This has been a rather familiar scenario with the Indian cricket team in the past — captain for one match, dropped for the next game in the same series.
The Australian selection panels have largely stayed clear of this rather unsavoury path — they have dumped captains well before the series but seldom during a competition. Monday's bombshell has changed all that.
Ricky Ponting, who led Australia in the Sydney and Brisbane games of the ongoing Commonwealth Bank series, has been dropped for the remainder of the tournament.
The celebrated captain, who led Australia to ICC ODI World Cup triumphs in 2003 and 2007, has been shown the door from the ODI side.
Ponting was named stand-in captain after Michael Clarke strained a hamstring in Adelaide. Although David Warner was the vice-captain, the selection panel felt the aggressive opener was not ready for the top job and the 37-year-old Ponting was given the responsibility.
However, his poor run of scores — 2, 1, 6, 2, 7 — in the series did not help his cause. Ponting had an outstanding Test series against India where he notched up 544 runs in four Tests but suffered a serious form slump in the tri-series.
Announcing the team for the next set of games, selection panel chief John Inverarity said the committee had spoken about moving forward towards the 2015 ODI World Cup.
He added, “The door is never closed on anybody, but it's a strong indication there. We were very keen for Ricky (Ponting) to play in these games because we intended to blend in some younger players, and his influence on them has been remarkable. But we need to, at some stage, move on.”
Inverarity said Ponting's influence travelled beyond statistics and added Ponting agreeing to captain the side in Clarke's absence was “yet another example of his selfless attitude and team-first focus. He sets a great example and is held in the highest possible esteem by his teammates.”
The selection panel chief revealed, “Ponting took the decision, when it was conveyed to him, with grace and dignity. He is a gem of a human being.”
Among the greatest batsmen of his generation, Ponting has 13,704 runs from 375 ODIs at 42.03 with 30 centuries. He has scripted victories, inspired turnarounds. And he remains an excellent fielder.
Inverarity said, “The team will not be the same without him, but moving on from the omission of players who have been outstanding over a long period of time is the nature of elite sport. There is no room for sentiment here.”
The selection panel chief hoped Ponting would remain available for the Test matches. “He made a double-century in his last Test match and we are hoping he remains available for Test cricket, but there can be no guarantees. Ricky (Ponting) is going to consider his future over the next couple of days and talk it over with his family and his manager. He's wondering whether he retires completely from ODI cricket... and then, of course, there are the implications for Test cricket.”
Inverarity said, “For a man who plays cricket like Ricky has over the last 15 or more years, he has been an integral part of the team in ODIs and Test matches. If he drops out of the ODIs then there is a possible lack of momentum there. There are three Tests in the West Indies, then as I understand it no more Test matches until October-November.”
Watson is back
In another notable change in the side, all-rounder Shane Watson is back after recovering from a calf injury. He has been named vice-captain. And paceman Ryan Harris has replaced left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc.
Inverarity made it clear that Matthew Wade was now the No. 1 choice for the spot of a wicketkeeper-batsman in ODIs. He added both Wade and Brad Haddin could travel to the West Indies.
The team: M. Clarke (captain), S. Watson (vice-captain), D. Warner, M. Wade, P. Forrest, M. Hussey, D. Hussey, D. Christian, B. Lee, B. Hilfenhaus, R. Harris, C. McKay and X. Doherty.