well against the best sides, and Sachin and Dravid are no exceptions.

"Dravid getting dropped for the last game probably is a fair indication that he may not play again [in ODIs]; so he can concentrate on Test cricket now. I suppose Sachin has to work it out for himself how his body is feeling and his mind. To play both forms of the game coming up to his age [34] is really tough, but only he can tell how he is feeling," Blewett added.

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