A prelude to the Second Age of Ponting

Legendary former skipper taking ever-greater steps back into the cricket world via coaching

Adam Burnett

13 February 2018, 01:11 PM

Ponting reflects on Hall of Fame induction

It was a strange way for it to happen, but if there was any further confirmation needed that Australian cricket is taking its first steps towards a Second Age of Ponting, we received it last night in the form of the ex-captain's recurring nightmare.

One of three Hall of Fame inductees at this year's Allan Border Medal evening (alongside Norm O'Neill and Karen Rolton), Ricky Ponting addressed the audience and immediately regaled them with the sort of story he'd likely once have kept to himself but, with the wisdom of his years and the security of knowing one's self, he felt comfortable to tell. 

"Still to this day now, probably a few nights a week I go to bed and I have a dream about making a comeback – getting picked in the Australian team," he said. 

"The problem I have, it's like that dream you have when you're naked in the schoolyard – we've all had it – but I get to the ground, making my comeback, I go through the warm-up and I get back into the changerooms, and when it's my turn to bat, I haven't got a bat. 

"Every other day of my junior career or whatever it was, I always had a bat, and when I had a bat I knew I was safe; I knew I could do something and achieve something. 

"But those days are finished, and they go pretty quickly."

HOF inductee Ponting reflects on 'great honour'

It was a compelling anecdote that took us inside the mind of the man who has won more Test matches than anyone, and a reminder that the sort of competitive instincts Ponting showed throughout his two decades at the top never truly dissipate. 

Instead they find other means. Initially it was golf, a sport in which he has always been outstanding (famously, he was once told by Gary Player to quit cricket and join the PGA Tour – though Ponting downplays this exchange in his autobiography) and one that has been a constant throughout his life. 

After more than 15 years travelling with the national side however, he also had other important considerations. 

"I said when I retired that I left one team, but then I went and joined another team," Ponting said last night. "And the other team that I joined was obviously my family." 

But the possibilities of the T20 coaching world presented the potential for a happy compromise; given the relatively short windows of the domestic competitions around the world, he could sate his competitive urges by throwing himself into a mentor role, while still maintaining a healthy balance of family and personal time.

So he signed on with Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, having also taken a deal with Network 10 to commentate on the KFC Big Bash. It was 14 or so weeks of the year. 

Of course, because it was Ponting – and because he led Mumbai to the title in 2015 – the questions quickly arose. Would you ever consider coaching full time? Have you been approached by Cricket Australia with a view to coaching the national side?

The questions were answered politely but firmly, with the abbreviated version thus: Now's not the time. Give me a couple of years and we'll see where I'm at. 

It would appear that time has well and truly arrived. Ponting accepted an assistant coach position under Darren Lehmann with Australia's T20I side this summer for the ongoing tri-series against England and New Zealand. 

Ponting presents Carey, Short with T20I caps

Lehmann conceded his former skipper would essentially be running the show, with Ponting's knowledge of the T20 circuit from his coaching in India (he is now head coach of Delhi Daredvils) and his coverage of the Big Bash second to none. 

Now, with Lehmann set to finish up after the 2019 Ashes, it would be foolish to ignore Ponting's claims for the position, should it be something he craves. Perhaps his greatest competition for the role will come from his close friend Justin Langer, who continues to build an enviable track record as a coach in the west.

"I'm starting to get back into the game again," Ponting said with notable vigour towards the end of his speech. "A little bit of commentary with the Big Bash has been a lot of fun. 

"Being back involved with the T20 team over the last couple of weeks has been absolutely incredible, and to see the way the next generation of Australian cricketers are playing, is very, very exciting for me."

Ponting was as much a man of action as words throughout his storied career but he has become increasingly garrulous; in commentary, he speaks quickly and expertly, hammering the listener with brilliant insights they could be excused for taking a moment to compute. But last night was different. The tempo and the verbosity was still there, but the insights made way for self-reflection and there was a trace of eloquence in his words as he took us on a journey through his past, all the way back to the early 1980s, when a scruffy-haired kid rode his BMX through the northern suburbs of Launceston looking for a cricket match. 

"I'd read in the paper where the team was playing that day and ride to the venue," he reflected. "I'd be there before the players turned up, waiting at the changeroom door. 

"And when the door opened I'd go and find my spot in the dressing room … I was the first one there and the last one to leave as an eight-year-old annoying the hell out of all the A-Grade boys. 

"That's where I got to learn the game. That's where my passion for the game started."

Where it takes him next is of course still to be seen, however those competitive juices are sure to be stirred as he takes further strides in the coaching world, and it is no giant leap to envisage Australia's 2019-20 summer beginning with a familiar face sitting in the coaches' box, observing the goings on with a critical, expert eye.