`Sachin is still the benchmark, all look up to him'

INSPIRATIONAL: Australian skipper Ricky Ponting interacting with young talent in Bangalore on Wednesday.

INSPIRATIONAL: Australian skipper Ricky Ponting interacting with young talent in Bangalore on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Principal Correspondent

Ricky Ponting speaks on the Indian maestro, the coach issue, etc.

BANGALORE: Ricky Ponting drove onto the podium in an electric car and the atmosphere was understandably electric as school kids yelled his name in unison. Though the din threatened eardrums, the Aussie skipper took the noise and adulation in his stride besides handling media queries with candour.

Ponting, who was in town as a brand ambassador for ING Vysya Bank, spoke on a variety of issues concerning cricket at the St. John's Hospital Ground here on Wednesday.

Excerpts from the interaction:

On the Indian coach crisis: "I understand that the guy (Graham Ford) who accepted it has pulled out! It would be great for any coach to work with the Indian team, which has some great players and it would be interesting to watch how the coach-issue pans out in the next few weeks.

It is very important to have a coach. The captain is the leader of the ship but the coach does a lot of backroom work in terms of strategising and giving inputs and technical knowledge. You need a coach. I think the Indians will play well in Ireland and England because they have too many good players in the line-up.

I am sure it will be good series against South Africa in Ireland but I am sure the players don't want this coaching dilemma dragging on too long. They need someone to take over the reins and guide things in the right direction."

On speculation over Sachin Tendulkar's `retirement': "He has got runs in the last series against Bangladesh, though they are not among the strong teams going around but that's up to Sachin, if he thinks he can keep improving day after day then he should keep playing.

Steve Waugh, when he was coming close to retirement, said that if he thought he could make himself a better player everyday then he will continue playing. So if Sachin still has the desire and the mood to make himself a better player then he should keep playing."

On whether he could overtake Tendulkar's record tally of 37 Test hundreds:

"He has got a couple of hundreds in the last series and he is up to 37 and I am at 33. But he is older than me and I would like to think that I would play longer so I would like to wait and see how it goes. Sachin has always been someone I looked up to. Probably he is still the benchmark as far as international batsmen go and all batsmen look up to him."

On the last three World Cup campaigns: "The hardest was the 99 World Cup. We lost a couple of early games and at the half-way stage we had to win everything to make it to the final, which we did.

And in the last World Cup, we didn't get any close games and that can get difficult as well because I was asked every day about not being challenged and about whether that would be a hindrance if the finals came around. Credit to the guys for the way they played.

There were lots of other things about the World Cup, there were negative things but I will always remember it for the unbelievable cricket we played."

On the void after McGrath and Warne's retirements: "We have had great players retiring like McGrath, Warne, Justin Langer and Martyn. We have a few spots up for grabs at the moment and I think Stuart Clark will step in to McGrath's role very well. Replacements in the spin department for Shane would be the hard task though I think Stuart McGill will be given the first opportunity."

On Twenty20 cricket: "There is no doubt that it is very popular and is attracting different crowds and different openings to the game. We have a World Championship coming up and we are hoping to do well.

We need money in the game. Most of us players are cynical about it (Twenty20) but if we sit back and look at it, we probably realise that it has got its place. I guess once we have some of these Twenty20 tournaments going, probably it will replace a few of the one-day tournaments otherwise it be a tough packed year for the players."

On his growth as a cricketer: "Things happened for me at a young age. I was identified at about 13 or 14 as someone who would play for Australia. I made some sacrifices along the way and I actually moved out of home at the age of 15 and was at Adelaide at the Cricket Academy. And at the age of 17 I was playing for Tasmania and I have gone through ups and downs in International cricket too."

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