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Justin Langer column

Justin Langer
By Justin Langer
Australia batting/leadership coach

Despite what critics might be saying, the loss of Ricky Ponting for the final Ashes Test match is a massive blow for Australia.

While he is the first to admit that he has not scored the runs he, or the team, would have liked, he is the leader of this group in every way.

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke will lead Australia in Sydney in Ricky Ponting's absence

The respect he has earned as a player and person is immense and he is adored and admired by every one of his team-mates.

Over the last week the critics have pointed at his lack of runs and his disagreement with umpire Aleem Dar as reasons for axing our best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman.

He has apologised on both counts, for his form and his animated discussion with the umpire he respects and gets along well with, and surely he deserves, and has earned the right to, a break from this relentless sniping.

Watching our most esteemed player over the last few weeks, I am certain his selfless efforts within the group over the last two years have worn him down.

His recent form suggests his mind isn't as clear as it is when he is at his best, blasting drives or pulling off the front foot in his masterful and at times ruthless fashion.

Hard as he has trained and prepared, he has shown that sometimes the harder you try the worse things get.

He built this series up so much in his mind that he hasn't been able to find his usual flow at the crease.

This series has shown that he is not a run-machine, but rather a man who has the same frailties as the rest of us and I am certain that he will be stronger and wiser for the tough experience he has just lived through.

Knowing him as I do, I also believe he will use the harsh criticism levelled at him as fuel to stoke the fire in his belly and I have no doubt he will be back playing Test cricket in the new year.

Ricky Ponting is "devastated" to be ruled out of the last Ashes Test in Sydney

Ponting 'devastated' to miss Sydney

Of all the players I have played with and against, Ricky Ponting loves this game more than anyone. He still trains as hard as ever and because of this and his extraordinary passion for the game of cricket, he will not be quitting yet.

Over the last month this love affair will have been tested, but he cares deeply about the game and he is aware that Australia needs him now more than ever. His experience and passion is going to be vital during this next year, where great challenges lie ahead.

Players like Phil Hughes, Steve Smith and Monday's debutant Usman Khawaja need to bat and play with the likes of Ricky, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke who will ultimately be their best teachers.

For Australia to accelerate their progress back up the international ladder, the young players will have to feed off their senior team-mates, who must set the example.

This has not happened enough in this Ashes series and we have suffered because of that, but the captain and vice-captain Michael Clarke have proven over a long period that they have the credentials to lead this new generation.

TOM FORDYCE BLOG

As long as I have been involved in Australian cricket, one of the main strategies has been to keep the pressure on the opposition captain. We learned this from the great West Indies team, who worked on the theory that if you cut off the head the rest of the body will eventually die.

To England's great credit, they have not given Ricky Ponting an inch all series. Every time he walked to the crease they circled him like hungry sharks. They knew that if they could keep one of the masters of this era down, they would hold an advantage.

At 2-1 up and having retained the Ashes, the theory has worked and while Australia still have the opportunity to level the series, they will have to do it without one of the great players and leaders of this century has produced.

This is a shame for us and for the series but he will be back; he is too good and too tough not to be.

Happy New Year.

From Sydney,

JL



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see also
Haddin defends Clarke as skipper
31 Dec 10 |  Australia
Ponting ruled out of Sydney Test
30 Dec 10 |  Australia
Flower seeks winning Ashes finale
30 Dec 10 |  England
Justin Langer column
29 Dec 10 |  Cricket
England seal win to retain Ashes
29 Dec 10 |  England
England crash to heavy Ashes loss
19 Dec 10 |  England
England complete Adelaide triumph
07 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket


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