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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 08:41 GMT
Ponting inspires Aussie success
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport in Johannesburg

Australia captain Ricky Ponting
Ponting has turned Aussie fortunes around spectacularly
A cynic would argue that little skill is required to captain a team of superstars, but a student of cricketing history would beg to differ. Just look at Pakistan.

On Sunday, Ricky Ponting marshalled Australia to an effortless World Cup triumph over an in-form Indian unit.

Australia thereby became the first country to retain cricket's biggest prize since Clive Lloyd's brilliant West Indians in 1979.

In the first World Cup of all four years prior to that, Lloyd claimed the man of the match award for a thrilling century.

Now, in the most recent instalment of a contest that turned into an epic 44-day voyage, Ponting slammed a brilliant ton of his own to pick up the individual spoils as well as the team glory.

The symmetry is neat.

Ricky Ponting as captain
Matches: 37
Wins: 30
Winning percentage: 84.72
Runs: 1,195
Average: 44.25

But to understand how Ponting has made it that way one has to go back to just over a year ago when something occurred in the Aussies' own backyard that really is not meant to happen.

Being eliminated from the final of their own showpiece triangular tournament is about as big an affront to national dignity as anyone can imagine.

Heads had to roll, and it was the aging Waugh twins who found the P45s in the post when the dust from a furious post-mortem had settled.

One of them, of course, was the captain and, although Steve still skippers the Test team, his one-day career is over and he chose to spend this World Cup at home in Sydney.

Ponting's nickname, Punter, reveals a love of indulging in the odd flutter or two.

But even he, at that point, would surely not have advised a hefty wager on the Aussies rising to the top of the fold so quickly.

However, in his own understated and dignified way he re-instilled the winning habit almost immediately.

Then came another shock to the system. The Aussies were unsettled just before the World Cup when Shane Warne was sent home for failing a drugs test.

Weeks, almost months later, Andrew Symonds - a highly talented player who never blossomed until after Ponting came to the helm - would reveal he was made "angry" by the Warne affair.

Andy Bichel
Bichel was one of Australia's surprise stars

But the anger was channelled in exactly the right way.

There is no better method than taking one's fury out on the opposition. Time and again in South Africa, Symonds and everyone else dressed in the gold shirts of Australia did precisely that.

In the early evening of Sunday, shortly before the first slabs of celebratory ale were delivered to the Australian dressing room, Ponting paused to pay special credit to Symonds and Andy Bichel.

Both owed their presence in the team to injuries affecting others, but both became crucial match-winners - Symonds against Pakistan, Bichel against England.

But if he was a less modest man, Ponting would have praised himself.

He was the man who had to lift the team after the Waugh fall-out, the Warne scandal and a catalogue of injuries.

And the eight sixes he smashed on a glorious track at the Wanderers on Sunday were the perfect fireworks to kick-start an Australian World Cup party in his honour.




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