As entertaining as it's been to watch Australia - or more accurately Australia's press - react to the obviously irredeemable situation of being one down with three to play, there's surely a place for a more measured view. The vilification of Ponting has been an embarrassment to them. If anyone is genuinely of the opinion that - for example - Mike Brearley could have affected a different result at Adelaide with the resources at Australia's disposal, then they simply don't know the game. England played as well as they have since 2005, and back then they beat the Australia of legend. Confronted with bowlers who couldn't keep to one side of the wicket, let alone build pressure through a period of overs, the Punter was screwed, hoist by his own petard.
He is a decent man and a proud cricketer, one of the greats. He demands respect, from both the English crowd [thankfully there is apparently now an insurrection on the matter of booing him to the crease] and from the writers who have spent half of their careers feting him, and who owe much of the space they get in the paper to the success of the teams that he's played in. He has grown up in public, and he is a credit to the sport in that regard. He is a fearsome opponent, the first name that Strauss and Flower would scratch from Australia's team sheet if they were given the choice. Imagine what a rabble they would be without him.
It's a very English trait to admire someone more once they're gone. You'll rarely read a bad word about Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart or Nasser Hussain any more, such is the afterglow of memory. It's seductive, that kind of nostalgia. It's easy to feel it already in the talk of replacing him.
The harder question is this: who do Australia have who's better? Michael Clarke? Marcus North? Cameron White? Shane Warne? Ponting's fire still burns, despite the forces ranged against him. As an Englishman who has lived through the bad old days, here's one piece of advice: be careful what you wish for.
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