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Ponting's finest hour turns bitter

By Rediff cricket desk
January 10, 2008 11:50 IST
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It should have been Ricky Ponting's finest hour -- he had led his team to a 16th straight win, equaling a world record set by his predecessor Steve Waugh.

Instead, he woke on the morning after to find himself notorious: India was in ferment over the conduct of the Sydney Test; in Australia, former greats and large sections of the media condemned the behavior of the home team, and the captain's own statements about his integrity were mocked by widely circulated video clips that clearly indicated he had claimed a catch that was not fair.

The Herald Sun reports that wife Rianna was shaken by the stories appearing in the media, and called up her husband to ask if he was okay. Ponting, then appearing at a charity golf game, indicated that all was well, then spoke to Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland who, reportedly, assured him that he had the full backing of the board.

The fires continue to rage, however. The Herald Sun reports that Ponting's parents had to change their home number following a deluge of threatening calls, while back in India, straw merchants are running out of stock in the wake of an epidemic of effigy-burning.

Against that backdrop, Ponting told the paper, in reflective mood, that maybe some things could, in hindsight, have been done differently.

In the first Test at the MCG, Yuvraj Singh had been reported for showing dissent when he lingered at the crease following a decision against him.

Match referee Mike Procter had dismissed the charge, leading to a public censure by the ICC. At Sydney, it was Ponting's turn to set, early on, the tone of the game when he - after having benefited from an umpiring error that extended his innings - lingered too long at the wicket on being given out LBW.

"There's no doubt I stood there for a second or two too long and I shouldn't have done that. And it probably didn't help that I was shown throwing my bat when I got back to the rooms," Ponting told the paper.

Referring to criticism that Australia, at the end of the game, had indulged in over the top celebrations without doing the Indians the courtesy of the ritual hand-shake, Ponting said "Some of the guys mightn't have shaken (Indian skipper Anil) Kumble's hand after the game. But we were so wrapped up with the end of the game that they were already off the field. And we all walked along when it was over and shook their hands."

Ponting said he will be reviewing key incidents, on video, with his team and discussing with them how the Australians could show themselves in better light on the field of play.

"What I want is for the Australian cricket team to be the most loved and the most respected sporting side in this country. That's always been one of my aims and it will continue to be," he is quoted as saying, while reiterating his desire that the current team be regarded, in the light of history, as one of the all-time great Aussie sides.

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