Following Australia’s close shave in the day-night Test against Pakistan at the Gabba, Steven Smith’s leadership skills have attracted plenty of criticism. However, former skipper and batting great Ricky Ponting has rushed to the 27-year old’s aid by highlighting the synchronisation between captain and coach.
“We are always quick to be critical of people and at the end of the day they’ve won by nearly 40 runs which is a significant margin really in a Test match. I know it got a lot closer than what Smith would have hoped, and certainly, the Australian public would have hoped, but it’s a Test victory”, Ponting was quoted as saying on Melbourne radio station SEN.
Upon winning the toss, Australia rode on the back of centuries from Smith and Peter Handscomb to register 429 in their first innings. With his bowlers blowing Pakistan away for 142, the hosts had the option of enforcing the follow-on. However, they chose to bat again and motored to 202 before declaring their second innings.
When confronted with a humongous target of 490, the visitors looked dead and buried at 220/6. But, Asad Shafiq’s valiant century, as well as the lower orders rearguard effort brought them to within 40 runs of creating history. Eventually, an unplayable delivery from Mitchell Starc and a smart throw from Smith took Australia to a thrilling victory.
Ponting quipped, “Smith will learn from it, guys he probably calls senior players out on the field will learn from it and hopefully might be able to give him some advice going forward. So much of the captaincy stuff happens off the field and behind closed doors where you’re trying to spend as much time with the guys, and get to know them little better and find out what makes them tick and what doesn’t. That’s the great challenge for captains.”
Smith’s decision to start the final day with a solitary slip attracted sharp criticism from quite a few former Australian captains such as Mark Taylor and Michael Clarke. Ponting attributed a part of the on-field tactics to head coach Darren Lehmann.
The Tasmanian reckoned, “It would have been an open discussion between the captain and coach. The way they started yesterday’s (day five) play, I don’t think it would have been one of their ideas. It would have been a combination of both of their thoughts, I would have imagined. That’s the way I used to work with the coaches I played under.”
“I used to like to include some of the senior players as well, especially once the game started, and get their opinions on the way the game was heading. I knew that what I always thought wasn’t going to be right all the time, so I liked to get other people’s ideas and advice.”
Having taken a 1-0 lead, Australia will look to seal the 3-match series in the second Test which is set to begin on Boxing Day at the iconic MCG.