Ugly Aussies or whatever, but you got to hand it to Ponting's men from Down Under for winning the Champions Trophy after being in seemingly hopeless positions, both against Pakistan in the decisive league game and in the final. If at all you can template an Aussie cricket performance, then this is it!
Undoubtedly, Ponting emerged as the best captain going and damn the ICC choice of Dhoni for their ''World XI''. If my life is in danger, I would like to have Ponting on my side. The fact that he did not allow the Ashes debacle to affect him and got his troops together for the assault on Champions Trophy after pasting England 6-1 in the ODI series prior to the South African campaign, speaks volumes for Ponting's leadership ability. Not that there was any doubts on this score, but his has been an exemplary performance to say the least.
Watson cracks another century as Australia retain title
As I had mentioned in my pre-tournament column, you can never write off the Aussies and they are the perennial favourites for just about any series or tournament. They have this uncanny knack of finding players at critical moments to pull the team through crises. The manner in which they literally dived across the finish line against Pakistan when their cause looked lost and then in the final, where they recovered from two down for six, deserve every bit of commendation.
I have held on the view all along that the ICC rankings, at best, are only indicative, but not necessarily an accurate index of a team's overall strength. Rather, these rankings are mere statistics that do not reflect the inherent qualities of a particular team. Thus, the Aussies even after getting knocked out of the No.1 ranking, still are the team to beat. And that they won the Champions Trophy at the end of a long summer that kept the players away from home and hearth for over four months, is a tribute to the depth in talent besides their ability to keep punching.
The critics who wrote off Ponting after the Ashes series loss would now be eating their words, for the little man has shown that he still has a lot left in him. His crossing the magical 12,000-run mark in ODI to join the exclusive club of Tendulkar and Jayasuriya only suggests that Ponting is far from finished and there is plenty more to come from his punishing blade.
The least one can say about Ponting is that he has not shirked responsibility and more often than not, led by example and from the front. I would even go as far as to say that Ponting is a far more inspirational leader than Dhoni or any other captain, and in fact, I would bracket him along with his predecessor Steve Waugh.
Yes, Ponting is no saint, but as a cricketer, he should be ranked among the best ever to grace the sport in modern era. Never mind that he failed in the final, but Aussies found their heroes in Watson and White who carried the team to victory. Watson, in particular, is fast developing into a premier all-rounder, at least in the ODIs as he has adapted himself well in the role of an opening batsman, a responsibility that was thrust upon him. He has been among the wickets too and the combination has made him as one of the best all-rounders at the moment.
Ponting happy to see youngsters making a mark
I quite liked the way Ponting ''nursed'' Johnson, the other player who has developed into a quality all-rounder. During the early part of the Ashes series, Johnson struggled to make an impression and it was thought that he was on the verge of a ''burn out''. Yet, Ponting persisted with him and quite dramatically, Johnson found his way back to make more than useful contributions.
I feel that Indians would do well to learn not just from their debacle in the Champions Trophy but also from Ponting's Australians who have bounced back after going through some torrid moments. Their early departure from the T20 World Cup did hurt them, but like true champions, they held their nerve and self-belief to pull off a great win in the Champions Trophy.
Australian cricket is in a transitional stage and as such, they would yet lose a few matches, but I strongly believe that they will be back at the top in the next couple of seasons when today's young guns mature into quality cricketers who will serve their team for a long time.