Ponting is only a pantomime villain
The unkind treatment Ricky Ponting has received from the English crowds has prompted the media over here to leap to the Aussie skipper’s defence. The boos and jeers that have generally greeted Punter’s arrival at (and departure from) the crease is deemed to be disrespectful to one of the game’s great players.
However, the stick Ponting gets should not be taken too seriously. It has snowballed throughout the series, thanks partly to his complaints of English gamesmanship at Cardiff and his dissent at his dodgy Lord’s dismissal, but largely because he is seen as an easy target.
Ponting is seen in England as a man with a fiery temper – his reaction to the Gary Pratt run out at Trent Bridge in 2005 is still fondly remembered – and many fans are jumping on the bandwagon of Ponting-baiting.
He is also targeted because of his stature in the game. He is the last real link to the great Aussie teams of the last two decades – a bit of abuse now feels like a way of repaying the past Ashes humiliations that he has been integral to.
Ponting’s standing in the game is recognised. He was warmly applauded on passing Allan Border’s Test run record by English as well as Australian fans at Birmingham and his achievements and talent do not go unnoticed. English spectators know they are watching one of the great batsmen.
He is right to wear the treatment as a badge of honour. We know he is the big wicket in the opposing team and the booing can be taken as a sign of respect. Ponting would much rather have the jeers than the journalists’ sympathy.
However, the jeers will become cheers at the Oval. Like all pantomime villains he will be applauded off the stage. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne – no strangers to a bit of stick in England - were given a standing ovation when they signed off at the Oval in 2005 and Ponting, who will surely not tour this country again, will get the same treatment.
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