It’s an inability to sate the competitive urge that coursed through him in his playing days as much as the need to nurture emerging talents that has drawn Ricky Ponting back into the cricket coaching fold.
And while the former Test and limited-overs captain has ruled out taking on a full-time international role, he wants to extend his involvement with the Australia men’s team and sees the T20 format as the most appropriate and viable vehicle.
Ponting has been confirmed as the new coach of the Delhi Daredevils franchise in the Indian Premier League for the 2018 tournament, after he oversaw the Mumbai Indians’ 2015 title success during his two-year tenure that he forewent in 2016.
He also remains in discussions with Cricket Australia about taking a formal role alongside Bupa Support Team men’s coach Darren Lehmann as part of the national T20 outfit, with the possibility of reprising his role as an assistant coach.
Ponting served as an assistant to interim T20 coach Justin Langer last summer when the Australia Test team was preparing for their four-match campaign in India, and believes that greater focus on the shortest format is required if Australia is to lift its current ranking of seventh in T20 international cricket.
Despite its regular success at Test and ODI levels, Australia has not won a major global trophy in the 20-over game with their best result in six ICC tournament appearances coming in 2010 when they finished as runners-up to England.
Ponting told cricket.com.au recently he’s held “numerous conversations” with CA and others involved in the national men’s set-up about how and when he might take up a role as a T20 mentor, given that’s the area for which he sees the greatest need.
“The T20 game in Australia, I still feel, has a lot of hurdles to get over,” Ponting said.
“Historically we haven’t performed well in international T20 tournaments, and I think the reason for that is we don’t get much continuity with our playing group.
“Quite often, from one tournament to another we have a different captain (leading) the side because of what’s coming up and what’s just been.
“Until we start paying more attention to the T20 game … I don’t think we’ll ever improve.
“Yes, we have the Big Bash but we don’t play much other T20 cricket in Australia so – unless you’re playing in the IPL – our players aren’t playing a lot, and they’re not playing a lot together.”
Australia’s next T20 international commitment is next month’s tri-series with England and New Zealand, with another tri-series in Zimbabwe (featuring the host nation and Pakistan) expected to take place mid-year.
CA Chief Executive James Sutherland confirmed discussions were ongoing with Ponting regarding his future involvement, in keeping with findings from the 2011 review into Australian cricket that highlighted the importance of input from former greats.
“We want to get past players who have the inclination and the aptitude, to pass on their knowledge to players at the highest level, but also through our junior ranks,” Sutherland told ABC Radio recently.
“I think that’s a real positive for Australian cricket.
“Ricky has got a fantastic cricket brain and we want him involved in different ways.
“He’s got a busy schedule, so we’ve got to work around that to some extent, but there will be opportunities for him to be involved.
“Whether it’s formally as a lead role with the T20 team, I guess time will tell.”
Ponting has cited family commitments as the reason why he is not eyeing a full-time coaching role and confirmed he wants to restrict his involvement to short stints, such as that in the IPL where he will return in April and May.
Having severed his ties with Mumbai – where he served as player and coach – the 43-year-old is excited about his impending return to a competition that he rates as a peerless learning environment given the calibre of players it hosts and the profile of the event it stages.
“It’s a huge tournament, you’re working with the best players in the world and you’re unearthing and seeing some incredible Indian talent,” Ponting said.
“I think the best way to describe the IPL to people who haven’t been there or seen it is you talk to the young Aussie guys who go and play and they say every game is like an AFL Grand Final.
“The atmosphere that’s created around a lot of these venues is unbelievable.
“For all those reasons it’s great to be part of, and the other thing is that it’s eight or nine weeks.
“It’s not a huge time commitment so it fits in really well with where my life’s at.”
But while the lure of the IPL, with its star-studded franchises, heaving crowds and saturation media coverage, explains part of Ponting’s desire to return to coaching his deeper passion is to maintain contact with the game that been his professional life since his teen years.
And to share the wisdom and experience and insights that he has garnered across 168 Test matches and 392 limited-overs (ODI and T20) outings for Australia with emerging talents at all levels of the game.
“I’ve just got that cricket bug,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“Cricket’s not all that I know, but it’s a big part of what I know, a big part of what I enjoy and a big part of what my life’s been for so long.
“I’ve been around a lot of great people, I’ve been around a lot of great people.
“I think I understand people really well.
“I think I understand the tactical and technical side of the game really well, so I feel I’ve got a lot to offer back to the game.
“I’ve almost got that itch to scratch when I’m not around competition.
“I’ve lived my life as a competitive person for so long, competing as a batsman, competing as a player and when your career’s over that all stops and you’ve got none of that in your life any more.
“In the last couple of years, I’ve started to feel and understand that I need to have a certain degree of that in my life, let alone the fact that I love helping young blokes out.
“At the end of the day that’s what coaching is for me, having the feeling that you’ve actually improved someone and had an impact on the way they go about their cricket.
“And you’ve made them better as a cricketer and a person.
“I think that should be the motivating factor for all coaches anyway.
“It’s no different for me.”