Ricky Ponting (right) believes a dressing room deficiency allowed Australia’s culture to deteriorate. Things have been so much better under Tim Paine (right).
Ricky Ponting (right) believes a dressing room deficiency allowed Australia’s culture to deteriorate. Things have been so much better under Tim Paine (right).

Punter’s revealing ball-tampering claim

FORMER Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting believes a lack of senior figures and leadership contributed to the national team losing its way, and culminating in the ball-tampering controversy in South Africa.

Captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were both banned for 12 months and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was suspended for nine for their role in the cheating scandal.

Ponting revealed he had been concerned for several years about the lack of strong, experienced figures in the Aussie dressing room and believed this had helped allow a culture to foster where nobody was strong enough to stand up and prevent the ball-tampering episode from happening.

Speaking this week at a fundraising dinner for the Chappell Foundation, Ponting revealed he had delayed his international retirement because he was concerned about the direction Australia would head in if he wasn't around to help mentor younger players who were being thrust into the team without many older heads around them.

"I was a bit worried that with a lot of the experience going out of our team at the same time, that there would be a bit of a void left with experienced players to be able to say 'no', basically," Ponting said, as reported by Cricinfo's Daniel Brettig.

"If I look at where things got at Cape Town I just don't think there were enough people around that team to say 'no' to some of those guys. Things got completely out of control.

"That's very much an outsider's view on it. I had nothing to do with the team really until the last couple of years around some Twenty20 cricket and the World Cup last year.

"I probably should have retired three or four years earlier than I did but I was really worried about where the direction of the Australian cricket team was going if I wasn't around.

"And I wanted to be around to help Warner and Smith and Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson. I wanted to help them through that initial phase of their international careers because I knew it wasn't going to be easy for them."

Steve Smith and David Warner failed in their duties as leaders in Cape Town.
Steve Smith and David Warner failed in their duties as leaders in Cape Town.

Ponting played 168 Tests but gave up the captaincy to Michael Clarke in the latter stages of his career. After skippering the Aussies during an Ashes series loss on home soil in the 2010-11 summer, Australia's leading run-scorer vacated his post and Clarke took over the reins in 2011, beginning his captaincy during a series against Sri Lanka.

Ponting retired in late 2012 as his returns at the crease started to diminish, scoring just one half-century in his final 11 Test innings.

But even while his batting prowess faded, Ponting was determined to keep playing for the greater good of the team, even when he acknowledged he probably should have called it quits earlier.

"I was just a little bit worried with the void that was left on the experience side," Ponting said.

"Every great team that I played in, whether it be a club team or an Australian cricket team or a state team, there was always a lot of old, hard heads around just to make sure when the younger guys came in that they understood what it meant to be playing for each of those teams.

"And if I had have retired … I was worried there wasn't going to be enough people to point them in the right direction."

Smith became captain when Clarke retired after the 2015 Ashes series in England and while his batting went to another level, his shortcomings as a leader were exposed when he failed to step in and act during the Cape Town controversy.

Tim Paine took over as captain during that ill-fated series in 2018 and has remained at the helm of the Test side ever since, while Aaron Finch has taken charge of the limited-overs sides.

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